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March 17 2024 Embracing Isvara Pranidhana: Surrendering to a Higher Power in Daily Life, Our Practice and Baking Banana Bread

I write this as I have in prior years, a little ahead in preparation for being out of town as we explore the last niyama. The fifth, and final, niyama, Isvara Pranidhana or Surrender/Devotion to a Higher Power.


This sutra Isvara Pranidhana translates from Sanskrit as Isvara, Supreme Being.  The sutra then means bowing to or acknowledging a Supreme Being.  This could mean God or Brahman or True Self or any higher power.  The practice of surrendering to a higher source has been a discipline or religion in the world for centuries. Using the word God(s) can be problematic for some yogis.  In studying this niyama, however, as in all spiritual aspects of yoga, we should keep in mind that yoga does not force God or religion.  In fact, Desikachar, one of the founding fathers of modern yoga, in Heart of Yoga explains, “Yoga is not a religion and should not affiliate with any religions”.


The higher source or God may be within us, whether we think of this in a religious, spiritual, or secular context. Our yoga practice tells us that our natural state, or baseline, is what we return to again and again. Ishvara Pranidhana activates our memory and reminds us that what we seek is within us.


Many of us started our yoga practice with the sole focus on fitness – I started solely to improve flexibility after my (now 22-year-old) son was born.  As we evolve in our practice (hence our exploration of the 8 limbs), we discover the joys of a more meditative, perhaps spiritual, practice.


As we approach our practice in our own way, practicing this surrender to a higher power can help us connect with ourselves and the world around us on a deeper level.  Recognizing that there is something bigger than ourselves begins to develop and deepen our practice and our overall wellbeing. Practicing Ishvara Pranidhana is practicing self-love as well as faith and devotion to your true nature, without judgement and with great reverence and joy.


In the ancient text, Upanishads, the word Isvara means a “state of collective consciousness” which can mean that there is not a specific Godlike figure to worship, rather ‘God’ represents this collective or consciousness, and therefor represents all of humanity.

For me, there has never been a conflict between my yoga practice and my religion.  I find that the contemplation, awareness, and peace that yoga brings me only enhances my religious beliefs. I just stumbled on this blog post by a yogi who discusses how finding God or a higher being in Ishvara Pranidhana is a personal and unique journey.



Another article that I have posted before.


Our Practice – Surrendering To XX??


In our practice we can practice surrender by letting go in a particularly challenging pose.


When we are practicing a pose that is particularly challenging, we can invoke Isvara Pranidhana or surrender.  Try relaxing into a pose, directing the breath to the spots that are uncomfortable.  Deepen your breath and try to let go.  When we surrender to the discomfort, the power of a pose, we can really start to feel ourselves grow and expand in our practice.  This is not about pain, we should never feel pain, but subtle discomfort that we can breathe and settle into, finding acceptance and ultimately growth.  As this happens, and our mind surrenders, our body shows us just how strong we can be.

Meditation on Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender to a Higher Power


Whether it be God, Mohammed, Brahma, Chebbeniathan or Your Cosmic Self, surrendering to what we cannot control is an important part of living our best life. 

As we enter new or difficult situations, we can approach them with surrender.  This does not mean we do not do our best or prepare adequately but knowing that we have done our best work to “get there”, we can then let go and surrender to the outcome rather than perseverate or anticipate outcomes.


Thinking about practicing this off the mat means to me that one must surrender to what we cannot control. Surrendering is difficult because we lose control and transcend our ego.  When we do surrender to a higher power (God/fill in the blank), what we cannot control, trusting our “intuition and the courage to express ourselves for who we are” we ultimately find freedom.

The Serenity Prayer was written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. 

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,courage to change the things I can,and wisdom to know the difference. “


Interestingly, Niebuhr's prayer originally asked for courage first, and specifically for changing things that must be changed, not things that simply can be changed:


“Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other. “

Nurturing with Food – Banana Bread

I cannot think about being in Utah without thinking about the best banana bread that I have ever had, and I have told this story before! One day after skiing Dot and I stopped into a coffee shop and decided to split a piece of banana bread (for the record, we had already had lunch and a beer – each, not split).  I don’t know if it was exercise, the mountain air, or the power of being with a good friend, I think about that banana bread whenever I think of Park City.  


Hope it hits the spot for you as well!



See you on the mat


Julia Anne




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