Pilot program uses yoga to help grieving


[I]n an effort to help those whose lives have been touched by cancer, Excela Health Home Care and Hospice and Our Clubhouse Westmoreland are combining resources to offer a pilot program, “Yoga for the Grieving Heart.”

Our Clubhouse Westmoreland, a nonprofit, opened in 2015, offering cancer patients and survivors space to enjoy free arts and crafts classes, yoga classes, educational programs and join in a support group.

“This class will be for someone who’s lost a loved one to cancer,” says Christine Sumner, clubhouse program coordinator. The classes start March 8 at Clubhouse in Greensburg.

The seeds for the program were planted when Maureen Ceidro, bereavement counselor with Excela Health Home Care and Hospice, had a casual conversation with a member of a bereavement group.

“I was running a bereavement support group around the holidays, and one member mentioned a grief yoga group she had attended and how helpful it was,” Ceidro says.

“I researched it and thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, this just sounds phenomenal,’ ” she says.

Ceidro discovered that yoga can sometimes be used as a tool to address the sometimes physical manifestations of grief.

“We don’t always understand that the body tends to hold the burden of our scars,” she says.

She and her colleague, Kristy Walter, who lead several bereavement groups throughout the year for Excela Health Home Care and Hospice, reached out to Sumner, a certified yoga instructor, to help develop the upcoming program.

“This is something totally new for the Clubhouse. … A person in pain can detach, and become numb to the world around them. We invite all emotion, good, bad and ugly, to process in a nurturing place,” Sumner says.

Yoga poses and breath work will be taught to help better handle stress and sorrow.

Relieving pain, learning coping mechanisms

“Participants will learn healthy ways to release tension as they work through the stages of grief,” Sumner says.

She advises those who are interested to consult their physicians in advance to make sure it is safe for them to practice yoga.

Meditation, Reiki, dialogue and art therapy will offer supplemental support.

The six-week program will focus on gentle yoga, with chairs available for those needing support.

Ceidro and Walter will encourage participants to process and continue releasing their feelings during the art therapy portion, Ceidro adds.

After experiencing the mental, physical and emotional benefits of the grief yoga, art therapy will offer space for creative expression. Tasks for each session will directly relate to the teachings learned in the yoga class, pertaining to topics including the chakras, ways of grounding ourselves when grieving, and providing support to self and others.

“We are happy about the response so far. We (bereavement counselors) tend to always look for other ways of meeting people in their grief. … Group work is wonderful and can be positive. It’s not something everyone wants to get involved in,” Ceidro says.

“To piggyback off that, (this program) provides a creative outlet that allows people to be in their own grief process but provides tools to use outside of their time with us — yoga poses, art avenues — that they continue to work on, on their own,” Walter says.

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