The Obituary of a Yogi: Life, Death & Yoga.

Via Brooke Kochel
on Mar 10, 2012
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(Photo: Brooke Kochel)

I laid a friend to rest yesterday; a young friend, at the ripe old age of 30. Moments like these make you question everything in life: your path, your love, your philosophy, your faith, even your yoga practice.

I was sipping coffee, on a morning full of promise, when I got the phone call. It was a Friday in Dallas. I’d driven in for a Shiva Rea yoga training due to start that evening. Shock ripped through my body and soul. As elevated as we strive to become through our various spiritual traditions and physical practices, we are still human after all.

I used to be a bereavement counselor for parents who’d lost children, so I’m familiar with the 5 stages of grief. It seemed I was having an outer body experience as I watched myself pass through: 1. Denial; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; and finally— 5. Acceptance.

I tenderly looked upon myself for any clue that yoga, the philosophy and practice I hold so dear, had any positive impact on me during these dark days.

In everyday life, I’m certain that my practice has sustained me and given me an amazing quality of life. It generates a mindfulness and presence that fills my days with loving moments. It’s given me a strong foundation in who I am, a stability which keeps me centered when the whole world in swirling around and balance that allows me to safely enjoy a little bit of everything life has to offer.

In yoga, we mimic the life cycle, from child’s pose to corpse pose, but what about the taboo subject that balances out life. What about dealing with death?

(Photo via Flickr: Wonderlane)

I went to yoga that night. Is it appropriate or respectful to stand on my head and flow through a Namaskar while mourning the loss of a loved one? I decided to go because it was a safe place to find solace.

Haven’t we all found ourselves on our mat in the studio, with the comfort of wooden hardwoods beneath us? Knowing you’ll sit in quiet reference, never explaining yourself to the silent person just inches away from you. It seems there was a pact created some time ago where we could just quietly be human together in this tradition of yoga.

And no matter the studio, there is a sublime quality in each one. Namastes have been uttered by thousands in each room. “The Higher Power in me honors the Higher Power in you” has blessed the room so many times, that although we boldly claim yoga is no religion, when you enter the studio, it can feel like holy land.

Tears have been shed in savasana. Intentions have been silently held in hearts and minds. Bodies have pushed themselves to their limits for the sake of a million different personal agendas.

As I entered my practice with a Namaskar or Sun Salutation, as I had a thousand times before, I felt the familiar flow of energy running through me, reminding me that I was still alive. I felt the strong urge to offer my body as a moving prayer.

In my childhood religion, I was taught not to pray for the dead, but my heart told me otherwise; and as a yogi, I’ve learned to listen to that quiet voice in between the heartbeats.

I was also reminded that the Namaskars we traditionally initiate each practice with, are meant as greetings. Surya Namaskars are greeting the sun or the day. Chandra Namaskars are greeting the moon or the night. Namaskar literally means greeting the divinity or cosmic force within. No wonder that all that time spent on the mat seems to delve deeper than the physical. We are spiritual warriors in those cozy, little studios; purposefully or inadvertently bettering ourselves for a better world.

Master Teacher, Adri Kyser’s, theme and mantra for our practice was:

“If not now, when?”

Life if short. Too short, it seems sometimes. A good yoga teacher will bring that element of manifestation to your practice. Set your intention. Put some energy behind it. Then go out there and manifest it. If not now, when?

I cried in savasana, seemingly appropriate being Corpse Pose. She placed one loving hand on my third eye chakra and one on my chest, bringing my aching heart and questioning mind together in balance with a “peace that passes all understanding”.

Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died, I’ve read. It took courage to show up that night, being present in my pain and guiltily grateful to have a body still so full of life.

Moments before his casket was closed for the last time, I placed my Indian mala in his hands. Symbolic of my own heart wrenching life journey and of the conversations we’d shared about the great cosmic ride we’re all on; A symbol of hope, faith, love and gratitude.

Graveside, the last to leave, I took comfort in watching his body returning to the Earth. I threw coral colored flowers down six feet as a last act of Earthly love.

After all,

“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on a human journey.”

~ Chardin

(Photo: Lululemon Athletica)

May we all rest in peace, this day on Earth and in every moment our soul has afterwards.

In loving memory of Joe Brooks.

 [Photo 2: Wonderlane]



Editor: Andrea B.



About Brooke Kochel

Brooke Kochel is a Tadasana Festival Ambassador and student of Shiva Rea. Her baby yoga mat, bendibaby, debuts this summer. I’m a lover of two soul mates: husband and babe. Jet-setting citizen of the world, foodie and cultural junkie: I’ll try anything twice. She is currently on a farm in Arkansas living off wild game, fish and fowl. Rantings of her satisfied soul can be found on her Yoga/Food/Travel blog, Yogastronomy and Facebook.


