Yoga Therapy and Death and Dying

May 2, 2017 | Yoga Therapy | 11 comments

Eve lying in corpse pose on rocks at the beach

Corpse Pose – Savasana at Saltwater Beach*

I wonder how many of you readers will want to open this post on the topic of death and dying. No one will blame you if you don’t. We do live in a death phobic culture. We are acculturated to not think about death and dying. So, you can be forgiven for not wanting to broach the subject.

However, lately I’ve been thinking about death and dying. Not about my own, but about the topic and about other people’s deaths. I will be presenting a day’s seminar on the topic of ‘Palliative Care and Yoga’ in Sydney in a couple of weeks time. The session is part of an interesting yoga therapy course designed by Nikola Ellis. I think she is brave to feature ‘End of Life Care’ as part of the program.

Why brave? Because yoga therapy is often thought of in relation to fixing or curing symptoms. This is the point of western medicine practices, too. But at the end stage of life and with life-limiting illnesses, there is no future of wellness. There may be healing, but that might need another post to tease out.

Along with fear of death, western culture is not much acquainted with grief. I can certainly say this is true for me. I’ve attempted to move on fairly quickly from the various losses I’ve experienced. Or more to the point, not fully experienced. Does that mean that those many griefs have gone away? Probably, they’ve only been buried.

So, for the last week I’ve been thinking about what content, exercises, and discussions I can present to help mitigate this death phobia. And, what topics might I present relating to bereavement and grief, given the lack of my own probing.

The best I can do is enter into an enquiry about death and grief with these therapist trainees. I picture myself facilitating discussions and all of us being willing to sit with the great mystery that is the end of one’s life.

I know that yoga can help in the many stages of our lives. I think together we’ll figure out how.

*Photo courtesy of Julie Slavin


  1. This is fascinating Eve. I wish I could be a student in this course.What an honor it would be to help people transition home, with yoga as a companion.Please share with us what you learn along the way.?

  2. Beautiful reflection and opening. And yes, I too observe a lot of society supressing our fear of death.
    Yoga has helped me greatly through a lot of death and loss. In my yoga practice and teaching, I often turn to the Mahavidya Tantric Wisdom Goddesses as a point of reference. Kali is very much about death – destruction, letting go, and transformation. And Dhurmervati the Chrone goddess.

    • You have wonderful tools, Jane, for dealing with death and loss.
      And, no doubt, have helped others through their grief.
      Kind regards,
      Eve G.

  3. Oh Eve, I love this! Can you let me know more about the Yoga Therapy course, sounds great! I’m very impressed this is on the agenda.

    • Hi Catherine,
      The yoga therapy course is run by Nikola Ellis at Adore Yoga on the north shore.
      You can check out her website for a prospectus on the course.
      Eve G.

  4. Hi Eve, thanks for your recent post. I would love to hear more of what you will be discussing. I am an Iyengar teacher and presently a caregiver for my husband who, is in his last stages of life with a life limiting illness. And as you say, with what seems to be no future of wellness.
    Just heard a podcast discussing this very subject in the form of “Death cafes”. Apparently popping up all over the world. A subject who’s time has come.

    • There are so many ways of educating ourselves these days, Kathy. Death cafes are one. And trainings like the one I did called Midwifing Death–becoming an amicus, a friend to support a dying person.
      A very good writer on the subject of death and dying is Atul Gawande, American surgeon. I just finished another book called Die Wise by Stephen Jenkinson, a Canadian theologian who puts the topic in the Big Picture as it should be.
      I’ll hold a healing thought for your husband’s peaceful death. And, you take very tender care of yourself in the process.

  5. Look forward to your insights Eve. I love the places you go. Kx

    • It’s all yoga, Kate 🙂

  6. So glad to hear this Eve. You might like to have a look at my recent book
    SHARDS OF ICE- ANTARCTICA DEATH SURVIVAL GRIEF about the death of my husband and subsequent trips to Antarctica, more on grief and recovery..and yoga. (Ginninderra press and on Amazon)
    we may have a chance to work together one day?
    with thanks

    • Hi Minnie,
      Sorry to hear about your husband’s death. Writing is healing, though, and from reading the reviews about your book, it would seem you are able to contribute to others from your experience.
      I’ve just friended you on FB so I hope we can stay in touch. The idea of working together sounds intriguing.
      Kind regards, Eve


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