Two years ago, I was in Indonesia preparing to lead a yoga teacher training beginning in 72 hours. My phone rang. On the other end, I was told my sister had just died from a heroin overdose. Speechless and gutted, I pulled my arms in front of my chest. I dropped my head into my hands and felt paralysed.
From my previous experience with loss, I knew these actions were causing a “shaking in” of the trauma. The best thing to do in this situation is to run around, move the limbs and yell— “shake out” the trauma. However, we’ve been conditioned to intellectualise the sadness first. This makes navigating and unravelling the inner workings of our feelings difficult, yet an understanding of the Chakras can help. This knowledge was integral in helping me deal with the loss of my sister. I hope it can serve you in your own unique grieving process.
Grieving Through the Chakras
The energetic system of the chakras defines how we move. Grief affects each chakra individually and the system as a whole. Each chakra (energy center) has its own purpose and receives energy or information from the outside world. Chakras assimilate and integrate this energy, combine it with their particular states and expresses this combination back into the world.
1st chakra, Muldhara – stability and survival: Healing from loss and grief here comes through grounding practices. Silence and slow and methodical movements nurture it. Sink into the support of gravity.
Pro tip: garden, get your hands in the dirt.
2nd chakra, Svadisthana – fluidity and emotions:This chakra likes flow of all kinds. Nurture it by experiencing pleasure through all of the senses. Eat delicious and nourishing foods. Look at the beautiful blue sky. Flow in your yoga practice—combining breath and movement supports the relationship between the first and second chakras.
Pro tip: dance.
3rd chakra, Manipura – power and self-discipline: Nurture this chakra by caring for your first two chakras daily. Consistently roll out your yoga mat and move. This ignites the fire this chakra needs to thrive.
Pro tip: care for your first two chakras, even when you don’t feel like it.
4th chakra, Anahata – breath: Grief affects this chakra by making the breath shallow or causing it to be held. Heal here through deep breathing—especially through the mouth in the early stages of grief. Notice how the body moves with each inhale and each exhale. Let the space between the two begin to lengthen naturally.
Pro tip: match the rhythm of the breath with the rhythm of your heartbeat.
5th chakra, Vishuddha – creativity, speech, and listening: When grieving, listen to others share their stories of loss and heartache. Meet with people who can relate to your experience without judgement or sympathy, heard by people that understand that it’s your journey, your own healing timeline.
Pro tip: sing.
6th chakra, Ajna – perception of ourselves and others:We can easily allow the perception of a loss to define us. Who are we once someone is gone? Do we feel guilty moving on? Through experience, I know that the sixth chakra will feel supported, if the time has been taken to care for the lower five properly.
Pro tip: sit quietly with the eyes closed. Bring the gaze up to the space between the eyebrows and connect to your inner wisdom.
7th chakra, Svadisthana – connection and attachment:The healing journey encompasses the attachment to our perceptions and the stories we tell ourselves. Who are we if we are no longer that thing which defined us? Do your grounding practice. Give the first chakra what it needs to build a foundation, then slowly work your way up through the chakra system, to find answers.
Pro tip: practice stillness. Commit to one minute at a time, then slowly increase the time.
After my sister died, I found safety in my anger and brokenness. It served me until one day it didn’t. If I had rushed the healing process to suit someone else’s timeline, I wouldn’t feel as whole as I am beginning to feel right now. When grieving, take your time. Go through the process of nurturing your chakras, and the healing will find its way.
Denise Payne Teacher Training School in Bali One Song Yoga has been serving the yoga community as a registered school since 2009. Our guiding principles are steeped in yoga tradition and philosophy and offer bespoke teacher training to fit the growing needs of the expanding yoga community. www.denisepayneyoga.com