7 Questions About Death With Yoga Superstar Sadie Nardini

By: Justin Nobel | Date: Mon, March 10th, 2014

Sadie Nardini hosts Rock Your Yoga on the Veria Living Network. "What if everyone was looking forward to death," she says. "Would that uncoil a knot in our bellies and allow us to be more free?"

Imagine you are a 13 year-old junior high school student, you don’t feel well so you go to the doctor and are told you have stage IV leukemia and two months to live.

This is what happened to Sadie Nardini. She eventually found out that the doctors were wrong, but she wasn’t exactly given her life back. This was just the beginning of a transformation that would see her virtually paralyzed for two years. Eventually Sadie rose up, she not only moved her body, she launched a career out of moving her body, and mind. Sadie now hosts a daily yoga and lifestyle show on the Veria Living Network called Rock Your Yoga and travels the country giving trainings. She recently spoke with Digital Dying about death consciousness, her past life as a Japanese geisha and the day she actually died.

1. How did you react when as a teenager you learned you had just a few months to live?

I was 13 and barely knew what it was to be alive. They sent me back to school and I just walked around in a daze, mourning. I was seeing things for the first time and saying goodbye simultaneously. Goodbye orange locker with the light falling on it in exactly this way, I will never see you again, I would say. And my friends and my teacher, I didn’t know which would be the last day I was going to see them. I entered a state of hyperpresence, what the Tibetan Buddhists call death consciousness. They know everything is impermanent. At the same time you are experiencing something it is also falling away from you. Life is that way no matter if you are dying or not. This is not supposed to depress you, it is supposed to bring you into a state of gratitude and awareness. I didn’t understand that then, I was forced into that by the nature and gravity of the situation. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. At times it was terrifying, but now I realize how precious it was to live in that state, and I spend my time trying to get back there, through the practice of yoga and meditation.

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2. Tell us about your recovery?

After a few months I got a call back, I didn’t have leukemia, it was a lab error. Someone had put a few zeroes where they weren’t supposed to be. What I really had was spinal meningitis, and it had now gone untreated for too long. I couldn’t walk, I could barely sit up. I basically sat on my bunk bed in the fetal position for two years. They thought I had permanently damaged my central nervous system, they said I would never walk again. Doctors told me to invest in a wheel chair, because they doubted I was going to recover. After a while your nerves start to die, they just go offline. I had horrible fatigue, headaches every day, trouble breathing, trouble sleeping, a lot of random panic attacks, things were shutting down. I was being told I could potentially look forward to a lifetime of that, and that was not fun to think about. But I sat with it, just thinking this was how it was going to be. My mom found a crazy old yoga book on the shelf, Richard Hittleman’s 28 day yoga. It had horrible alignment and people in unitards but some of the breathing information was really good. I calmed down my panic attacks, I didn’t have as many headaches and I got off the floor and started moving. That took ten years. Ten years from that to Warrior One. Even then I had to go home after one hour of yoga and take a nap for four hours. I still need a nap each day, but I have a lot of stamina. I can run, I can do handstands, I can travel the world.

3. I understand you actually died once, please tell me more?

In college I thought it was a good idea to make $1,700 by donating my eggs to a fertility clinic. In the group orientation they said it was pretty safe, then mumbled that 1 percent of people do have this thing called ovarian hypersimulation, where they produce a larger than normal number of eggs. I didn’t even pay attention, I wanted to get my money and run. They gave me all sorts of shots and I ended up hypersimulating. Instead of producing 10 eggs, which is normal, I produced 44. They went in for surgery and extracted them all then sent me home. I was really sick for five days. I didn’t go to the bathroom that whole time. I was so thirsty and just kept drinking water and drinking water. I was nauseous and I was getting fat. But how was this possible, I wasn’t eating anything? One day I couldn’t get up off the couch and my boyfriend carried me into the Emergency Room.

