The Journey To Joy And Happiness Through Yoga
A path away from grief and numbness ...
POSTED BY ANNE MARIE TOVEY ON 15/07/2020 @ 8:00AM
Last week, I shared my personal story of grief and how yoga helped me back to a place of joy. Now I want to dwell on this journey a little longer as I am sure there are many who are experiencing despair during these times ...
The journey to joy and happiness through Yoga is different for each of us!
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When we think of grief we immediately think of the loss of a loved one, but it is more than that. Grief is our human response to loss; it is not something we choose or not choose, it is part of our DNA and we can't escape it.
It is the normal and necessary journey we take after something we valued is no longer with us:
If someone we love dies, we grieve
If a beloved pet dies, we grieve
If someone we love leaves, we grieve
If something we value is taken away from us, we grieve
If our bodies change on our journey through life such as through menopause, old age or accidents, we grieve
If circumstances change, we grieve
It is also true that the stronger the attachment to the person or thing of loss, the stronger our grief will be. Love and grief are two sides of the same coin. They are the yin and yang of our lives. Same as grief and joy.
The symptoms of normal grief include shock, numbness, a feeling of being in a vacuum, denial, disbelief, desperation and longing for 'what was'. They are all ways the body and mind are protecting us from the reality of the loss until we are more able to tolerate what we don't want to believe.
These emotions almost act as an anaesthetic. While this is helpful for a period of time, experiencing these emotions indefinitely blocks the path to healing. If we cannot accept the reality of the loss or change, we cannot move on to a future of joy.
Remember also, grief is as unique as we are as individuals and we all experience it differently. Healing is a process which can be very lonely, but most importantly, good things can come from it if we allow ourselves the time and opportunity to let it.
"So, can yoga help?"
To answer that, we need to understand what happens in our bodies when we experience grief and the sense of helplessness that often comes with it. In his book, The Body Keeps The Score, Dr Bessel van der Kolk explains that the body 'stores' these sad and uncomfortable memories as muscle tension or disintegration in the body and we become experts in self-numbing.
The body's ability to return to a state of normal feeling is regulated through the two branches of the autonomic nervous system and this is the most elementary survival system in our bodies. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) uses chemicals to fuel the body into action, often referred to as 'fight or flight' and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) helps to calm the system, referred to as 'tend and befriend' or 'rest and digest'.
These two systems work together to keep us in a state of optimal engagement with our environment and ourselves. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measures the balance between these two systems. When we inhale, we stimulate the SNS which increases the heart rate. Exhalation stimulates the PNS which decreases how fast the heart beats.
Why is this important? Well, when our autonomic nervous system is well balanced, we have better control over our response to minor frustrations and disappointments, enabling us to calmly assess what is going on before we react. It gives us control over our impulses and emotions and is a means of connecting with our inner selves.
Often, when we experience grief, it can be traumatic and the body's ability to naturally regulate our HRV is under pressure. Our breathing is shallow and rapid which puts pressure on the HRV and causes it to be out of balance.
"This is where yoga can help. Yoga practices combine breathing (pranayama), stretches or postures (asanas) and meditation!"
By bringing awareness to the breath in our yoga practice, to notice whether our breathing is fast or slow, and which part of the lung is engaged, can help to regulate the HRV. By focusing on the tension and relaxation of different muscles during a pose will help to bring awareness back to our bodies.
Through meditation or simple mindfulness during our daily lives, we are encouraged to observe what is happening in different parts of our bodies. Yoga is a system, and by combining the breathing (pranayama), stretches or postures (asanas) and meditation, over time we can slowly find a path away from grief and numbness to a place of joy.
Until next time ...
ANNE MARIE TOVEY
I offer personalised 1-2-1 yoga classes, a 10-week Yoga4Health Programme commissioned by the NHS
or monthly subscription chair-based yoga classes on Zoom three times a week at 12 noon to 12:30pm
on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Would you like to know more?
If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more about yoga, do call me on 07768 314962, leave a comment below or click the Messenger icon in the bottom right of your browser to chat.
You can also visit my website at https://www.ageless-yoga.co.uk.
About Anne Marie Tovey ...
Anne Marie completed an 18-month yoga teacher training through Yoga Campus in London in February 2020 to share the magical benefits of yoga with others.
She also recently completed a PTSD and Yoga4Health certifications through The Minded Institute to help people dealing with trauma and those who want to start a healthier lifestyle through yoga.
Helping business owners to create a supportive working environment that will have a positive impact on their business. The benefits, that flow from the holistic and systemic approach from yoga, will have a rippling effect on the health of all employees, their families, their communities and all stakeholders from the bottom up and equally from the top down.
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