A Year to Breathe: Practicing Grief, Gratitude and Endings unto our Last Breath
SPRING 2023, once a month on Zoom for a YEAR
“Of all things in life, what is the most astounding?”, Yudhiṣṭhira is asked. “That a person, seeing others die all around him, never thinks that he will die.”
— From the Mahābhārata, translated by Michael Stone in the Inner Tradition of Yoga
Is it possible to behave as though we know we will die, and prepare for our own death? In a death-phobic, grief-illiterate and ageist society, the chances of attending to our own death, while on the roller coaster of everyday life, is unfortunately low. As a consequence, our deep connection to our life suffers, and we find ourselves in shock when we brush against illness, loss or “unexpected” death.
As a yoga practitioner, how can we practice our svādhyāya more deliberately, turning toward that which scares us, abhiniveśa? When we find our way to our mats and bring awareness to our breath, how can we also learn something of endings, thus planting alchemical seeds of appreciation and gratitude? And how can our own personal work create a welcome co- regulation, when working with clients who find themselves devastated with a diagnosis or shattered by life’s sorrows.
What do the texts and practices of yoga say about attachment and impermanence? In this year- long study, reflection and meditation course, sit in community with other yoga practitioners and practice an intentional svādhyāya on grief, endings and death. We have found that gratitude and the joy of living are natural consequences when befriending the ending of days.
“Apprentice yourself to the curve of your own disappearance”
— David Whyte
Throughout this year, we will:
- Cultivate our love of life while making room for the ending of our days
- Explore the skilfulness of grief and bereavement-sensitive practices to nourish sorrow alongside gratitude
- Study the way we speak about death as a consequence of death anxiety cross-culturally, and the historic response of religious and spiritual traditions
- Notice how ageism, in part, is a consequence of grief illiteracy and death-phobia, and how true eldership, lost in our culture, is a needed function for cultural sanity
- Consider how anxiety and depression have roots in death phobia, and how to work with this awareness with clients
- Favour authenticity over positivity, and in this way be of truthful sattvic service to others, who will also fail to live forever
- Consider how the body dies (and why), and yogic views on the purpose and processes of death
- Surface our own personal beliefs and fears about suffering, dying and death (or abhiniveśa), and other kleśas, with compassion
- Address unwelcome and unacknowledged regrets and their intelligent purpose.
- Study our own lineage's view on death and bring this knowledge to the wider group
- Work with the many practices of breath entrusted to us, our first met and final loyal friend
- Learn a variety of thanatology-aware practices and begin to cultivate an intimacy and curiosity with our own dying
- Discover poetry and beauty practices that honour impermanence, our life and our times
- Practice Savasana as more than rest, as a time honoured practice of endings of days
- Embody the learnings and deep humanity they bring, and sit with more grace, empathy and equanimity in the presence of other people's suffering. Walk more purposefully along the humble path of yogic work
“Bringing grief and death out of the shadow is our spiritual responsibility, our sacred duty. By
doing so, we may be able to feel our desire for life again and remember who we are, where we
belong, and what is sacred”.
— Francis Weller
Information Meeting (Zoom): February 5, 12pm EST and/or March 5, 12 EST – please register by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monthly Gatherings for a Year to Breathe – Starting Spring 2023 – to Spring 2024
Monthly Meetings: Last Sunday of each month, 12-4pm EST, 13 gatherings in total
2023 meetings: April 30, May 28, June 25, July 30, August 27, September 24, October 29, November 26, December 31
2024 meetings: January 28, February 25, March 31, April 28 (our final and longer day)
At each meeting: Check-in with fellow practitioners and hear reflections on their monthly practices and lived experience, follow the bread-crumb trail in various yogic texts that guide us in our inquiry, explore thanatological themes cross-culturally, and embody somatic/yogic practices with various approaches to endings, grief and dying.
Caveat: there will be lightness and laughter too, guaranteed
Open to: yoga therapists, yoga teachers, yoga practitioners, health care practitioners, psychotherapists and counsellors - anyone who works in the presence of suffering
IAYT Yoga Therapists: We have applied for IAYT - APD standing for this course. If accepted, CE credits will be given to those who choose to complete the optional assessments, in order to reconcile learning objectives. Total hours for the course is 54
Cost: approx. $50/month, sliding scale available
All Meetings Held On Zoom: recordings will be available, but your full-of-life presence is most