I’m 29 now and up until 2 years ago, I never really dealt with grief. When I was young, one of my aunts passed away from cancer, but my parents didn’t tell me about her because I didn’t really know her, and they thought it would be best not to ‘scare’ me. I come from a Chinese family, so open and honest communication was not a strength. In my mid 20’s Both my grandfathers passed away. They both lived in China so I really didn’t see them or talk to them much growing up. I was sad, yes, but for the most part, I was okay. It was easy to push it out of my mind and not think about it because it was all happening so far away.
Fast forward to November 2016, I was notified of a tragic passing. A family friend’s son had passed away. He was only 14 years old, and I had known him his whole life. I babysat him, our families would get together and they would come over for some Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners. The hardest part was finding out he committed suicide - I just couldn’t understand.
Just like before, no one in my family really wanted to talk about it. Death was not a topic to be discussed and certainly not suicide. I didn’t talk to my friends about it much either, because I really didn’t know what to say. I guess in a lot of ways, I never learned how to talk about my feelings growing up. I felt like a heartless robot because I couldn’t even shed a tear; I just felt so empty inside.
All this happened to coincide with the start of my practicing yoga. At the first class I took a few days after finding out the news, I got something I didn’t get anywhere else. I got ’space’.
Clair Lalande from www.doyouyoga.com described space as this:
“We create space in our minds during meditation … by quieting our minds and freeing a lot of the thoughts and worries that we keep there….We also have to create room in our self-practice to listen to ourselves.”
In the busy-ness of life, my mind needed space to let go of all the distractions I had. Thinking about work, bills and other commitments just allowed me to ignore my own feelings. I created space by practicing yoga and not thinking about anything else. I just listened to the instruction of the teacher and moved through all the poses. Each deep breath felt like a sigh of relief, letting go of something I didn’t need to hold on to. At the end of class during the past posture, Savasana, I noticed a few tears streaming down my cheeks. It was all the pent up and unconscious emotion coming through.
For the next few classes, I decided to set an intention dedicating that day’s practice to his life. It sounds silly to dedicate a practice in honour of someone who passed away, but what else could I do? I wanted to help help the family but they just wanted to be left alone - I wasn’t even allowed to attend the funeral. By dedicating my practice to him, I felt like I could at least honour his memory in some way. Whether or not it was just in my head, somehow I felt close to him during my practices, and for me, that’s what helped me grieve.
I started practicing yoga because I heard about all the physical benefits, but I didn’t realize how it could help me get in touch with myself mentally and emotionally. I encourage everyone in my life to give it a try because our lives are always so busy that we forget to make space for ourselves. It’s important to check in with yourself often because things can get push to the back of your mind, and that’s not the healthiest thing to do.
If you’re struggling with something, give yoga a try. What’s the worst that could happen, right?
PS. If you are fairly new to yoga, it’s important to try different classes with different teachers! Every class will focus on a different aspect, and every teacher will teach differently. I was very lucky to have been with teachers who gave me exactly what I needed when I first started yoga, but take your time