Yoga For Grief: 7 Soothing Poses To Move Through Heartache

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Grief is the body’s natural response to loss, which we all need to move through at some point in our lives. Grief hits in waves; the initial wave consists of the emotional pain of losing someone, whereas the second wave that follows is our body’s response to it. 

The bodily responses can include things like extreme fatigue and things like trouble sleeping

Yoga is an excellent technique for processing feelings of grief. When you practice yoga for grief, you train your nervous system to self-regulate, thus laying the ground for overall balance.

So, let’s get started to know in which ways yoga can help you get over your grief and see your life in a new light. 

This article you’ll learn about:

  • Why yoga for grief support?
  • What effect does grief have on the brain?
  • What effect does yoga have on the brain?
  • Benefits of yoga for grief
  • Yoga poses for grief
a black and white photo of a man holding his face in pain

Yoga For Grief: Why Choose Yoga For Grief Support?

Grief has no straight line to follow, and in such a difficult time, the best thing we can do is to be there for ourselves. You can turn to yoga as it is a very safe place to move through the stages of grief. 

The yoga for grief support we discuss here emphasizes on breathing and movement techniques that help you process your feelings. 

This type of yoga is more about awakening a sense of awareness and is much less focused on balance and flexibility. Practicing mindfulness and restorative yoga, such as body scans, can help you identify and release the areas of your body holding pain. 

The main purpose of doing yoga for grief is to prepare a compassionate space where you can open yourself and your body to new joys and let go of the pain.

Yoga For Grief: How Does Grief Affect Your Brain?

Believe it or not, grief is much more than simply an emotional experience and can have a lasting impact on your body and mind. Grief can cause changes in sleep, body function, and memory and can also have cognitive effects like brain fog.

When you are in grief, it causes a psychobiological reaction in the brain and can activate different areas in your brain that are involved in:

  • Self-regulation
  • Controlling bodily functions
  • Memory
  • Emotions

The more complicated your grief, the less is your brain’s volume. When you struggle with complicated grief, your brain’s gray and white matter also takes a toll

a dark image of a woman lying down in savasana

Yoga For Grief: What Impact Does Yoga Have On Grief?

Neuroscientists are still discovering the power of yoga for grief management and how breathing and mindfulness affect your brain. 

Still, there is strong evidence to support that yoga has an overall positive effect on the functioning and the structure of various regions of the brain that regulate:

  • Memory and learning
  • Cognitive functions
  • Behavioral and emotional self-regulation

Yoga For Grief: 2 Benefits Of Performing Yoga

  1. Relief from stress

When you lose someone very close to you, feeling stressed and anxious is normal. In this case, one of the most significant benefits of yoga is that it helps you to be more connected to the present moment. Thus, it is a great tool to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress. 

  1. Physical exercise

When you are grieving, seeing clearly through the smoke and mirrors can be quite troublesome. There might be a case that you have been skipping the habits of regular workouts or simply even a walk.

Beginning with yoga for grief can be an excellent way to start participating in physical activities

Yoga For Grief: 7 Beneficial Poses You Should Try

Child’s pose (Balasana)

One of the most beneficial yoga poses for grief, a child’s pose or Balasana, is a clear representation of what our body organically wishes to do under heavy pressure

annotated image of a woman doing child's pose

How to perform: 

  • To perform this exercise, first, you need to get on your shins, keeping the top of your feet on the floor. 
  • Now, bring both your big toes together and gently spread your knees apart.
  • Push your hip region backward until they are in contact with your heels.
  • At the same time, spread your arms in front of you.
  • While doing this, rest your head on a wooden or bamboo block to give your head some rest
  • You can perform this exercise for as much duration as you like. 

Comfortable pose (Sukhasana)

After trauma, your body tends to contract, and long holds are ideal for opening your body again. The best way to begin is by releasing your hips as your brain rests, and Sukhasana is a great pose to do the same. 

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing easy Pose

How to perform:

  • Start by sitting on your yoga mat or a folded blanket. 
  • Now, cross your legs in a way that your right shin is directly in front of your left one. 
  • Rest both your knees on your ankles and flex your ankles to protect your knees.
  • Keep your pelvis in a neutral position and avoid tilting it
  • While you perform this pose, alternate the cross of your legs to ensure that both the left and right legs have equal time on top. 

