When my husband died from suicide in late 2017, I was broken and overwhelmed with feelings of fear, guilt, and shame. I lost the ability to function in the world. For a long time, i was too scared to leave the house. My nervous system was constantly in overdrive because of post-traumatic stress disorder. I had nightmares night after night. Even now, one and a half years later, my mind still finds the truth of the situation hard to comprehend. I continue to battle anxiety and depression every day, all while taking steps now to rebuild some sort of life.
It was in this rebuilding that I started taking different yoga trainings and also found my way to Dragonfly 360 Yoga & Wellness. Already being a yoga teacher, now I felt the need to support others through my yoga teachings.
One of my trainings allowed me to become a Compassionate Bereavement Care Yoga provider. Amidst many tears and shared stories of pain, I took this training with a group of other grieving people, learning how yoga can be used to support those going through grief and loss. That’s where the idea of a “Yoga for Grief and Loss” workshop was born, and Dragonfly 360 has been gracious enough to allow me to offer it to their community of students.
Grief & Yoga
There are parallels between yoga and grief. In both, we have to adapt, adjust, and accommodate. We seek to find steadiness and ease in grief as well as in yoga. The yogic concept of aparigraha is about non-attachment, which does not mean letting go of your beloved and his or her memory, but letting things be as they are. This is something each griever has to come to on his or her own, in his or her own time.
With this, yoga is not about finding peace and lightness, but it’s about helping us to be with what is.
The goal of yoga is not to heal or cure grief, but to hold space, allowing all of our feelings, emotions, and expressions of grief to be present without judgment.
Yoga is about surrender, not as in giving up, but as in letting go of struggling against what we feel and being present to it. This is a daily practice for me. Some days I do better than others. Some days I fail. It takes each of us as long as it takes, and it’s not a linear process. I suspect it’s a lifelong process.
In my grief, I felt completely alone so many times — not that I didn’t have support in my life, but that no one really, truly understood what I was going through. Encouragements to “get over it” and “move on,” while often meant well, felt to me like a lack of understanding and compassion, making a horrendous situation worse.
In grief there is a feeling of disconnection. Yoga, on the other hand, is about connection — uniting the body, mind, and spirit, and uniting us with a supportive community. It’s the vulnerability in grief that begins to bring us back to connection. It often does not feel safe to be vulnerable in our culture and society. I want to create a space, through yoga, where it is safe to be vulnerable with one another, where we can connect and hold each other up.
Yoga philosophy and grief share in common seeing and facing the pain in our lives, seeing that we cannot face that pain on our own, and surrendering to the process — moving toward and leaning into the pain, fear, emotions, and uncertainty, as well as letting our good moments be as they are and cultivating them.
Yoga for Grief & Loss
In the weeks after my husband died, I saw an ad for a “Yoga for Grief and Loss” workshop. I signed up but ended up not going because I wasn’t sure that I would be able to hold back my tears.
Looking back, it’s likely that the workshop would have helped me, and that my tears would not have been out of place. That’s why I want to encourage people to show up with all of their feelings, emotions, and expressions of grief.
It’s important for me to share this “Yoga for Grief and Loss” workshop with the Dragonfly 360 community as part of moving forward with my grief, and I would love to see you there if you’re seeking a place to find some steadiness, ease, and a community within your grief and loss.
Annie Wolka, RYT-200, brings a warm and positive energy to her yoga classes, encouraging students to tap into their courage, compassion, and vulnerability to create connection.