Death and Yoga


The yogi cannot be afraid to die, because he has brought life to every cell of his body. We are afraid to die, because we are afraid we have not lived. The yogi has lived.
- B.K.S. Iyengar

Reading Light on Yoga this morning, I came across the above quote. The fact that today is All Souls' day cannot be a coincidence... it has made a big impact and led me to reflect on life and death all through the day. 

In most Western cultures, death has no place in people's lives. It sneakingly sends us reminders in the form of a serious disease, bad results from a health checkup or a life-threatening accident. Death is a no-go topic of conversation, funerals ever so sad and dull. We are a society who dreads dying. This in turn breeds most of our fears, anguishes and many other evils.

Centuries ago, traditions gave death a huge place. Celts used to honour Death every year from the night of October 31st to November 1st with the celebration of Samhain where people celebrated the end of harvest. This was also a spiritual event during which celebrants believed that they could connect with the deceased. Halloween originates from Samhain. This has certainly impacted Irish people, known for their joyful funeral wakes and abundant jokes on death. Many still cohabit with death in a peaceful manner. This does not mean people are not sadden by death, they do not long for their loved ones but there is a certain wisdom to the way they go about it.

Today's world makes us believe we are never going to die, we can stay forever young. That leads us to bet way too much on material goods and superficiality. We live only on the suface, half alive. We miss the essence of life, residing much deeper within us. As a matter of fact, knowing that death is part of life makes life ever so precious. By accepting it, we accept the cycles of life, we live in sync with nature and its cycles (seasons, moon etc) and as women, we also connect to our own feminine cycles.

Yoga goes a step further: people need to look for union within. The body, mind and soul have to reunite in a place where they belong. When this union is reached, we have transcended the physical level and liberated ourselves from attachment to the body and possessions. Yogis do a deep inner work in order to know themselves and meet their soul. The mind is what connects the body (material world) to the soul (higher self that never dies). BKS Iyengar used Michelangelo's painting to illustrate this notion. Adam's hand (material world) reaches out to God's hand (the higher self). The small gap between their fingers where they sometimes connect and create magic sparks, represents the mind (conscience).

Yogis live in the present; every moment is ever so meaningful. Being present frees oneself from the guilt of losing time. It creates fulfilling lives. The body is highly important too: it is our vehicle and it needs to be in optimal condition to attain the greater union. Asanas (yoga poses) prepare yogis for meditation. Yoga as most of us know it (the physical part of yoga) is only a little part of yogic philosophy. 

Did you know that there are 8 limbs (stages) of yoga, where the higher stage is that liberation we outlined earlier and yoga poses are the 3rd step?  Stay tuned, I will be publishing an article outlining these 8 limbs of yoga in the coming weeks...

Live in the present and connect to your soul my friends. Namaste!

yoga and death iyengar
Highly recommended reading by BKS Iyengar:

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