Standing forward bend pose (Uttanasana)

When you start to reconnect with your legs in Uttanasana; as a result, you are getting in sync with your own power. 

How to perform:

  • Start by standing at the back of the yoga mat and then open your feet in line with your hip width
  • While you exhale, fold your whole body towards your feet.
  • To make the yoga for grief pose even more comforting, try resting your head on a wooden block. You can also let it hang as well.  
  • Let both your arms dangle loosely, and palms touch the floor.
  • As you inhale, take your body into an upright position and stand. 
  • When you stand up, raise your head at the last; do this pose for at least 15 breaths. 

Pyramid pose (Parvottanasana)

Parvottanasana is another great yoga pose to start reconnecting with yourself. 

an annotated image of a man wearing black yoga clothes doing pyramid pose

How to perform:

  • First, you need to get into the Tadasana formation on your yoga mat to start with the pyramid pose. 
  • While you exhale, bring your left foot inwards at a 45-degree angle to ensure better stability. 
  • Now, you need to expand both your arms sideways and rotate them internally so as to hold the opposite elbows.
  • As an alternative, you can also hold them at your back in a reverse clasp position
  • As you inhale, you need to elongate your spine and engage both your legs.
  • Upon exhalation, bend your hips forward over the right thigh. Ensure to keep your chest broad. 
  • Try to elongate your neck as you look at your feet, and perform this pose for at least 20 breaths. 

Head to knee pose (Janu Sirsasana)

This simple yoga for grief pose is incredibly comforting because herein, you rest upon your own body.

an annotated image of a man wearing black yoga clothes doing head to knee Pose

How to perform:

  • Get in the Dandasana position to begin performing the head-to-knee pose.
  • Now, you need to bend your right knee. Open up your right thigh and pull your right heel towards your groin.
  • Take your arms up into the sky as you inhale, and fold yourself over the left leg while you exhale. 
  • Perform this asana for about 30 breaths, and alternatively, switch the legs to spend equal time on each leg

Seated Forward Bend Pose (Paschimottanasana)

Western stretch is a great pose to release the back of your thighs and also your postural muscles

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing seated forward bend Pose

How to perform:

  • Start by sitting in the Dandasana position on your yoga mat and separate your legs as wide as your hips. 
  • When you are exhaling, both your hands should be on your legs.
  • At the time you inhale, lift both your arms up.
  • You can try to reach your feet with the help of your hands when exhaling. 
  • Perform this pose for about 30 breaths. 

Corpse pose (Savasana)

We know the Savasana can leave you vulnerable even in the best of times. So, as a variation, you can use a blanket to feel protected while you try to open up your body

annotated image of a woman in corpse pose, savasana

How to perform:

  • First, you need to lie down on your back and open your legs wider than your hips. 
  • Make your legs roll open, and place a blanket over your chest.
  • Open both your arms wide and let them rest with your palms facing upwards. 
  • Keep your eyes closed and stay in this position for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Once you finish these exercises, sit quietly with yourself for a few minutes and let all the emotions arrive

Final Thoughts

Grief can come in many ways; similarly, there are different ways to cope with it. Yoga for grief presents itself as a healthy way in which you can start getting over the turmoil. 

Remember that yoga can only aid in grief management and is not a replacement for medical treatments.

You can perform the above-mentioned yoga pose sequence to get mental clarity in the testing times when you battle your grief. If you are new to yoga, it is better to perform under expert supervision.

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Wenlin is a Women’s Well-being Coach, Qigong and Yoga specialist for women and Red School Menstruality Mentor who is passionate about empowering working women to overcome overwhelm to find flow, ease and joy in their life. Wenlin brings with her over 15 years experience working at the intersection of mindfulness, creativity, psychology and wellness, with over 3,000 hours of training and 8 years of experience supporting women across Asia, Europe and the USA. If you want to learn how to find more flow and ease in your life, Wenlin is here to support you.

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