What does the word surrender mean to you? Does it equate giving up? In the United States, we often equate surrender to giving up, to accepting defeat. It’s a last resort, the last ditch effort. In Twelve Step Programs, it is the first step admitting that you are powerless over addiction, which in turn can validate weakness in the Western mind. Americans aren’t that fond of being perceived as weak. There are many things we are powerless over, for example, gravity. We take for granted that we walk through the world, not attributing this connection to gravity. Without gravity, we would float off into space. However, sometimes gravity makes itself known to us reminding us that it is there. Think about tripping and falling, yes you can avoid tripping but falling is a result of gravity and physics. And we may be able to steady ourselves from time to time, but ultimately we are at the mercy of gravity. Gravity has greater power than we do.
The Niyama of Ishvara Pranidhana is devotion and surrendering to a higher source, whether that is God, the universe, the higher self, gravity or physics. The practice of Ishvara Pranidhana takes your focus from the “I” and allows you to open yourself to the grander scheme of things the bigger picture.
Recently, I was in a boxing class we were doing side shuffles around the ring. I was moving along with everyone else; then my front leg decided not to move. The force that my back leg provided propelled me forward. I knew that gravity was going to win at that moment, so I opened myself up to grace. I fell with ease; others even said my fall was graceful. Yoga has opened me up to knowing when I must persevere and when I must yield. That was a moment to yield; fighting the fall would have resulted in injury. The only thing bruised at that moment was my ego. Shiva Rea said, “Ishvara Pranidhana connects every action to it’s sacred source.” In my fall, I was connecting to gravity and allowing it to guide me down.
Ishvara Pranidhana requires you to be open, humble, graceful and willing to see the divinity in all. When we open to grace, the process of Yoga deepens. Yoga, after all, means yoke or union.
When we let go of the “I” for a moment and truly feel our connection to the earth, our fellow human beings, the environment, the universe and all that is beyond we connect to grace and begin to open ourselves up to Samadhi, the connection to divinity or bliss.
How can you practice Ishvara Pranidhana on the mat? By allowing your movement to be an act of devotion. Whether that devotion is to your health, compassion, God or your family. Allowing your yoga practice to be a heartfelt connection between grace and the connection of all things. Paying attention and being mindful in your actions, being embodied in your sensations, and being honest with yourself about the experience you are currently having in a pose. Are you giving up and coming out of it, or are you surrendering into the way the pose manifests for you? Explore the concept of surrendering as a form of opening rather than a form of defeat.
How can you practice Ishvara Pranidhana in life? There are situations in which you can yield. Just like my story about falling, I knew I was falling I knew I could fight it, but ultimately I knew that gravity would win. I opened to grace. There are other times in life you and I have just to trust that things will work out. It begins with being process over product. Knowing that thing sometimes don’t work out but in the end, things will come back to equanimity and balance. All things, including life, like homeostasis.
How do you practice Ishvara Pranidhana?