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Posted on January 26, 2019 by Jayne Orton

Death over Yoga

The following was written by Anna Locke and published on brumyodo.org.uk/news/death-over-yoga/ Thank you to Anna for sharing her knowledge and experience with us and for allowing us to share the post.

Yoga philosophy evening

Jayne Orton, an advanced yoga teacher (pictured above with B.K.S. Iyengar) and co-director of the Birmingham Iyengar Yoga Institute in Acock’s Green, and BrumYODO member Anna Lock recently co-hosted a yoga philosophy evening for yoga students to explore how death in a modern, medicalised society and the yogic philosophy intertwine. A kind of yoga orientated Death Café.

Contemplation of death within yoga practice has a long history. The father of Yoga Patanjali in the 5th century B.C. India wrote the Yoga Sutras which informed the development of the many diverse branches of yoga. Jayne singled out a Sutra which chimes with modern attitude to death and shows how death is recognised within yoga philosophy to be a deep rooted fear: ‘ the fear of death is strong in everyone – even the wise’.

During the session there was exploration of how for yoga practitioners during a class their own mortality can be highlighted as a challenging pose takes them away from everyday concerns and into the present moment, or explicitly during the final pose of a practice ‘Savasana’ otherwise known as corpse pose is a vivid reminder of our shared destiny. Long standing students described observing through yoga practice their physical and mental changes as they age, which allowed a deeper understanding of their bodies and to then make adjustments to live life as well as possible whilst understanding that change is inevitable.

They reflected on the role of faith and cultural attitudes to death and dying through time, drawing on Anna’s professional life as a palliative care doctor and BrumYODO member, as well as individual’s own experiences of loss and their hopes for future conversations with people they love.

The event’s conversation is summarised well by B.K.S.Iyengar, one of the world’s leading yoga teachers who in his book Light on Life, written in his 80’s, said:

“I am old, and death inevitably approaches. But both birth and death are beyond the will of a human being. They are not my domain. I do not think about it. Yoga has taught me to think of only working to live a useful life. The complexity of the life of the mind comes to an end at death, with all its sadness
and happiness. If one is already free from that complexity, death comes naturally and smoothly. If you live holistically at every moment, as yoga teaches, even the ego is annihilated, I will not say. “ Die before you die”. I would rather say “Live before you die, so that death is also a lively celebration”.

Posted on October 16, 2017 by Jayne Orton

Iyengar Yoga is Mindfulness by another name

This is an extract from an article written by the director of the Ballarat Iyengar Yoga centre in Australia, which I think you’ll enjoy. The link to the full article is at the end. Thanks to Charlotte of Iyengar Yoga Derby for sending it in.

It’s part of my job as an Iyengar Yoga Teacher, to help you stay engaged with the asana work, to draw your attention to correctly aligning your feet, pulling up your kneecaps, lifting your chest, drawing your shoulders back and down etc.  This way your mind, your awareness goes to those body parts and tries to make those actions happen – they certainly don’t happen easily, if at all, when your mind wanders and gets distracted, as it is so often inclined to do, in us all!

So when you tell me after a class that it went so quickly, that you feel calmer and better, or you realise that it has ‘taken your mind off things’, you were experiencing mindfulness – “an active state of attention on the present”, on your mat, through the practice of the asanas (the poses), and my job is partly done.

The more you practise the asanas (mindfully), the more that ability to focus on a particular thing and stay attentive and connected in that present moment, will readily apply to other aspects of your life.  I really love that quote by B.K.S. Iyengar, from Light on Life;

“The practice of yoga teaches us to deal with each task in the day as it arises, and then to put it down.  This might include answering our letters or returning our calls, doing the washing up, letting anger drop as soon as the moment is past.”

With gratitude to the teachings of Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar.

See you on the mats!

Mindfulness by Another Name

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