Finding a Path through Grief

Yoga and Grief book cover

I wanted to share a new yoga resource with you. Gloria Drayer, a wonderful yoga teacher and friend, has co-written a book entitled, Yoga and Grief, a compassionate journey toward healing. This book is an insightful guide, explaining different yoga techniques and how they can support you as you experience and move through loss.

One of the first things I noticed about the book was the gentle, comforting language used. Nowhere do we hear what we must do to assuage our grief. Everywhere we are encouraged to use what works for us, to respect our own needs, to allow ourselves what time we need to heal, despite outside pressure to move on.

Most likely, the writers’ own experience and wisdom has guided their supportive tone. Both Gloria and Kathleen came to write this book out of their own experiences of loss: Gloria as she cared for her mother in her last year of life and Kathleen as she faced a major health crisis in her own life. Both talk about using the techniques of yoga described in this book to help them through their own journeys.

The writers explain that the suffering of loss unbalances our entire system. By using techniques of yoga we can rebalance the energy of our bodies and minds to find, over time, a sense of calm and peace.

This book is remarkable in its breadth, clarity, and accessibility. Strategies offered include breathing techniques, gentle yoga postures, meditation, chant, and the use of ritual. For each of these techniques, several options are offered for their use. For example, in the chapter on yoga postures, there is a practice that can be done in a chair, another done standing, another on the floor, a longer practice, as well as suggestions for rest, so that anyone can find something appropriate.

In each chapter, the writers explain the benefits of each technique and offer easy to follow instructions to perform it. To help follow instructions for yoga postures and breathing practices, clear black and white photos supplement the instructions, which are written accurately and simply. To support learning of the chant and meditation, Gloria has recordings of the chants and guided meditations given in the book on her two websites.

I highly recommend Yoga and Grief, a compassionate journey toward healing, whether you are dealing with grief right now or not. We all experience losses in our lives, be it the loss of a loved one, the death of a pet, the loss of health, the loss of a relationship, or a job or home, and most of us help others close to us with their losses. To understand the techniques of yoga and how they can support us can be invaluable when we need help. Gloria and Kathleen have created a remarkable resource. It is a gift to those needing a path through grief.

Visit or to learn how to order the printed book or e-book edition of Yoga and Grief, a compassionate journey toward healing.

Yoga and Grief, Part Three

Yoga and GriefYoga is about being present for our experience, whatever it might be – a yoga pose, a conversation with a friend, an emotion. This is not easy. Our minds tend to wander. We often judge our own behaviors and vulnerabilities and seek to escape from our discomfort.

When we are sitting with someone we love who is dying, our emotional discomfort is at its height, and our minds may increase that suffering. “How long will this go on?” “What will happen to the family?” “Why is God letting this happen?”

And, the mind may journey to the past. “Why didn’t I spend more time with him or her?” “How could I have spoken so harshly?” “I would do so many things differently if I had a second chance.”

These projections and ruminations increase our suffering and keep us from experiencing the painful emotions that are a direct part of the loss. Our inability to stay present steals the time we can be with our loved one as we are more in our heads than in the reality of the present.

Being present with the reality of our grief is key to accepting loss. To do this we need to experience a tender, gentle attitude toward ourselves, without criticism.
This allows us to move toward acceptance and healing.

In yoga we are asked to observe the “effects” of our practice. Are there any areas of tension or openness? Is my breath long or short? Is my mind active with thoughts or quiet?

We are training to free ourselves from the judging mind. Without the judging mind, we don’t have to feel bad about what we notice. We don’t have to compare ourselves to others. This freedom can allow us to see and accept our vulnerabilities. It allows us to have compassion for ourselves.

When we begin to be present with our pain, treating ourselves with compassion for our suffering as we would treat a child in pain, we can begin to accept our loss.

Bringing compassion to the brokenness we feel in our grief can help us connect with the love we have for the one we have lost. We can come to recognize the love that bound us that still lives on within us. When we reach this place, we have moved to a deeper healing and sense of peace, and a profound honoring of the one no longer with us.


A five week “Yoga for Life, support for those who are grieving” begins Thursday, September 5th. For more information, you can read a description of the class. If you or someone you know is grieving and would like to explore the healing potential of yoga, please contact me by noon, Tuesday, September 2nd at or call 717-645-0067.


Yoga and Grief, Part Two

Yoga and GriefWe know intellectually that all of us at sometime in our lives suffer loss and the trauma that ensues. When this happens, our entire being experiences grief. Our mind and heart, as well as the cells and systems of our body respond to loss. Physical symptoms may include headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, a feeling of heaviness, fatigue, and depletion. Mentally we may have difficulty thinking clearly, making decisions, and remembering things. Emotionally, we may feel anguished, anxious, depressed, powerless, or angry. Spiritually, we may sense a loss of meaning or purpose in our lives.

