Healing Body, Mind and Soul: Yoga for Grief

 

Antonio Sausys is a somatic psychotherapist and a yoga therapist. He specializes in yoga for grief relief. Like many of us, he found his path into yoga, and yoga therapy, as a way to deal with his own grief. 

When he was 19 years old, his mother had a stroke and passed away. She was only 54 years old.  He didn’t allow himself to grieve naturally.

“Every time the grief would come, I’d switch it off,” he says.

One day, he was traveling in the Pampas of Argentina where he was able to reconnect with his grief and ‘stay’ with it.  At the time, he discovered a hard surface in his chest, and he was diagnosed with a bone spur. His doctor insisted that the spur was a result of a physical trauma.   

Yet, “I didn’t have any accident. What I did understand was that my body created this thing to say ‘hey, take care of your heart.’”

Yoga for grief

As a result, he changed the direction of his studies – engaging in Somatic Psychotherapy and began a yoga practice to address his heart.  It was intuitive. To this day, he pulls from that inner wisdom. His approach to yoga for grief relief is very powerful work. He incorporates pranayama (breathwork), movement therapy including pawanmuktasana (joint freeing series) and sankalpas (affirmation/resolve). 

“I knew exactly what I needed. Now I know that yoga is within all of us. It’s not what we practice Mondays at 6:15 pm.” 

However, culture often dictates how we respond to death. Moreover, how we grieve people’s passing.  The traditional response mechanisms can vary significantly from one religion, country or society to another. That said, the grieving process is not always short, or simple. Plus, grieving is far more than just about the loss of a loved one. 

At a recent workshop on yoga for grief, Sausys talked about myths associated with the pain of grieving. Below, are summaries.

Myth #1:  Grief only appears when someone dies. 

Wrong. First, grief can be loss of identity. Or, safety if one had an abusive step father. Actually, the loss doesn’t have to be a loved one. Loss of health, hair, eyesight, job, limb, expectations, hope, innocence, safety, ideals, relationships, dreams, youth, status or independence all can cause grief.

Furthermore, there are primary and secondary losses. Sausys says that the secodary losses can often be more difficult to overcome. It may be easier to grieve and heal from the loss of a parent or spouse. But, the secondary losses, i.e., divorce, home, friends, status, family, are a lot more prevailing in the individual’s life.

“New grief triggers old grief. Other people’s grief triggers our own.” As an example, he says that current events can ramp up a grieving pattern. 

Myth #2: Grief is purely emotional. 

Next, there are many emotions that arise during grieving. “Sadness is not the only feeling. Guilt. Anger. Social isolation,” he explains.  Sometimes, grief leads to the end, or beginning, of a spiritual journey. On a physical level, our bodies respond. For example, one may be hunched over to protect the heart.

“We create body armor,” he says. Grieving is “physical, mental, social, behavioral and spiritual. There are few illnesses that present this many symptoms.”

Myth #3: Grief is the price we pay for love

Thirdly, what causes grief is attachment. Interestingly enough, yoga teaches one to seek detachment. Namely, Asteya. Aparigraha. Santosha.

“We identify our selves with our attachments. Therefore, after an important loss of that which we are attached to, we are no longer who we were. Re-identification is needed via using the self knowledge that grief provides. What better than yoga to find who we really are.”

“For yoga, love is what is left after you’ve let go of everything you love. Anahatha (the heart chakra) has two chords: love and attachment. Positive and negative. In the west, love equals attachment. We are hard neurologically-wired for attachment. Not so in east.”

Myth #4: Grief is short-lived. 

yoga for griefLyn Prashant, Sausys’ teacher and mentor, says we don’t get over grief, we change our relationship to it. Plus, our society doesn’t make it easy to grieve, naturally.

In closing, Sausys says, “Grievers need to be heard. We don’t have outlets to talk about grief. In a way, we are all candidates for grief burnout.”

Note: Sausys is based out of northern California. He has retreats and workshops scheduled for later this year in Canada, Chicago, Massachusetts and the Bahamas –at one of my alma maters, Sivananda.  Learn more about therapeutic yoga for grief, PTSD, or other emotional or physical needs. Visit my Contact page. 

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