Monday, April 11, 2016

Yoga Helped Me Grieve

By Bine Trujillo , CSOY Student & Yoga Teacher in Denver, CO

In October of 2009, I was nearing the end of a 9 month journey to completing IronMan Arizona. I was averaging about 18 hours a week swimming, biking and running. Notice that yoga was not on that list. In fact, I thought yoga was kinda weird and of no benefit to me. Now this isn’t to say that I hadn’t tried it several times. My first experience was with prenatal yoga when I was pregnant with my first son back in 2002. Because of my frequent trips to the bathroom due to morning sickness, I was asked to sit in a chair and watch the class. All the beautiful glowing mothers to be and me, sitting in a chair trying my best not to vomit. Good times. October 2009 was also the month I found out my dad had stage 4 cancer. This was the latest blow in his 18 years of fighting various forms of cancer. This time, he decided to forgo treatment. He was done with radiation, needles, chemotherapy, doctor visits and countless days of feeling shitty. His decision was to live his life to the fullest, up until the end. As a family, we supported his decision. I completed my race in November, the first phone call I made was to my dad. A month later, at the urging of my sister, I landed on my mat. 

She said it’d be “fun” and it would “help.” She assured me yoga would help bring ease to my mind and give me space to grieve about the imminent loss of my dad.

My first class, other than those awesome prenatal classes, was a 90-minute Hot Yoga class at the studio down the street from my house. I showed up in cotton pants and a cotton t-shirt. In addition to feeling completely lost in class my soaking wet clothes weighed me down. After class, I sat on the couch for at least 30 minutes because I thought I was going to pass out. I kept thinking to myself, “I JUST did an IronMan... I traveled 140.6 miles on my own body power. Why was that SO hard??!!”

Then I went back, and back again. My sister was secretly adding classes to my account. Because she was a yogi, she knew it was something I desperately needed. It was so hard, much harder than any swim, bike or run. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and my heart hurt, but I knew there was something else happening, something deeper than just body shapes.  During this time, I was flying back and forth to Florida to spend as much time with my dad as possible. He was in and out of the hospital and by February, was under Hospice care.

My dad, affectionately known by my friends as “Big Tim,” passed away in March 2010, two days after my birthday. It was heart wrenching. It’s funny the things people will say to avoid grief, “Don’t cry,” “Be strong,” or the best one, “He’s in a better place.” Before my dad died, he said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of leaving you girls” (meaning me, my sister and my mom). The greatest gift Hospice gave to me was the ability to talk to my dad in his last days. The greatest gift yoga gave me was the ability to be present in his last days, to hear his words and recognize the impact they would have on me for years to come. IronMan taught me how to move my body in a forward motion. Yoga taught me how to listen to my body as well as my mind. It gave me the space to feel extreme sadness without judgement and find strength in my grief. On my mat, I learned how to see beauty in the moment and that lesson allowed me recognize the beauty in my father’s life during his last days.

Yoga. It’s not just crazy poses and wrapping your leg around your head. It’s compassion, not just for others, but for yourself. Yoga gave me the ability to feel my grief, to be compassionate to myself during this time of anguish. It taught me to be vulnerable and to allow myself to be comforted by the people who honored my grief and held space for me without judgement. Yoga, like grief, is a journey. Some days my postures are strong and grounded. Other days, I’m falling and my muscles hurt. 

Our culture believes in “getting over it” and that grief has an end. I can tell you, it does not. It moves in waves, much like our asana practice. And you've got to learn to ride those waves.

Yoga has taught me to find happiness in the smallest things. After my dad’s death, I remember losing my breath on several occasions. Once, while running, I had to stop because I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart was racing, I was sweating and I ended up in the doctor’s office because I thought I was having a heart attack. After an EKG, the doctor assured me I was fine. It was just sadness showing itself in physical symptoms and it was a completely normal reaction. On my mat, I could breathe. If nothing else, I could breathe.

Grief does not have an end. And neither does yoga. Seane Corn once said, “I realized you can’t just process heartbreak in your mind. You have to process it physically, too.” I am eternally grateful to my teachers who helped me do both.

Bine is a yoga teacher, triathlete, runner and mom. Bine landed on her mat in 2009 after she recognized she needed more than only endurance training. Soon after, she became a yoga teacher. She believed the practice was helping her become stronger both physically and mentally. Bine's main mission is to inspire people to be compassionate towards themselves, empower everyBODY, and lead with love and humor!  She currently teaches in Denver where she lives with her husband, two kids, one dog, and three chickens.