Lyn Prashant affirms that “we don’t get over our losses, we transform our relationship to them,” and I agree with her one hundred percent. Grief is a powerful source of information about who we are, when we dare to look. We identify ourselves through the persons and things we are attached to; when we lose them, we lose part of who we are. Yet we continue being, only in a way that is not known to us. If we are able to transform our relationship to grief in a way that results in improved self-knowledge, then we can establish a new identity. The process of finding out who the new “one” is is multilayered. It involves understanding and dealing with the physical symptoms of grief; actually completing the grieving process; and re-identifying ourselves, not based on preconceived or pre-learned notions but instead on our true essence, the one we’ve come so much closer to thanks to having been stripped of our previous identity. For that to happen, we must work. The sadhana I’ve developed offers a practice—the foundation for the work we must do—the tools to help us reap the benefits we are after.
The practice I have developed for transforming grief from a painful experience into a conscious source of self-knowledge is a six-part sequence: breathing exercises, body movements, cleansing techniques, relaxation, mental reprogramming, and meditation.
The breathing techniques help bring back a sense of control to the individual by manipulating the prana, or vital force, which helps unite the gap between the conscious and the unconscious. The body movements serve to manage the body’s physical symptoms of grief, particularly addressing pain and other acute symptoms. The cleansing techniques help reset the endocrine system, affecting the fight-or-flight response, which plays an essential role in the grief reaction and the feelings associated with it. Relaxation is included with the intention of diminishing the stress levels that increase during grief. The powerful yogic principle of Resolve helps reset mental patterns and focuses the mind toward the transformation of grief. Finally, meditation is used to address the Spirit: once the body is still and the mind is calm, that which is neither body nor mind can manifest more clearly.
The main asana (physical posture) of the Yoga for Grief Relief practice is called the Windmill. Symbolically, the windmill serves as an analogy for the process of transformation of grief into a new identity. The forces of the unknown—the wind—power the mechanisms of the windmill, just as the mystery of loss creates a churning in the depths of our own selves. As the windmill utilizes the sometimes wild and destructive force of wind energy to mechanically transform hard grains into edible flour, the techniques in this sadhana can transform our Spirits, left vacant by loss but open to receiving the knowledge that exists within us. Just as the grain being pulverized results in a finer quality of flour, the yoga exercises shared here operate at a neurochemical level, improving our mood and strengthening our resolve in the face of insurmountable loss.