Practicing with Grief and Loss by Jennifer Bendemire

Yoga teaches us to do what may at first seem impossible. The first day I walked into the studio, I was not sure what to expect. I had honestly never thought of myself as a “yoga person,” but needed a way to work through a difficult time after my step-mom died. I turned to yoga in hopes of coming back to my center after being with my family through some difficult months and helping to care her at the end of her life. Very soon after starting yoga, I fell in love with the practice, and began to embrace the imperfection and the unfolding of my journey.

Learning the yoga poses and breath work helped me to yield and grow through a time that felt overwhelming. There were times when I would be in yin class holding a long pose, and images would surface: the physical changes that occurred through the course of my step-mom’s illness, her hospital bed and oxygen concentrator, nights I sat by her bedside and held her hand when she was afraid. In dealing with these memories, it was such a gift to have the yoga classes, and to know that I could stay with the poses and the breath to find my way back to center. Some of my favorite times in the studio were nights when rain pounded on the roof.

Through my yoga practice, I discovered that I could open up and be present and ultimately changed by these experiences rather than shutting down emotionally. I found that big, open poses such as half moon were especially healing and helped me keep my heart open. As I continue with my yoga practice, I learn to move through life with a little more humility, strength, and grace. For that, and for the wonderful teachers and students who have been part of my journey, I am very grateful.