21 Responses to “The Obituary of a Yogi: Life, Death & Yoga.”

  1. ValCarruthers says:

    I'm deeply sorry for your loss, Brooke. And deeply grateful for your transcendent writing about it. Peace.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  2. Thank you for your kind thoughts. My practice deepened with so many realizations even as I wrote this article. I hope it will give solace to many others as death is a part of everyone's life.
    Love and Light All Ways,
    Brooke Kochel

  3. death is the end to every dharma, happiness is the light to your dharma path. Joe Joe was happy, His dharma correct and complete.

  4. […] Read the full article: The Obituary of a Yogi: Life, Death & Yoga on Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Filed under Yoga and tagged child's pose, corpse pose, death,, grief, Higher Power, life, Namaskar, Namaste, Religion and Spirituality, savasana, shiva rea, yoga | Leave a comment […]

  5. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    I'm sorry for your loss, Brooke. Beautiful and heart-felt writing. xoxo

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  6. Paramananda Bogaard says:

    Namaste, dear Brooke.
    What beautiful awareness.
    May your path lead you to the ultimate realisation.
    Lost my holy soulmate for 42 years, so know about sorrow.
    Know we were never born.
    God bless you.

  7. barbarapotter says:

    So sorry for your loss Brooke. Your writing is beautiful. I will pass this on to my daughter who also just wrote on EJ a few days ago honoring her very dear friend another yogi who passed away in his sleep Friday a week ago. Blessings to you.

  8. Thank you Barbara. Well, the world lost at least 2 beautiful souls last friday it seems. May the love in our ultimate connectedness of humanity sustain us all…
    Love and Light All Ways, to your and your daughter,
    Brooke Kochel

  9. Blessings to you as well sweet Paramananda. Your kind words and shared experience touch my soul.
    Love & LIght All Ways,
    Brooke Kochel

  10. Thank you Tanya. And, as always, thank you for sharing. Hoping that in my sharing, others will find solace as well in their own private losses.
    Love and LIght All Ways,
    Brooke Kochel

  11. Sometimes life gets so busy forget to notice what is happening around us…. My goal has always been to inspire, help, make a positive difference in people's lives. Today I was touched by an article one of my students published and mentioned how my class helped her during a hard time in her life…. The truth is that as much they feel I am giving them they are also giving back to me….What a gift it is to do what you love and help others in the process! Thank you Brooke for such a gift! xo

    ~Adri via Facebook

  12. Each minute of life is precious.I go to bed at night & surrender to Higher power,"Any time you have place for me I am ready.I ha done my duties & the time I have left,I want to help others with my yoga & meditation practice.I guide my husband to live simple & have few things in the clauset t or in the house,We should keep cleaning everything ,especially our soul.I pray for the departed soul of your friend & may God grant peace to her family.Keep practicing yoga & sending best wishes to everyone.
    ~ Veena via LinkedIn

  13. Thanks for the share!
    ~Rockne via LinkedIn

  14. Keren says:

    Thanks for sharing your grief with us Brooke and I'm sorry for your loss. Namastè

  15. One of the questions that the article leaves unanswered is: how do we serve the dying? That is, how do we help those who are facing death to leave this gross material world? I have found two texts to be valuable in helping me face the death of my parents. They are, Easy Death – Adi Da Samraj, and The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – Sogyal Rinpoche. I also have to acknowledge the guidance of my brother- and sister-in -law, who are both devotees of Adi Da, and who assisted at my parents' passing. They transformed the death process from something stressful and anxious into a truly wonderous experience. May we all be blessed with an easy death. Namaste.
    ~Lia M via LinkenIn

  16. "We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on a human journey.”And our spirits live in a physical body that is, by design, temporary housing. Confronting that truth, as you so eloquently stated, make you question life and it's purpose; especially our personal worlds. Death, the last train home, when it arrives for those we love is a reminder of how fleeting life is; we come to know on a heart level that our relationship with life as we experience it in human form is temporal too.

    Brooke, your words were a wake-up call for me to review, let go of, redo, and accept what is. I also resolved to live, to love, and to laugh a lot because I don't when the whistle will blow for me to take that final ride. Thanks for sharing.
    ~Lyndah via LinkedIn

  17. Nancy, what I've learned from my yoga practice is that the thoughts come, even the questioning of my practice, when I feel the full brunt of my emotions and they can be very raw when loss is involved. That is the human part of me. However, at the end the the day, it has been my yogic experience that has sustained me and supported my life off the mat too … the integrated aspect of yoga you speak about, we do eventually return to our Essence. Great response!
    Lyndah via LinkedIn

  18. […] Dogs facing all ways and in all stages of life, Fish, Dolphin, Crane, Frog, Cobra, Eagle, Pigeon, Peacock, Locust, Firefly, Firelog, Cat, Cow, Lion, Camel, Tree, Lotus, Mountain, Happy Baby, Child, even Corpse. […]

  19. […] claims that 1.5 million babies die each year because they are not adequately breastfed, stemming from unethical marketing […]

  20. chalres says:

    RIP Joe Joe

  21. Shir Har-Lev says:

    Beautifully written dear Brooke.
    If we could all remember each moment that we are all going to die, how this world would look…