So how can yoga help us to heal?

Yoga sees healing as “a change in mind, in perception, in attitude” so that “mental, emotional, and physical suffering are alleviated,” and the person’s quality of life improves.1 One reason yoga is effective in healing is because of its holistic vision of the human system. Everything is interconnected.

Try this experiment. Stand with your hands resting on your heart; slowly open your arms out to the side as you breathe in; slowly bring your hands back to the heart as you breathe out. Do this 4 or 5 times. Then mentally focus on the word “peace” as you breathe in and open your arms; focus on the words “in my body,” as you breathe out and bring your hands back to the heart. Next, mentally focus on the word “peace” as you breathe in and open your arms; focus on the words “in my mind” as you breathe out and bring your hands back to the heart. Finally, focus on “peace” as you breathe in and open the arms; focus on “in my heart,” as you breathe out and bring the hands back to the heart. Repeat this series with your mental focus on the words two more times.

Now sit down in a chair and take a minute or two to notice – without making any judgments – how you feel. Does your body feel more relaxed? Is your breath slower? Is your mind quieter? Do you notice any sense of peace emotionally, even a twinge?

Another way in which yoga encourages healing is in the practice of observation and acceptance. Yoga develops our awareness by requiring us to observe the effects of what we do in our practice, just as you did in the exercise above. Our observation is without judgment. It is a training in learning about ourselves, and accepting where we are at a particular moment in time. This practice of non-judgmental observation and acceptance prepares us to deal with change, and our struggle to accept our loss.

The vision yoga gives us of our human system and the practices it gives us to touch all dimensions of our being with awareness and acceptance empower us to begin our journey from suffering to healing.

If you or someone you know is grieving the loss of a loved one and would like to explore the healing potential of yoga, please contact me. A five week “Yoga for Life, support for those who are grieving” session begins Thursday, September 5th.


1 Desikachar, Kausthub. “The Yoga of Healing: Exploring Yoga’s Holistic Model for Health and Well-being.” International Journal of Yoga Therapy. No. 15 (2005) 17.

Yoga and Grief, Part One

Yoga and GriefGrief is a response to change. And, all changes, whether positive or negative, involve loss, explained Jennilu King. As a grief counselor, Jennilu helps others deal with loss and has her own insights and wisdom on the subject.

“Grief is the heart’s natural healing process,” she told me as we sat at Panera recently talking over breakfast and coffee. “It needs space, time, care, and attention in the same way as when you have open heart surgery. After surgery you come home with support in place, information about diet, and therapy appointments. You rest. All of this is part of the recuperation process that is about healing from physical trauma. Our heart needs these same things to heal from loss.”

Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t give people space and time to heal from loss. Not meaning harm, a concerned friend or relative may tell someone experiencing loss, “you need to get on with YOUR life,” as if there is only a designated time to grieve and then it is time to move on.

Those who are grieving, however, need to take time to nurture, nourish, and accept themselves and their lives. Yoga creates this time and space.

Yoga is about healing from suffering. The purpose of yoga, according to the yoga master TKV Desikachar, is “to reduce disturbance and return an individual to his or her inherent peace and power.” For those suffering loss, the physical postures of yoga help ease the physical effects of grief and improve energy. Breathing techniques support the connection between body and mind and help create a sense of calm. Sound and meditation support focus, healing, and the movement to a space of peace.

In the context of the yoga class to support those who are grieving, the tools of yoga offer techniques to help participants cope with grief, find compassion for the journey they are on, and honor their loss. All of the practices help to create space and balance in the body, breath, mind, and emotions.

If you or someone you know is grieving the loss of a loved one and would like to explore the healing potential of yoga, please contact me. A five week “Yoga for Life, support for those who are grieving” session begins Thursday, September 5th.


Yoga for Life

Support for those who are grieving

Yoga for LifeThe experience of loss is always about change – struggling with and finally accepting change on many levels. Yoga, as a discipline and a philosophy, is also about acceptance of what is – of who we are, of the situation we are in, and of the circumstances that brought us to this point. Through the physical and mental practice that is yoga we can learn to apply principles of acceptance to all areas of life.

This five session series of gentle yoga will provide a safe space in which participants can begin to make peace with both the pain and the changes that loss contains. All levels of physical ability will be welcome in the group.

Thursdays, September 5-October 3, 2013, 2:00-3:30 pm
TMC: wellness through movement
2134 N. 2nd St.
Harrisburg, PA 17110

Facilitated by:
Jennilu King, Grief Counselor
Elizabeth Terry, Yoga Teacher

Cost: $35 for the course.
Participants will need to have a yoga mat.
Contact Elizabeth Terry at 717-645-0067 or e-mail for more information or to register.

“Making peace with change is at the heart of every journey…”
– Paula D’Arcy