Studio Owner, Christine Grant, of Moksha Yoga Cambridge opens up about loss, grief, and moving through it all on her mat.
I’ve been wondering how to start this post for awhile now. How do I explain how yoga can help people grieve? How it can help people process. How it can help someone come out of the tunnel and not only see the light, but move in to and through the light. I finally realized I can’t talk about how it can help other, because everyone grieves differently. However, I can explain how it has helped me.
My family has unfortunately experienced two losses which have hit close to home. We lost a child to miscarriage at 14 weeks, and most recently experienced a stillbirth close to 22 weeks. The term ‘stillborn’ still doesn’t feel right to me, but clinically there’s no better term. Our son Watson was born with a beating heart, but lungs too immature to allow him to breathe. He was born just shy of the 23 1/2 week ‘cut-off’ for hospital staff to jump in and help him breathe, providing support until his lungs were strong enough to take the job over for themselves. He was born beautiful, with a chest that I saw move with each heartbeat, with a heart that I felt beat through the tips of my fingers, with an arm that he curled up in to his chest as he laid in my arms. He looked like his dad, he had toes like his sister, he had a nose like his mom.
This was a child that danced in my belly when I practiced yoga. While in the hospital for over 2 weeks I would be asked several times a day if I felt much movement. My answer was always “a little bit”, but nothing compared to what I felt before I had arrived there. You see, it was when I practiced yoga that he practiced moving his little body the most.
When Watson died a piece of my heart shattered. I came home and tried to settle in to my new life – a new life because of large piece of me had been lost to never return. I would never be the same. It took me a week to return to my mat at home. For the first week of practice, I would settle in to childs pose and cry. Eventually I was able to extend one leg back into pigeon, then the other. It’s amazing how the body moves to what it needs the most. Most of my practice that first month was a tribute to hip openers. Heart always closed over my mat I would allow my hips, which have always held emotion, to open. The more they opened, the more it hurt… the more I cried. Then one day, my sweet little beacon of light walked up to me as I was in melting heart, and said “Mommy, look!”. She was in tree pose. This amazing little soul, who intuitively knows so much, showed me where I had to go. I pulled myself up and stood in tree with her. She looked up at me with innocent eyes and a brilliant smile, and I smiled back. I smiled as I stood tall, confident, and strong. Without thinking I swept my arms up overhead, and Norah followed as she always does. We moved in to crescent moon. I felt my ribs expand and my breath instantly began to deepen. I knew in that instant what I had to do. Just as Watson had learned to move his little body when I practiced, I had to re-learn my life as I knew best – with movement.
When I started to return to Moksha Yoga Cambridge I would find a spot near the back, behind someone else’s mat. Though I had once again become comfortable moving within my body, I wasn’t comfortable seeing myself in the mirror. It was difficult going from looking at myself in the studio with a noticeably pregnant belly to seeing myself postpartum. So, I hid. When I taught, I would stand at the front of the room, and look everywhere except at my reflection. I wasn’t ready.
On a particularly emotional day, without thinking about my actions, I arrived at the studio. It was empty, as I knew it would be, and I found myself standing alone in 1500 square feet of silence, two feet from the mirror, on my mat. Chin lifted, I looked in my eyes and started to move. I started with my breath and allowed that breath to carry me through 1 hour of heat, sweat, cries and flow. My practice that day ended with a supported savasana, shoulders back, chest open to the heavens, hands over heart, tears streaming down my face. I cried not tears of sadness, though those do come and go, but tears of acceptance. Yes, our Watson died and it is incredibly sad, but a piece of the heartache chipped away that day making room for love. Love for myself, my husband, my Norah, my family and friends.
I rolled up my mat that day a different person than who I was when I unrolled it an hour prior. Losing Watson will always hurt. I will always miss who he was when he was with me, and the hopes I had for who he would become. I find comfort knowing that every time I step on my mat, he is there with me. His spirit moves and breathes with me now as his body did while he was living inside of me.
There is no end to the grieving process, at least not mine. I have great happy days, sad days, and in-between days.The studio has offered me a healing space where I can be myself and let my emotions roll as they will. Why not? We have all suffered some loss. We all experience some sadness and heartache. The Moksha community I continue to return to has proven that we are there for one another in happiness and sadness, and most importantly that it is okay to be human – because we all are.
So here I am, 4 days shy of 7 months after his birth, a new person. A new mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and business partner. Most importantly, a person whose reflection I can look at and know that while it carries a story, it carries love.
Christine Grant runs Moksha Yoga Cambridge with her wonderful partners, Emily & Wendy Dwornikiewicz. She spends her days dreaming, teaching, exploring the outdoors with her pooches, and going on adventures with her sweet little tyke. As the sun starts to set she is likely to be enjoying a backyard BBQ, some good cheese, and a great glass of wine. Follow Christine on Instagram – @trueyogamom