Guest blog by Marina Lisjonok, MSW, E-CYT, RRT
Grief is an experience that hits us all multiple times throughout our lives. Yet the grief experience is different for everyone. It affects us both emotionally and physically. This is why you should consider yoga for grief relief.
My Personal Experience with Yoga for Grief Relief
When I was 26 years old, my 32-year-old husband died from a heart attack. After the initial shock, I fell into a deep state of depression and grief to the point that I couldn’t work. I even thought about ending my own life. My life was unbearably painful and it didn’t seem that I would ever be happy again.
After long months of haze, heaviness, deep sorrow, and understandable self-pity, I woke up one beautiful morning to a firm voice in my head that proclaimed. “Enough!” That day I decided to come back to life.
I had started practicing yoga when I was 20 years old back in my home country of Latvia. I often took notes while listening to my yoga teacher’s discourses. While I had brought my yoga notebooks with me to the United States, I hadn’t touched them until that day. The day I woke up from heavy grief, decided to live, and use yoga for grief relief.
Something inside was telling me that coming back to Yogic practices was the way for me to get back to life as the happy self that I knew I was in my essence. After just a few months of diving back into my practice, I felt alive and vibrant again. I rekindled my enthusiasm for life and again found joy in living. Searching for guidance, I found a Spiritual Yogic community, where I was supported and where I wrestled with my questions about life, death, and God. I found peace and acceptance.
Instead of being stuck in heavy grief and endless questioning why this happened to my husband and me, yoga enabled me to find a massive amount of gratitude for life connecting me to this wonderful man.
Through my husband’s example, I learned what love, commitment, and devotion is, and I felt grateful for him joining me on my path – even for a while. I once heard: “Don’t’ cry because its over, smile because it happened.” My heart started to smile with every thought of him and our times together.
Related Reading: What to Look for When You’re Searching for Grief and Loss Support
Why Practice Yoga for Grief Relief?
What is it about yoga that can yank you out of the state of grief and loss? After all, grief is a fiercely intense experience that courses through each of us physically and emotionally. It is because of this somatic or physical aspect of grief that yoga can be an excellent tool to support you through grief.
Physical Element of Yoga for Grief Relief
One part of yogic practice is asanas in the form of physical postures and breathing technics. Asanas fuel your body with fresh energy and a sense of aliveness. Through these yogic postures, you connect to your body. You begin to feel and be aware of the energy that makes your body alive.
While moving from one posture to another and breathing with the full capacity of your lungs, you release what you need to release and bring in what is valuable for you to feel wholesome again. Yogic postures and breathing technics effectively rebalance your nervous system. After a well-constructed practice, you feel revitalized and energized in your body, while feeling steady and peaceful in your mind.
Philosophical Element of Yoga for Grief Relief
There also can be philosophical components of yogic practices, which explain the structure of life and causes of suffering and views on God and Nature, and suggest cultivating particular beliefs and characteristics that lead to relief from suffering.
For example, yogic philosophy makes a distinction between permanence and impermanence, between God and Nature. It views God as ever-existing, all-pervasive, and all-knowing, and the source of existence; suggesting that we are Soul, therefore, we are a part of God in our essence. It holds that the Soul is united with God once the physical body is discarded. And that, consequently, we are immortal.
Related Reading: 20 Life Transition Quotes to Help You Survive Change
It is also explained that everything that belongs to Nature is temporary. That is, it is created, sustained, and eventually destroyed. So it suggests that you practice detachment from everything that is temporary, while cultivating joy and gratitude for precious life moments.
Yogic philosophy holds that one of the causes of our suffering is false-identification. Rather than identifying ourselves with our Soul or Pure state of awareness, we tend to think that we are our body, our possessions, and our roles in life. These types of attachments lead to sorrow, grief, and loss, once something or someone is gone. Yogic philosophy suggests that the way out is to understand that everything in this life is temporary and eventually will be gone.
Mindfulness Element of Yoga for Grief Relief
Finally, yogic practices and philosophy teach ways of meditation. During meditation, we have an opportunity to experience who we are in our essence and sense our immortality. These experiences relieve grief and loss. We begin to see the light and pure state of awareness of which many religious and spiritual paths speak.
For example, I came to realize that I was One with all there is, including my husband and other loved ones (living and passed on). How could I lose someone with whom I was One, with whom I was eternally connected? The love and connections are ongoing and can never be lost. I could let go of my grief.
There are even yogic practices that teach how to consciously transition from our bodies and align our minds with the Source with whom we can unite. Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) is one of these practices. Yoga Nidra is an excellent practice to restore and heal bodily aches and injuries and emotional wounds. It trains the practitioner to stay aware during sleep states, no longer identifying with the body, but experiencing different dimensions of mind and being.
Related Reading: How to Manage Grief and Loss with These 4 Coping Strategies
Rapid Resolution Therapy
I also was fortunate to come across and train in Rapid Resolution Therapy (RRT), developed by Dr. Jon Connelly, which to my surprise and amazement can relieve heavy grief and sense of loss over just one session. Everything that I realized over the years of practicing yoga was easily experienced and achieved through RRT.
It’s been my joy to provide clients with RRT sessions addressing grief and loss. I have to say it is amazing to see how the energy of the person changes as we progress through the session: the face lights up, a smile starts to appear, and the energy shifts.
Here is one reflection from one of my RRT clients:
“I had the most amazing experience with RRT therapy with Marina. [Her] approach helped me to break a cycle of debilitating, prolonged grief after only one 3-hour session. I had tried other therapies and interventions, but none of them provided the relief I experienced from Marina’s approach. Since my therapy, I feel lighter, more open, happier, and completely free from the heavy burden of grief that had been weighing me down. I ended up going back for another session because some other feelings were surfacing, and I wanted to move beyond them. I have been very pleased with the results since. I wish I had known about this therapy sooner, but I am so very grateful I found the help I needed.” L.M.
My suggestion would be to treat yourself to an RRT session to drop a “bag of rocks” off your back, as Dr. Jon Connelly would say, and find magic in yogic practices.
Wishing you love and light,
Marina Lisjonok, MSW, CYT-500, RRT
If you or a loved one is struggling with grief, consider reaching out to one of our qualified therapists. We can help you find your path through your experience. If you are in the Chicago area, we have Glen Ellyn, Jefferson Park (Chicago), and Sycamore offices. Contact Life Care Wellness at (630) 423-5935 to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment today.