Yoga practice can positively affect one's mental health in many ways, and specific asanas for emotional healing can help practitioners deal with grief and loss, as well as help them focus and learn deep-rooted acceptance.
Yoga and Grief
Dealing with loss is just one area in which yoga practice can have many benefits. There are several ways in which yoga helps people to heal emotionally. From a standpoint of mental health, yoga promotes relaxation, stress relief, and encourages yogis to focus their minds and live in the moment. In addition, athletic types of yoga release powerful chemicals in the brain that promote happiness, and several types of yoga poses open the physical body in ways that releases stored emotions. As these pent up feelings are allowed to flow freely, the healing process moves on to a whole new level. Lastly, relaxation poses promote absolute acceptance and foster peace and harmony in the physical as well as the mental being.
It should be noted that practicing yoga in order to deal with grief and loss can induce very powerful emotions. Go slowly and give yourself time to process each emotion as it surfaces.
Asanas for Emotional Healing
Anyone in need of spiritual healing can try these asanas in their yoga practice to help promote wellbeing. Whether an individual is mourning the loss of a loved one or has experienced a life-changing event such as a miscarriage or a health emergency, yoga can help get the person back to a healthy state of mind.
An energetic way to start the day or start a yoga practice, Sun Salutations incorporate many asanas for emotional healing into a single sequence. Not only are several healing poses included in this flowing series, but the act of moving from one posture to another can create a very positive mental and physical flow. For best results, do the entire sun salutation series at least four-to-six times in a row.
This posture is often done standing up, but for restorative benefits, do it lying down. In some ways, it is a relaxation pose, but it is also an intense hip-opening pose. Emotions tend to build up in the back and in the hips, so hip-opening poses like Goddess Pose are good ones for releasing pent-up emotions. While this release can be overwhelming, letting grief flow is a powerful exercise in emotional healing.
Another powerful hip-opening posture, Pigeon Pose is preferred by some yogis over Goddess Pose because it is more active in nature, and provides similar benefits if practiced on both sides of the body in succession.
Because emotions are also stored in the back, any back bend is a good one for letting go of feelings that have been overwhelming you. Very athletic people and experienced yogis can perform sophisticated back bends to experience the benefits of letting go of difficult feelings. However, beginner and intermediate back bends (such as Cobra Pose) have the same effect and can be practiced by virtually anyone.
Seated and Standing Forward Bends
Forward bends are very calming for the body and mind. Yoga has many different types of forward bends, some from a seated position and others from a standing position. All will help bring the body back to a restful state after the flowing Sun Salutations and opening the hips and/or back. After using forward bends, finish the practice with true relaxation poses, such as Child's Pose or Corpse Pose.
This pose is excellent for emotional healing because it allows the practitioner to close out the whole world again. Especially in sessions where hip-opening or backbends have a very powerful effect, it is important to re-center completely, such as through Child's Pose. Hold this pose for as long as it takes for you to feel balanced again.
An alternative is Corpse Pose, which is in many ways the direct opposite of Child's Pose. In Corpse Pose, your body is completely open to the outside world, which can be a difficult final pose to follow an emotionally-charged yoga session. If your practice of the above asanas did not leave you feeling unbalanced, this pose is a great way to end the practice.
Coping and Yoga
For many grieving individuals, a regular yoga practice can provide physical, psychological, and spiritual relief. For best results, take a yoga class with a certified instructor at a studio near your home. If you prefer to practice at home, be sure to energize your practice and work on focusing your mind during your session. Asanas for emotional healing can be powerful, but one of the most difficult aspects of your practice is learning to carry over the peace and focus you gain during a session. Over time, you'll find this easier, and trust that working through issues on the mat is extremely cathartic.