The Science: Yoga Therapy for Healing Grief and Loss
Yoga, an ancient exercise originating from India and practiced for centuries, can strengthen the body and relax the mind. It has also been found to help with grief.
Research has shown that yoga can reduce stress (Woodyard, 2011). It can also help people cope with grief, as the poses reduce stress and tension, distract from the pain of grieving, improve blood flow to joints and ligaments, and relieve the exhaustion and fatigue from grief (Woodyard, 2011).
When a person is grieving, it is a psychological experience, but there is a complicated interconnection between the body and the mind. Philbin (2009) found that a six-week yoga therapy program for bereavement led to significant improvements in appetite, energy levels, sleep, body stiffness, relaxation, concentration, and focus among participants.
Yoga provides a safe space to process difficult emotions and helps to release the emotional and physical tightness in the body caused by grief. It allows a person to find peace when they really need this (Woodyard, 2011). In addition, yoga supports self-care and integrates this with the loss, enabling a continued feeling of a relationship with the deceased person (Helbert, 2016).
Grief yoga combines different types of yoga, movement, and breathing techniques to process grief, heal, and transform. The person becomes aware of the present moment and struggles with pain in the mind or body, and grief yoga helps to express and release the struggle through movement and breathing.