The Counterpose of Grief

This entry was posted on Aug 6, 2012 by Anna Guest-Jelley.

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of pose/counterpose in yoga. The idea is that once you’ve done a type of pose, or series of poses, in one direction, you want to make sure the body is balanced, so you also offer a counterpose. This may be something that takes the body in the opposite direction, but it may also be something that is energetically complementary—grounding if you’ve been doing arm balances, for example.

Widening the Scope

In addition to the neatness of this paradigm (my brain really likes the puzzle piece component of sequencing a yoga class), I also really love the bigger picture that’s at play. The idea of bringing the body into balance is so appealing—probably because I too often find myself a bit (or more!) out of balance and needing to come back.

This process in both taking and teaching yoga classes makes me ask myself where else I could find a counterpose in my life. Where else do I need it? Where else would it feel good?

What Grief Has to Do with It

I am soon approaching the one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Even just typing those words brings up a surge of energy in my heart. It’s not quite a knot in my throat, but it also doesn’t feel far from it. It’s more the proverbial canary in the coalmine—warning: intense feeling ahead.

I’ve done my best (in other words, often far from gracefully) this past year to stay with the practice of grief. Because it really does feel that way to me—it’s a practice to stay with it, not stuff it down. A practice to hold space for others’ grief, when all I want to do is make them feel better. A practice to not go to extremes—either ignoring it or dwelling in it.

Fortunately, I have some experience with practice.

My Grief Counterpose

But what I’ve found more challenging is finding the counterpose of grief. Because, at least for me, grief has a very bittersweet taste. I feel just devastated sometimes when I think of something I want to ask my dad and realize that I can’t. But I also (often at nearly the same time) am overwhelmingly grateful to have had a dad who I could do that with.

What I’ve been playing with lately is the idea that the counterpose to grief isn’t reckless sunniness. It’s not ignoring the sadness and focusing on celebration. Instead, the counterpose for me is more like the energetic compliment I mentioned earlier in regards to physical asana practice. It’s holding both/and—the sadness with the delight of memories, the loss with the gain of a more open heart.

So as the harder memories emerge over this next month, I’ll also be taking a moment to place both hands on my heart, take a deep breath and thank my dad for all the ways he shaped my life for the better.

Pose. Counterpose.

About Anna Guest-Jelley
Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga, a training and inspiration portal offering body-positive yoga classes, workshops, teacher trainings, retreats, a virtual studio and an in-person studio in Nashville, TN, for people of all shapes and sizes. Anna is also the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body. Visit the Curvy Yoga website for more details:

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