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closing the gates

‘Closing the gates of the body and drawing the mind into the heart, then raise the prana into the head’. Bhagavad Gita VIII.12




Written by Priscilla-Anne Green, Classic Yoga (Raja {Royal} Yoga) Philosophy Teacher – Practitioner of Yoga Sutra of Patanjali


As I sit quietly with my father in his last hours or days I’m compelled to share the experience of the yogic 'Closing of the gates'. Witnessing this first-hand the various stages of health decline it's clear the accuracy of this philosophy and how it came to be.


According to many ancient philosophies including the teachings of the Sanskrit texts the physical body is composed of the elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, which also corresponds to the chakras.


As the ending of life approaches the dissolution of the elements occurs in the same sequence. It can take moments, days or weeks for the elements to dissolve. Whilst the elements are present in the body it is still in a state of life. The soul experiences life within the physical body and experiences the many senses through this vehicle.

The Sanskrit text Bhagavad Gita refers to “closing the gates” which is the slow withdrawal of each element correlating to each of the chakras. This process allows the body to fall away and the soul to begin its journey towards the crown chakra and the exit through the top of the head, a vision often portrayed historically.


The Earth Element

The earth element correlates with the sense of smell, in the beginning this sense of smell begins to withdraw and move into the water element.


The Water Element

When the water element begins to withdraw one will experience no appetite for food, the body begins to feel heavy, strength is lost and movement is difficult. When the water element is leaving the body the sense of taste gives way to the fire element.


The Fire Element

As the fire element leaves the body one may become thirsty, but can’t drink, and our control of fluids of the body withdraws. Then the fire element and the sense of sight withdraw into the air element and one begins to feel cold.


The Air Element

The air element correlates with the sense of touch, the breeze on your skin, the cool or heat of the air. When the air element withdraws from the body it becomes harder to breathe, ones outward breaths may become longer and the sense of slipping away begins.


The heart chakra may now invoke the act of the prana moving the life force out of its shell. The body may tense and release to help the spirit to eject the spirit from its physical environment.


The Buddhist monks practice a type of asana (yogic posture) that prepares themselves for this very event. At the time of their death, it is known as ‘Phowa’ or conscious dying. At the moment of death one projects their consciousness (or spirit) out of their body and into the clear light of wisdom. This is the final stage of the CLOSING OF THE GATES and the spirit enters the Ether.