Yoga’s aim to find balance between mind, body and spirit helps us in many ways. While we often read about its benefits to our body, yoga can also help us emotionally. With this in mind, the Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home Inc. has started to offer free yoga classes for people who have suffered a loss in their lives. Focusing on the ‘mind-body connection’ that yoga creates, the program helps people deal with their grief. Read on to find out more about this remarkable program, and the even more remarkable people behind it.
Tapping into ‘mind-body connection’ is said to help people deal with grief
Connie Tinsley, of Keystone Health Club and Cafe in Turtle Creek, teaches Grief Support Through Yoga on Friday. “Participants should come with an open mind and feel welcome,” she said. Ms. Tinsley said she will use a combination of gentle movements and chair-support yoga, in which participants either sit or use a chair for support.
Yoga can be used for more than getting in shape — some say it can help you deal with grief.
The Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home Inc. in East Pittsburgh and in Turtle Creek has started a new program of free yoga classes. These classes aren’t for exercise or meditation; they are directed toward those who have suffered a loss. The classes focus on the “mind-body connection” yoga creates, said the program’s teacher Connie Tinsley, a yoga instructor for the Keystone Health Club, in East Pittsburgh.
“Participants should come with an open mind and feel welcome,” she said.
Ms. Tinsley said she will use a combination of gentle movements and chair-support yoga, in which participants either sit or use a chair for support.
Classes start at 7 p.m., last an hour and will be held every other Friday at the Keystone Health Club & Café, 655 Braddock Ave. No registration is required and there is no cap to the class size. The program will be ongoing, and Ms. Tinsley said she hopes to develop the class in response to participants’ needs.
Patrick Lanigan, a funeral director and the funeral homes’ owner, said he was inspired to implement yoga after visiting a friend who is a funeral home owner in Boston.
Chris Biggins began using yoga as a way to work through her feelings when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yoga helped her so much that she became an instructor and, Mr. Lanigan said, she started hosting classes for others suffering from grief.
“We want to get people exposed to it and give it a try,” Mr. Lanigan said.
His funeral home has hosted grief counseling support groups, but using yoga as a means of counseling is something new to the region, he said. Barbara Coyne, a bereavement counselor, has been leading Mr. Lanigan’s support groups for the past two decades and is excited to see how the yoga classes develop.
“Yoga is part medicine and part philosophy,” Ms. Coyne said. “It helps [participants] relax the tension in their muscles and learn how to breathe.”
She explained that people experiencing grief often feel physical aches and pains. Sometimes they can’t focus and feel as if they’re going crazy, and “yoga helps to express all that pain.” Movement is critical to working through the grieving emotions, she said. Most who are grieving want to cocoon themselves and Ms. Coyne believes this keeps them from effectively working through their emotions.
Ms. Coyne and Mr. Lanigan said yoga will be most beneficial to those who have tried traditional counseling and need something different, but the classes are open to everyone who has experienced any sort of grief, past or present.
Ms. Tinsley is not a trained bereavement counselor, but she said she is confident that she can handle any emotion participants feel during the class. During training, she said she learned to channel the body’s energy centers to unblock emotions. Like Ms. Coyne, she wants people to “feel free to express” themselves.
“I think that’s what they’re going for,” Ms. Coyne said. “Don’t ignore the feelings, express them. … At the end of the session, they will feel relived. And that’s a lingering feeling.”
If you’re having trouble dealing with grief, perhaps it’s time to look into yoga. Even if you can’t find a program like Connie Tinsley’s, you can still achieve that mind-body connection to work through your emotions.