During the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference, Dr. Heidi Horsley spoke with Antonio Sausys from Uruguay. Sausys operates a program that integrates yoga techniques and therapies that combine the mind, body and spirit “in order to help grievers go through the difficult process.” Contrary to popular belief, grief is not purely emotional—or even largely emotional at times. “It has so many important and massive involvements of the body,” he explains. Helping people sleep better, return to normalized eating habits and handle physical pain that often gathers in the chest area after a loss is Sausys’ specialty.

The endocrine system can also get a shock after a loss, and yoga can help re-balance it. Humans often try to avoid unpleasant feelings, but they can’t be ignored. Instead, they re-emerge as tension throughout the body. “Movement and feeling are directly associated,” he says. When a person doesn’t want to feel something unpleasant, they block it out and subsequently block their body. If this goes unaddressed for a long time, it can lead to chronic pain.

Holistic Healing

“Yoga is a masterful technique to undo that armoring,” Sausys says. Your body holds emotions, blocks access to them, and focusing on bodily and mental health is key. “This is why a lot of people cry in yoga practice,” he says. Sometimes people know why, sometimes not, but it’s incredibly cathartic. Sausys is a yoga teacher offering group and private classes, and is also the author of Yoga for Grief Relief, which is available on Amazon and through major bookstores.

From inversions to heart openers, there are many aspects of yoga that can be highly beneficial to those in grief. Plus, caring for the whole body is critical to healing from any sort of trauma.

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Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is an international grief expert, licensed psychologist, and social worker. She is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, one of the largest internet grief resources, with over 2 million yearly visitors. She hosts the award-winning Open to Hope cable television show and podcast. Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She serves on the ​National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, the largest peer to peer support organization in the world. She also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS has served over 50,000 military families who have suffered a loss. In addition, she serves on the National Advisory Board for the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation. Dr. Heidi is on the VIP section of Marquis Who's Who in America, Madison Who's Who, and Who's Who of American Women. Dr. Heidi has co-authored eight books, including; Spouse Loss; Fresh Grief; Inspirational Stories for Handling the Holidays After Loss; Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss; Real Men Do Cry; A Quarterbacks Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression & Surviving Suicide; Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding Support and Guidance; and Signs and Hope From Heaven. She has appeared on the ABC television show 20/20, has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, and has been a guest on hundreds of radio shows as well as quoted in dozens of media publications, including the Metro World News, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsday, Money Magazine, and New York Daily News. Dr. Heidi is also the author of numerous articles and academic book chapters. Dr. Heidi gives keynotes, presentations, and workshops throughout the country, and teaches continuing education workshops for health care professionals on support following trauma and tragedy. For 10 yrs., Dr. Heidi worked as a co-investigator for the FDNY-Columbia University Family Guidance Program; a study which looked at traumatic loss in families of firefighters killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Through this 9/11 study, Dr. Heidi provided ongoing intervention and follow-up to firefighter widows and their children, and facilitated groups for bereaved siblings. In addition, Dr. Heidi supervised the school social work staff at Harlem Democracy Charter Schools in NYC for four years. Dr. Heidi's early career included work in a variety of clinical settings, including; Manhattan Psychiatric Center, California Pacific Medical Center Psychiatry Dept., University of San Francisco Mental Health Clinic, St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Psychiatry Dept., and Hope Haven Residential Treatment Center in New Orleans. Her doctoral dissertation was on the sudden death of a sibling. Her academic credentials include a doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from the University of San Francisco; a Masters degree in social work (LMSW) from Columbia University, and a Masters degree in mental health counseling (MS) from Loyola University, in New Orleans. Dr. Heidi splits her time between NYC and Tucson AZ.

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