“Men don’t cry, toughen up and be strong.” As a shy kid growing up in Southern Texas, I was taught that sadness was a sign of weakness. I never felt like I fit in. Instead of allowing others to witness my sadness, I would isolate myself from others. That disconnection happened socially, but also physically too. I began to over eat and drown my feelings. I avoided gym class for the fear of being ridiculed.
As I became older, I ran away from any feelings of sadness or grief by becoming active. I put on a happy face and became very busy. I avoided anyone who was a “downer”. I didn’t attend my grandfather’s funeral. Even as I was well into adulthood, I avoided my best friend’s mother’s funeral. I knew her well and disappointed my friend when I wasn’t there for him. I searched for relationships to help complete me but felt heartbroken when they didn’t work. There was an imbalance I was experiencing in my relationships that reflected my life.
I felt this calling to attend a yoga class. After much resistance, I finally allowed myself to experience yoga. Something opened up within my body that allowed my mind to calm down and focus on the present moment. Tears began to flow. I experienced peace. As I continued taking yoga classes, I would catch myself constantly focusing on the past, or fear and anxiety of the future. As I learned to surrender to the present moment, my body opened up to feelings. The thoughts of my critical mind and feelings of not being enough started to come up for me to compassionately embrace. I would observe and allow them to pass. I would surrender to feelings on my yoga mat and located where I was experiencing the sensation in my body. I started to tune into my body and listen. I was holding a lot of issues in my tissues. After experiencing the feelings fully, I felt lighter afterwards.
My broken heart would bring up failed relationships that I was still processing. Yoga allowed my chaotic mind to become focused in the present and say it’s okay to just be and feel. I became aware that my body remembered all the unresolved grief and anger I had suppressed. I explored emotions that I had numbed out with food, alcohol and drug. I had suppressed and hid fears, sadness and insecurities so well that I didn’t know they were there.
I went deeper into my yoga practice and became a teacher. This practice helped me to be more centered, clear, focused and empowered. I wanted to share this amazing tool with others. After my initial teacher training, I broke my wrist and was out of commission for a bit. I had to slow down. My wonderful old dog Angel was sick and not doing well. My sister was dying from advanced stage 4 cancer. I felt like my body was breaking and so was my beloved sister and dog. The sadness was back again. Once more I brought it all to my yoga mat. I learned patience and surrender. My physical body adjusted and healed but it taught me great lessons on how to modify for myself and for my students. My sister and dog passed away, but this time I was present for the loss and sadness. I let it wash through me instead of running away from it.
As a teacher, I love setting an intention for a class. I became fascinated in creating an entire practice with the intention of healing grief and loss. As I embraced my own grief, I learned how these feelings are universal. We all experience loss. If we don’t fully honor the loss and our feelings, it can become stuck within the body. The body remembers.
I continued on my yoga journey studying under masters like Gurmukh and Seane Corn. I become a teacher of many branches of yoga including Hatha Yoga, Vinayasa Flow, Restorative Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Laughter Yoga, and Let Your Yoga Dance. I volunteered giving Compassionate Heart Touch to people in hospice in their final stage of life. I studied loss with grief expert David Kessler.
I decided to create a class that I would love to take. My intention with my Grief Yoga class is to create a ritual to use pain and suffering as fuel for healing. I knew that unresolved grief was the shadow aspect of the heart. I wanted to create a special sacred yoga ritual. I was inspired by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief and focused on exercises that had focused intention to help students move through anger, regret, disappointment, and loss. The class focuses on healing a broken heart to bring us back to love instead of suffering. Something healing happens in a compassionate yoga session focused on embracing the feelings of grief. The postures, movements and breathing techniques allow students to befriend their body and relationship with loss. The graceful yet powerful movement helps them access their submerged feelings. Our grief can be a gift if we embrace it, or it can swallow us up.
I teach this class to Workshops dealing with break ups, divorce and betrayal, Bereavement Groups, Cancer Support Centers, Addiction Groups, and Alzheimer Groups. I’m teaching what I need to remind myself. It’s okay to show vulnerability. That vulnerability isn’t a weakness; it’s actually a place of strength. I now travel the world teaching this practice. I’ve taught Grief Yoga to over 6000 therapists and counselors and recognize that grief is actually a gift. We run from the pain of loss. Grief is the gift of healing. It’s an expression of how much we’ve loved. Life is precious. With Grief Yoga, I’ve learned to honor the love, not the pain. I’m grateful that it has helped me and so many others heal our feelings of loss and move toward empowerment.