They told me that my veins had gone porous and the water that I was drinking was leaking out into my body, to the third space, this inner part of your body where fluids normally do not collect. I looked like a big sausage casing. My blood pressure was extraordinarily low, like I was dying. At some point I had given my brother a call to fly from the Midwest. They put me on the table, I closed my eyes and I realized that if I relaxed a tiny little bit I would die. I just knew that, and it was going to feel amazing because I had spent the last two weeks feeling like shit, and spent a lifetime feeling like shit, and I was sick of this body and I was sick of this struggle. I heard the heart monitor go flat, I heard people freaking out. “We are going to lose her,” I heard someone say. I know what a beep like that means, I watch ER, and I was like dude, my heart just stopped. I could see myself from above now, relaxed. I could see my brother come in, and I was really surprised because I didn’t know he’d be there. I was thinking, if I just relax a tiny bit I will die.

At the same time, I saw my brother lean over me, swearing like a sailor, “Bitch, if you die right now mom is going to kill me, you can’t die right now.” He is usually not like that, he’s really nice. And I was getting irritated, all I wanted to do was die, I just needed to tell this person to shut up so I could die. I just heard myself saying, shut up, shut up, shut up, and all the sudden I felt it coming up like an ocean, and I rose like a vampire rising out of the coffin, and I just yelled, “Shut up!!!” I don’t know how it all happened, I just know I sat up and scared the shit our of everyone in the Emergency Room.

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4. How did the experience of dying change the way you view death?

I had a very interesting positive realization in facing death: I am sick of this body, it’s bullshit. Once I was away from it, I didn’t enjoy being with it. That was very comforting for me. Now, back in my body and dealing with its feelings and fluctuations and joys and everything we go through as humans is constrictive. And I am kind of looking forward to dying again. Although I love my partner, I love my work, I love all that. But I am not afraid to die. And I think that frees us from a lot of human resistance. A lot of fear in this lifetime comes from that fear of dying. Before I had all these other fears and roadblocks and now they are gone, because when you are not afraid to die it makes you so much more courageous for life. That one big underlying human anxiety has been erased for me, and it has created more freedom. Plus, it is relaxing to know that you are more than your body. You don’t have to worry about the body so much as you walk through your day. You know that you are so much broader. The ego diminishes, that is our interface but it can really get in the way and create a lot of suffering. If you think it’s you against the world and the world against you, you are like this little mouse out in an open field, and that causes anxiety.

5. Do you believe there is an afterlife?

When I died I felt there was something else waiting for me, I just wasn’t allowing myself to go there yet. It was dark but that didn’t matter, I wasn’t afraid to be in the dark because there was no dark, it was just my consciousness knowing about things, thinking about things, being there in that space. Who cares if you are in the body or not? We don’t actually feel our bodies unless some kind of nerve impulse happens. We get so attached to the idea that we have to have our bodies look a certain way, and we worry about our bodies, and fighting with people, and not succeeding in our jobs and not making a million dollars, but there is so much more than that. I am not afraid to lose people. I am not afraid for someone to break up with me. I don’t operate from insecurities anymore. You could even kill me right now and that would be okay. I would like to hope that there is an afterlife, but all I can say from my experience is that there was an afterlife in my own consciousness. I was there, and because I was dead and I am still here that means we are going to keep experiencing things. I am really excited and curious to see what happens the next time I die. I mean die and stay dead.

6. Do you feel as if you have been alive before, do you think you will ever be alive again?

I am from Iowa originally, the Midwest so I am very rational, I don’t just believe in a bunch of hoodoo. When other people have told me that they have been born again and had all these different lifetimes I was like whatever, but then I started remembering things. I go to places now and know exactly where I am even though I have never been there before. I seem to remember being a geisha in Kyoto, Japan in the Edo Period. I just went to Japan and people said this is where they trained the geishas in the Edo period and I said, ‘I know, because I have been in and out of this place a thousand times.’ The amount I understood about that place, which I had never been to before, was just uncanny. They dressed me up like a geisha and I was instantly back in that body. The lessons I understood and was learning then were just a continuation of what I am learning now in this lifetime. I think we learn over a long period of time and we just come back to do our same work as different incarnations of ourselves. I would not be surprised if I even looked similar then.

7. If you could design your last day on earth, what would it be like, including the death itself?

I would like to feel amazing and do yoga and have someone who loves me and one night I will go to bed and my heart will just stop and I will open my eyes and I will be somewhere else and not have my body. Maybe I will meet my other family there, or some other kind of tribe. I would prefer to not have a long bout of suffering, but whenever it is over is when it is over.

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