Yoga for Palliative Care & Bereavement

This weekend I took part in a workshop run by Kate Binnie, a pioneer in bringing yoga into hospices and an inspiring teacher.  Kate has been working in hospices for years, helping those in the final stages of their lives to enjoy a little bit of movement, whether in their beds or in wheelchairs, bringing family groups together in shared breathing practices that help to calm anxiety and lessen fear, and using yoga in its most authentic sense: as a peaceful, grounding practice that touches every layer of being.

We all understand that yoga is so much more than a physical practice.  Through yoga, we learn how to anchor ourselves in each present moment; how to deepen and slow our breath in order to calm the nervous system; how to remain composed and flexible in the face of life's vicissitudes; and how to build reflective space into even the most frenetic of days.  Yoga brings us time and again, out of our fearful, riotously thinking minds and into our bodies, for it is in our bodies and not in our heads that we experience peace, love and connection.

If you are a student of yoga, then you are also a teacher of yoga - you don't need any special skills to bring yoga to loved ones with life limiting illnesses.  If you are a student of yoga, then you know how to be still with someone, how not to be afraid of silence; you know how to use gentle breathing techniques to settle agitated minds and bodies; you know how to touch someone's body in order to soothe them; and how to share love.

Here is the message that Kate left us with this weekend : just begin.  It's not about Sanskrit terms, esoteric philosophy or complicated concepts (as interested in those things as you might be), it's about being with another person in peace.  Whether you are a health care professional, a nurse, a doctor, a volunteer, a yoga teacher, or someone with a sick relative or friend, bring yoga to those who need it, wherever they are and however near the end of their life.  Yoga helps.


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