Yoga: Experiencing Life & Death

Saturday morning at a friend’s house for brunch, I found myself in a living room filled with babies and small children. It was a scene from the beginning of life: doting parents hovering over their hopes and dreams.

By the end of the day, in another room filled with tears and mourning. A woman who had been a mother, a grandparent, an aunt, had just left her body. The end of life.

Your initial thought might be, “oh, that’s so sad”, or “I’m sorry to hear,” but really it was the most natural of endings.  The sun rises in the morning, bringing light and energy and sets at night, returning the world to rest.

Our culture often views death as negative; as undesirable and to be avoided at all costs.  Though death can be devastating emotionally to the survivors, it is the culmination of life and the only end.

The late philosopher Alan Watts explains this human tendency as the Game of Black-and-White.  We separate everything we experience into good/bad, right/wrong, happy/sad.  We see things as separate instead of connected on a spectrum.  But it’s not really a game where the two compete in our life; it’s a game where we always want White to win and Black to lose.

The practice of Yoga is acceptance of all of life and the essence of non-duality.   The yogi willingly experiences difficulty and ease, life and death. The flow of postures is an expression of the fullness of life.  Beginning on the back, like a baby.  Experiencing movement with curiosity; slowly and thoughtfully.  Rolling onto hands and knees, finding balance there first, and eventually standing.  Sometimes the body sways and is thrown off balance, unsteady, perhaps even falling, then finding a stretch that feels good and lingering.  And finally, at rest on the back once again.  Slowing down, the breath steadies.  Ending in Savasana, corpse pose.  Still and at peace:  a natural ending.

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