3 Life Lessons Yoga Teaches Us About Dealing With Tragedy

Lessons yoga teaches us

The principles of yoga can benefit us off the mat as well. For example, here are 3 ways that yoga teaches us to deal with tragedy in a healthier manner…

Many people think of yoga as a healing practice only for the physical body, but yoga can also help us heal emotionally and deal with emotional traumas as well. For example, yoga teaches us to focus on the present moment rather than dwelling on painful memories. Yoga can help you feel connected to a greater whole and see the bigger picture when the details of our lives threaten to overwhelm us. And yoga can help us feel safe in our bodies in the midst of what sometimes seems like the constant chaos of life.

Below are three yogic principles that can help us to deal more peacefully and constructively with the traumas and tragedies that life sometimes brings:

1. Life begins and ends with breath.

When we receive a shock, our physiology tends to goes into fight (looking for someone to blame) or flight (trying to calm us with clichés like “everything happens for a reason,” as if a simple aphorism could explain it all away) response. In these moments—like in yoga, when we feel the body resisting—is to breathe through it. We must become more present than usual.

By breathing into our discomfort, we empower ourselves to feel uncomfortable without panicking. Each new breath draws us more deeply into awareness and allows us to move on to the next breath, the next step. We feel sadness, horror, grief, compassion, acceptance, anger, relief, sorrow, and, just for a moment, awareness of it all. One breath at a time.

2. There is only right here, right now. There is nothing else.

Practicing yoga is all about staying present… Tragedies don’t just shock and frighten us because of what has happened to other people; we are shocked and frightened by the implications for our own future.

While these feelings are valid, yoga reminds us that we only have this moment, right here. None of us can know the future. We can never know what the future will hold, but we can know that if we do ever face our fears, worrying will have meant we suffer twice.

Can you get through this one moment? That’s all you need to think about. Survive one second at a time, and it will get easier eventually.

3. You come to the mat (and your life) from a different place every day. Wherever you are is OK.

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One day last week, I felt like I was just shy of reaching nirvana. I bent and twisted as if I’d been doing yoga since the day I was born. The next day, I could barely do child’s pose without aches and pains overwhelming me.

We are built to feel great joy, to rise to the challenges that we face, and to survive great tragedy. The mat is a metaphor for life. You have to honor what you can do and find grace in what you can’t do.

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