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Flow through these nine poses to open your heart and mind, and cope with loss in a healthy way.
Find the inner strength to process grief and loss this season with this yoga sequence, which calls on chest-opening lunges, backbends, and twists; nurturing restorative poses; and a focus on moving slowly with your breath. The more active postures keep energy moving in the heart, while the restorative poses give your central nervous system the opportunity to rest, which can relieve some of the deep fatigue that often accompanies grief. Practice every morning in a quiet, private space. Throughout the sequence, put your physical sensations into words: “tense,” “tired,” “heavy.” Then name your emotions, too: “heartbroken,” “angry,” “scared.” This helps you to be present so you can begin to heal, instead of shutting down or running away from your grief and prolonging your heartbreak. Remember to exhale fully to release physical and emotional tension.
Low Lunge, variation
From Downward-Facing Dog, come into a lunge with the left foot forward. Keep your fingertips on the floor and the back leg straight as you elongate the chest forward. Take 4 breaths before placing the back knee on the floor. Inhale and lift your torso. Square off the hips, then interlace your fingers behind the back. Inhale and send the hands back, opening the chest. Softly gaze forward and take 5 deep breaths, bringing awareness to tension in the chest and increasing circulation around the heart. Release and step back to Down Dog. Repeat on the other side.
See Low Lunge.
High Lunge, variation
From Down Dog, return to a lunge with your left foot forward. Keep your right hand on the floor (or a block) as you inhale and bring your left arm up, twisting from the middle and upper spine. Reach back through the right heel and forward with the chest, keeping your hips level to create stability. Gaze up past your left fingertips and hold for 5 deep breaths, continuing to alleviate tension in the chest and open the heart. Release, step into Down Dog, and repeat on the other side.
See High Lunge.
Locust Pose, variation
Lie face-down on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your back and on an inhalation, lift your chest, legs, and hands. Extend through the toes and lengthen, gazing straight ahead. Hold for 3 breaths, release, then repeat. This backbend counters our tendency to roll the shoulders forward and collapse the chest—one way we often protect our hearts when we’re grieving. Release to the floor and come to Child’s Pose.
See Locust Pose.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Lie on your back with your feet directly under your knees, hip-width apart on the floor. Inhale and lift the hips off the floor. Clasp your hands underneath you, rolling the shoulders toward one another to expand the chest. Close your eyes or softly gaze up, taking 4 slow, full breaths. Release, then repeat 2 more times. This heart-opener invites us to be strong yet safely vulnerable; it also brings blood into the brain and glands that help regulate our hormonal and central nervous systems. Release, hugging your knees to your chest.
See Bridge Pose.
Stay on your back and cross your right leg over the left. Drop the knees to the left. Reach your right arm out along the floor and place your left hand on your right knee. This twist and the nurturing, restorative poses that follow are meant to help you surrender and consciously relax. The most important thing is to release, closing the eyes and tuning in to the breath and the present moment. Stay here for 8 to 10 breaths. Inhale, come back to center, and switch sides. Finish by bringing both knees back to the chest.
Sit up and arrange a bolster so it can support your torso and head, placing one edge against your left hip. Bend your knees to the left. Turn toward the bolster and lie down, resting on your right cheek. Close your eyes. Let your arms relax on the floor or the bolster; there should be no discomfort. This pose soothes the nervous system by activating a rest-and-digest response, grounding the body, and quieting the mind. Stay here for at least 2 minutes. Then switch sides.
Restorative Seated Forward Bend
Sit up and extend the legs straight out in front of you. Stack the bolster on your thighs. Inhale and lengthen. Exhale and fold forward over the bolster. Turn your head to one side and relax your arms. Rest your forearms and hands on the floor alongside your legs. Relax your feet. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and rest for at least 1 minute.
See Seated Forward Bend.
Then, transition into Restorative Corpse Pose (Savasana). Inhale to sit up, extending your legs straight out in front of you. Place the bolster back on the mat, at the base of your spine. Lie back with your spine and head supported on the bolster and the arms and legs heavy on the floor. Breathe softly here for 2 minutes. Try not to think. Instead, relax completely.
See Corpse Pose.
Come back to the seated pose you started in, palms together at the heart with your eyes closed. Softly recite this closing intention:
Giving thanks to the Spirit within and beyond, I ask for continued strength as I walk this path of healing. May I grow more compassionate, empathetic, and loving, not in spite of my grief, loss, and experience, but because of them. Thank you, Spirit, for my life, because it is, and will continue to be, truly blessed. May I never take a single moment for granted. May I honor this and all moments as sacred and trust the process of healing. May it teach me well as I surrender to the truths revealed and open my heart to love more widely and boldly than I ever imagined possible.
See Easy Pose.