Finding Your Balance, Catching Your Breath: The Benefits Of Yoga And Writing When Coping With Grief

Photo Credit: David Clode

Photo Credit: David Clode

Grief is a natural and normal response to loss — but we do not FEEL normal while grieving. Anything but! We can be easily overwhelmed by surprising, unsettling changes in ourselves and in our world. Grief is not just sadness or other emotions; it is an all-encompassing experience that profoundly affects us in body, mind and spirit. 

Yoga and writing can be especially helpful during this difficult time because both fully engage body, mind, and spirit. Woven together as complementary practices, they quickly invite discovery and healing on a profound level.

How does this work?

Grief throws us off balance

  • Yoga strengthens balance, in body and mind

  • Writing restores balance as we give voice to the full spectrum of our experience

Grief takes our breath away

  • Yoga helps us to breathe with awareness and freedom

  • Writing, like breath, helps us take in what is around us and bring forth what is within us

Grief causes stress reactions in the body

  • Yoga enables physical relaxation and reduces physical reactivity

  • Writing engages the body’s natural “relaxation response,” releasing calming chemicals

Grief is often repressed 

  • Yoga facilitates recognition and release of emotions that get stored in the body

  • Writing allows us to vent, to let go, to say what has been held back

Grief constricts our world and our thinking

  • Yoga invites stretching and opening, awareness of the truth of body and mind

  • Writing allows us to see things in a new way, opening up new possibilities

Grief is unpredictable and out of our control

  • Yoga practices control while encouraging us to let go and flow with whatever is happening

  • Writing creates a sense of order from chaos

Grief disrupts our sense of safety

  • Yoga mat is a safe place as we focus on the present moment through breath and movement

  • Writing creates a safe place for our grief to land; the journal is always there for us

Grief changes us in ways we don’t like, causing self-judgement and self-criticism

  • Yoga practices non-judgement, self-compassion, self-acceptance

  • Writing fosters self-understanding which leads to self-compassion

Grief disconnects us from who we are and what we love

  • Yoga uncovers for us the connection to our deepest selves: body, mind and spirit

  • Writing connects us to what is lost, to what still matters, to something larger than our pain

Grief is painful; healing requires both moving into and moving away from the pain

  • Yoga practices listening to body so that we know when to move in, when to move away

  • Writing allows us to delve deeply into the pain and also provides times of surprising respite

This is not just a theory, it is something magical I witness every time I facilitate a Gentle Yoga & Journaling Retreat with yoga therapist SAM Sather of Dogwood Studio. These twice-yearly retreats offer anyone coping with loss the chance to experience first-hand the healing power of yoga and writing, in the company of others who “get it.”

But don’t take my word for it. Here is what past participants have said: 

"I didn't realize how much I was holding inside. Being able to release thoughts & emotions through journaling, yoga, & quiet reflection was something I needed.”

"I really appreciated having a space that was intentionally focused on loss. It was a rare opportunity to be with others who were also there with that.”

"The Yoga sessions with SAM were very relaxing. The writing sessions with Mitzi brought so many emotions to the surface for me.”

“It was not intimidating, which was welcoming for a newcomer.”

"I appreciated having the opportunity to identify a concrete step forward.”

Join us for our next retreat!

Finding Your Balance, Catching Your Breath: 

A Gentle Yoga & Journaling Retreat To Help Move Through Loss

Saturday, September 21, 1:00-5:30pm

Dogwood Studio in Carrboro, NC

Details & Registration

~Thanks to Sam Sather for contributing her thoughts about yoga and grief for this article~

Photo Credit: David Clode