How Yoga Can Help After a Loss

By Jason Wendroff-Rawnicki

My journey to healing through yoga started even before my need for it appeared. I began practicing yoga about ten years ago. It started as a workout regimen. I was tired of aerobics, weight lifting, cardio kick-boxing and similar exercises. There was talk in my gym of this great yoga class. Not really sure what it was, I kept delaying taking the class. One morning, I was over a friend’s house with my wife, and my friend asked us if we wanted to do a yoga tape she had purchased. Since I had been thinking about taking the class at my gym, I thought it couldn’t hurt doing it in my friend’s living room. If I didn’t like it, I had nothing to lose. After an hour of moving, twisting, arching, rounding and most of all sweating, I decided to take the class at the gym.

The first couple of classes that I took seemed impossible. I was so busy looking around the room to see what I was supposed to be doing that I forgot to breathe. All I knew was that after class I felt a sense of peace.

The language that the teacher used and the names of the postures were foreign to me. “Watch your breath, be in the moment, notice the sensations in the body, allow the emotions to rise, connect to the universe, you are more than your body” — these statements sounded like another language.

Working yoga into my schedule was another challenge. I started out with one class a week and slowly tried two classes per week. There were some weeks that I was regular with my yoga practice, and then there were other weeks (sometimes months) where my yoga mat sat in the trunk of my car.

Then on June 29th, 1998, my kid sister, Lauren Michelle Wendroff, died in a car accident. I was supposed to visit her a couple of days before, but she cancelled. How was I supposed to know that was the last time I would hear her voice? Should I have insisted on seeing her? How am I going to continue living without her in my life? All of these questions popped into my head, accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. What NOW?

Then, the words that had seemed so foreign to me started to make sense. Even though I am really sad, I can breathe. I can watch my emotions rise to the surface, feel them fully, express them and then let them flow back out to sea. As the emotions rose I noticed how they felt in my body.

My chest was constricted, my heart was closed, my eyes were watery from the tears, my shoulders were lifted up towards my ears. I still did not understand the concept of being more than my body or reconnecting with the universe.

Until, one day, I was sitting in my bedroom crying my eyes out. I was trying to focus on my breath. Through the gasps and shortness of breath from crying, I was able to notice the quality of my breath. While observing my breath, without judging it (after all, my sister just died in a car crash and I can give myself permission to be sad) I was able to receive a life changing message. As I continued to focus on my breath, I heard Lauren’s voice. She said, “You have a decision to make. You can let this car accident kill both of us, or you can live a full life for the both of us.”

I realized what I needed to do. I needed to live my life to the fullest and to be grateful for every moment that I have in this body. Each breath can be your last breath, so you must treasure each moment.

I then began to make my yoga practice part of my weekly routine. I made sure I went to three or four classes a week. Every time I stepped on my yoga mat I would reconnect with myself and to the universe. Plugging myself back into the stream of life allowed me to realize that Lauren is with me all the time. She is looking after me and helping make things happen for me. If any one has a guardian angel, she in mine. When I need to connect with her I turn to my yoga, meditate and move with the flow of the universe. I feel closer to her now, as if she were alive.

Jason Wendroff-Rawnicki, RYT, APP, MA is a registered yoga teacher through the National Yoga Alliance. He received his yoga training from Shine Yoga Center www.shineyogacenter.com in Cliffside Park, NJ. He also holds a Master of Arts in Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. The synthesis of his training in psychology with the healing work of yoga is achieved in a form of energy healing called Polarity Therapy. He received his Polarity training from The Open Center in NYC and an Associate Polarity Practitioner certificate from the American Polarity Therapy Association.

Jason Wendroff-Rawnicki

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Jason Wendroff-Rawnicki, RYT, APP, MA is a registered yoga teacher through the National Yoga Alliance. He received his yoga training from Shine Yoga Center www.shineyogacenter.com in Cliffside Park, NJ. He also holds a Master of Arts in Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. The synthesis of his training in psychology with the healing work of yoga is achieved in a form of energy healing called Polarity Therapy. He received his Polarity training from The Open Center in NYC and an Associate Polarity Practitioner certificate from the American Polarity Therapy Association. Through the belief that we all have the power to heal ourselves, Jason guides his students and clients to healing through self-discovery. To learn more about Jason and his yoga center go to: www.shineyogacenter.com Jason appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Opening Your Heart WIth Yoga.” To hear Jason being interviewed on this show, click on following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley092007.mp3

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  • Christa says:

    Jason:

    I am sorry to hear about the death of your sister, Lauren.

    I recently completed yoga training, more for personal development than for teaching purposes, and I can say it helped me work through a lot of grief after losing a close friend to suicide in 2005.

    Yoga helps us face ourselves, our fears and insecurites but it also helps us tap into great strength, love, compassion and courage.

    I stand with you and your philosophy to live life to the fullest. Your sister and my friend don’t want us dwelling in the past or living in a world of sorrow. We honor them most by living fully, being present and loving with all our hearts.

    My new mantra for life is: Don’t Give Up! Giggle On! Pass it on 🙂

    Namaste from Wilmington, Delaware.