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  • Writer's pictureHelen

Healing from bereavement and trauma - Ying's story

Who would have thought 6 months ago I would grow into the happy and calmer person that I am today. With the ability to cope with what life has thrown at me, particularly over the last few months, and not crumble in a heap like I wanted to at the beginning of the year.

Yoga has transformed and changed my life, and my outlook. What I initially thought was help to manage my grief, became so much bigger and more embracing than that. Alongside the grief, I found traumas and behaviours that actually stemmed back to my childhood. My childhood, I had thought, made me independent but through yoga I have learnt that my childhood actually made me insecure and forced me to do things for myself rather than rely on others. Growing up I was often left all alone, and I had built a ’wall’ around me to protect myself. As an adult I became a people pleaser - always wanting to make people happy - and naturally during the course of the years ‘friends’ took advantage of this good nature. When friendships ended because I no longer served a purpose I would invariably ask myself ‘what did I do wrong?'.

Yoga therapy for me includes two aspects which are intrinsically intertwined - one is the poses to help calm and relax the body together with breathing and meditation to help the body remain calm and at rest. The other, which is just as important, is the mental health side - sitting and talking and having someone listen to your story is such a wonderful feeling. There is no judgement or bias. Just having someone listen and empathise confirms you are not mad or alone!

During my first session with Helen she explained the mechanics of breathing to me - something we all do every day unconsciously and we all think we are doing it right. There is a right and wrong way I was to find out, and with the trauma I had been through - my brother dying of pancreatic cancer in November 2019 and my partner Neil dying of bowel cancer in May 2020 in the midst of lockdown - my breathing was in shock. I was breathing from the chest and not from the diaphragm and as a consequence my body was forever thinking I was in shock mode and could never relax and be calm. Helen quickly fixed this by showing me how I should be breathing and giving me exercises to practice. This was the start of a forever interesting and learning experience for me (and still continues to be). Very quickly I was sleeping better, and my body beginning to feel less tense. Helen soon cottoned on that I was a sponge wanting to absorb not just the poses and techniques, but also the theory behind everything. I embraced it all willingly and it really helped me understand what I was doing and why I was doing it, and I wanted to do more.

From breathing and meditation we moved on to yoga poses, and unbeknown to me Helen had kept the poses grounded as she had read my body (correctly) that due to my trauma I was not ready or able to practice balance poses until I had grown stronger in grounded poses. This was proven to be the case when I went on holiday in May and tried a yoga session at the resort – I really disliked it and feel that was due to all the poses being predominately balance poses. I was just wobbling all over the place, and felt useless and unstable!

From the start I had decided to do one-to one sessions with Helen given where I was mentally (at an all time low) and because I didn’t want other people judging me on what I could and couldn't do especially as my confidence was low as well. My confidence has grown over time and whereas I used to be fixated on a particular routine that Helen taught me and followed it to the letter, I can now read my body and know what it needs from yoga. I can make up my own routine (from the various poses shown by Helen) depending on what my body wants, and I also use meditation and breathwork if something in particular is troubling me or my body.

That is something else I have picked up through yoga - the ability to read my body and understand what it needs, whether that be poses, meditation, sleep, or a bath and quiet time. Prior to yoga I just pushed myself and my body to the limit, ignoring messages my body sent me, and I would invariably end up laid low with a cold or chest infection. I now actually smile when I Practice sun salutes and hear my body cracking as I put it through its paces - I see it as my body getting rid of another layer of trauma and stress, and one bit less for my body to store.

I have changed and grown as a person over the last 6 months, learning to let things go and not cling on to things if they don’t bring me joy. I was trying so hard to cling on to things for the sake of Neil that I didn’t see what a detrimental effect it was having on me. Yoga helped me to see that I was essentially me clinging on to the past and I just had to let go instead. I feel much freer and happier for it. I no longer fight every battle. I can, have, and will now just let things happen rather than fight them and, as has proven to be the case in recent weeks, life usually has a way of resolving things without you having to charge into battle every single time – that is just childhood trauma at work; fighting everything.

I now remember the past for the good happy memories, but I live and breath for the here and now and look forward to the future with no expectation or plans. I spend much more time being happy than sad, and know this is what my brother and Neil would have wanted.

Yoga will always be part of my life. It has shown me a different way to live and to be. This is the ’new me’ and Neil and my brother would be so proud.

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