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Dealing with Death

Posted by Alice Jennings on 4/9/2014

This morning, I attended the funeral of a very close friend of mine. I am distracted and finding it difficult to put pen to paper. Or finger to keyboard… but I know this too shall to so pass. I hate that cliche, I resent it -- possibly because it is the absolute truth, that time heals all.


I saw my friend the day she died and in a very quick, hello/goodbye scenario. I didn’t cry about it, from the moment I heard what happened, until 2 days later. During those two days, I did yoga each day and set my intention on focusing on the trinity of yoga (mind/body/spirit) as a method of healing and optimal health -- because my friend died as a result of a deadly disease of the mind, body, AND spirit. 


At the end of the second class, which turned out into a more difficult and a warmer than expected Vinyasa class, I had a profound spiritual awakening. At the end of class after the last bone, the last joint, the last muscle in my body ceased to move as I gladly submitted unto savasana, I experienced an emotional break. I cried and cried and also thanked the universe for allowing this to happen at the end of class and not the beginning (embarassing) -- but mostly, and for a good five to ten minutes, just let the stream of tears trickle down my already moist cheekbones and pooling up in my ears. I felt happy. I felt at peace, finally. Before class, it hadn’t hit me. When I exerted my body and mind to the maximum during class, something inside the hypothalamus in my brain snapped, and my emotional block because, well, unblocked.


Here’s how: because the hypothalamus regulates our autonomic nervous system (ANS) -- which causes, in a rigorous vinyasa class, both the release of adrenaline and cortisol occurs (triggered by the “flight and fight response” of the sympathetic nervous system part of the ANS), resulting in an anxious and heart-pumping mind and body. Then, all of a sudden as we slow down, the parasympathetic nervous system overrides the anxiety and calms you down quick with the release of the “relaxation response” in which cortisol production decreases and anxiety disappears. The hypothalamus is also a part of the limbic system, which controls emotions. 


It wasn’t a nervous breakdown, what I experienced was a way of dealing with the death of my friend in the healthiest way I can think of. The situation was out of my control, my serenity allows me to accept these things I cannot change. I have yoga to thank for teaching me the patience and the serenity I need to find peace in a very tragic, sudden, and recent event.


By: Alice Jennings (G+)