How Yoga Can Help You Work Through Feelings Of Grief

Yoga removes energy and emotional blockages that have been stored in the body due to grief or circumstances.

By Tiffany Velasquez | Updated

Yoga grief

Grief is the price humans pay for loving someone; it is a feeling of deep and overwhelming sorrow. Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that connects the mind, body, and breath. Yoga poses that target specific body parts, like the hips and heart, can help remove blockages that allow energy and emotion to flow—leading to a person processing emotion and working through strong feelings.

Speaking directly from my personal experience, yoga was a saving grace when I unexpectedly lost my grandmother, or Mema, as I called her. Her death sent me into an emotional spiral with overwhelming grief that I could not overcome alone. Death and the feelings it can bring up often lead people to seek professional help like grief counselors, therapists, or specially trained yoga instructors.

To provide insight into the relief that yoga can provide to someone experiencing grief, I will paint a mental picture of an emotional release I experienced during a yoga class following my grandmother’s death. I had been attending yoga classes at the gym but not participating in them. I would go to class and lay on my mat for an hour while my children happily played in the kids club.

This was my yoga routine for the first few months following my grandmothers’ death until one day; I decided to participate in class. Toward the end of class, the instructor cued everyone into pigeon pose, which is a hip opener. Almost immediately upon settling into the pose, I began to cry uncontrollably and release all the grief I had been holding inside my body.

This was a groundbreaking moment as I felt a huge emotional relief, and as crazy as it may sound, I felt physically lighter afterward. It was as if a light switch had been flipped, and I realized that although my grandmother was no longer physically with me, I could continue living in a way to honor her and that it was OK to be sad or feel any emotion—I could thrive. I didn’t have to pretend things were OK and keep it all inside. That moment of relief I felt in pigeon pose gave me mental clarity from the fog of grief I had been surviving it.

Neuroscience has pointed out the fact that the hips are a storage area for emotions like grief, depression, and stress. This area is still being studied by scientists but is widely known in the yoga community. Many yoga instructors often reassure their students to honor any emotions that come up during specific poses, like pigeon, which is known for offering an emotional release.

Sometimes yoga unexpectedly forces those who practice to face uncomfortable feelings and thoughts. These can be feelings of grief or other emotions that people try to avoid. Other times, yoga teachers who are highly in tune provide gentle support and hold space for those who need it, and energy freely and openly flows.

If you happen to be experiencing grief and are seeking an active way to work through it, consider taking a yoga class or even trying one asana. You can search YouTube and find an appropriate flow, take a class at a gym, or seek out an instructor who is specifically trained to teach grief or trauma-informed yoga flow. Give yourself permission to feel your emotions, don’t hold them in, and before you begin your flow, bow your head and dedicate your flow to the person you are grieving.

Some asanas to try if you are experiencing grief or just feel like trying a comforting yoga pose consider the benefits of cobra pose, sphinx pose, upward dog, child’s pose, yogi squat, resting pigeon, and many others. You could also lie down on your back, close your eyes, and begin to notice your breath. Remember, there is no yoga without breath, and it is okay to feel.