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Yoga offers healing support for grief

Yoga teacher Gloria Drayer says even five minutes of practicing simple relaxation poses like this one, lying on your back and propping your feet on a chair, can help relieve the heavy emotions of grief. (Courtesy of Gloria Drayer)

Yoga teacher Gloria Drayer says even five minutes of practicing simple relaxation poses like this one, lying on your back and propping your feet on a chair, can help relieve the heavy emotions of grief. (Courtesy of Gloria Drayer)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After a loss, the ebb and flow of grief can batter even the strongest person.

Yoga in its many forms can offer support to weather the storm, says Kripalu yoga teacher and author Gloria Drayer of Albuquerque.

Together with Kathleen Doherty of Albuquerque, a former hospice nurse and clinical research manager, Drayer has written, “Yoga and Grief: A Compassionate Journey Toward Healing” (Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, 2014).

The guide offers simple practices derived from yoga – postures, breath work, chants and meditations – that have offered Drayer and her clients relief in turbulent times, she says.

“My intention is to give people a different kind of support as they go through grieving,” she says. “For me as my mother was dying, there was a hopelessness. You wonder how does the world go on, when you’re grieving this much, when this is so painful.”

Work stress also batters the body, prompting another Albuquerque author team to write a guide to using yoga to relieve stress.

University of New Mexico School of Law professor Nathalie Martin explores how yoga relieves stress in “Yoga for Lawyers: Mind-Body Techniques to Feel Better All the Time” (ABA Book Publishing, 2014) with co-author Hallie Love, also a lawyer and a yoga teacher.

Martin is the UNM School of Law Frederick M. Hart Chair in consumer and clinical law and has practiced yoga for many years in order to better balance the demands of teaching, scholarship and practicing law.

“This book is a culmination of many years of practicing yoga, experience with many forms of meditation and a sudden realization that yoga and meditation make practicing and teaching law easier and more enjoyable,” says Martin in a news release. “While I originally turned to yoga and meditation to relieve stress, these ancient practices also improve concentration and help keep one’s emotions in check. I truly believe that yoga is for every body, every mind and every heart.”

Drayer lost her mother in 2006 to cancer. “The layers of loss are many. Not one of us escapes it. The grief will not end so much as how we face it will change. In my own transformation, it was the hope. I use yoga, breath work and rituals to not feel so heavy in the grief.”

She adds that grief accompanies many losses in life, not just death of a loved one. People get divorced, lose their jobs, their homes or their pets and find themselves grieving.

In the book she recommends simple postures like lying on the floor with your feet in a chair or sitting tall and breathing in controlled patterns to help calm the body and clear the mind. “Moving the breath as you move is a way to expand the lungs and internally massage the organs. Its benefits are profound.”

Simple meditations, like focusing on a candle flame, can help still the mind. Another portion of the book offers chants to stay focused in the present moment and help ease troubling thoughts and emotions.

Chanting is a tool that many religions and philosophies use to affirm life in the middle of sorrow, she says. “Chanting brings you into the present moment.”

One chant, written by Drayer’s teacher, Sonia Nelson, helps relieve regrets than can come with loss. “With my best intentions, mistakes were made. Please forgive these. And through grace, may I remain on the path I’ve chosen. Sustained by faith, strength, the memory of my devotion.”

“We can forgive ourselves for feeling like we didn’t do enough. No one can do everything,” Drayer adds. “We can comfort ourselves. We can learn from our loss, from not getting everything right. We can move it with our breath. With just putting our legs up on a chair. With an act of kindness to ourselves, we love ourselves.”

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