Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Die Before You Die

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:9: Even for those who should know better, there is an ever-flowing, firmly established love for continuation and a fear of cessation, or death.

Defining the Sutra:

Abhinivesah, the fear of death or obsolescence, is seen as the most insidious Klesha or obstacle to the practice of Yoga. It goes deep and is the basis of all our fears. Even people who are considered to be wise or awakened often struggle with this Klesha.


Modern Day Application

The fear of death is a part of the Vritti, Viparyaya, or misconception. The purpose of Yoga is to get rid of painful Vrittis that block us from the truth of what we are.  Death is a misconception because it is an illusion. An idea, that both science and religion share, is that obsolescence is not possible. Science has proven that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Everything just transforms into another form of energy. All religions say there is life after death. Traditional schools of Yoga mention reincarnation. The point is, death is not real. The soul, or the energy that can never be created or destroyed, never dies.

Why It is Important

The fear of obsolescence is the basis of all fears. If your are afraid of your spouse leaving you, you fear the lose or death of your current life.  If you are afraid of your child being born sick, you are afraid of the lose of the life you imagined for you and your child.

Fear on the mat is also Abhinivesah.

Ways Abhinivesah shows up on the mat

  • Many people fear the death of their current lifestyle if they commit to daily practice
  • Many people fear the death of the health of their bodies if they do a pose they perceive as dangerous
  • Many fear the death of control if they surrender to their teacher
  • Many people fear the death of the ego and who they think they are and what they have built their life on if they go to deep down the path of Yoga


Fear is an obstacle because it keeps us from fully experiencing life. There is a famous saying in spiritual circles, “die before you die.” Unless we are willing to see the death of the life we have now, we cannot experience a different one.  The prayer or mantra, “die before I die” is asking for all the untruths to die within us before we leave this body. It is this death of our stories, our attachments, and our fears that allows us to reconnect to the part of us that never dies. It is the only way to realize our wholeness and our perfection. It is the only way to walk in truth. We walk out of the realm of just experiencing life and we become life.

I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.
I have no shelter;
I am as the wandering waters.
I have no sanctuary, like the dark gods;
Nor am I in the shadow of deep temples.
I have no sacred books;
Nor am I well-seasoned in tradition.
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars,
Nor in the pomp of ceremonies.
I am neither in the graven image,
Nor in the rich chant of a melodious voice.
I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies,
Nor held in the power of their sects.
I am neither low nor high,
I am the worshipper and the worshipped.
I am free.
My song is the song of the river
Calling for the open seas,
Wandering, wandering,
I am Life.

– Jiddu Krishnamurti

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

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