We conclude the discussion of the Niyamas (the second limb of yoga) with the fifth one, Isvara Pranidhana or Surrender/Devotion to a Higher Power.
This final Niyama 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. Using the word God(s) can be problematic for some yogis. In studying this niyama, 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”. He goes on to say that “yoga is a system that helps the mind and Hindus may use it as they have been, and anybody can use it.”
There is a wonderful interview with Desikachar by Leslie Kaminoff in 1992 which disusses this and many more topics. Really good.
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 well being.
As I have discussed in class and in the blog before, 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 share a previously shared article on this topic.
As we experience bumps in the road of our life, entering new or challenging situations or experiences, approaching them with some level of surrender can be helpful. This does not mean we do not do our best or prepare adequately for these occurrences 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.
Our Practice – Surrendering To (Fill in the Blank)
What pose challenges you physically, mentally or both? Prior to my recent hip replacement I would have said Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose) or Eka Pada Rajakapotasan (pigeon pose). Today I would likely say Balasana (child’s pose). In our practice we can practice surrender by letting go in what might be a particularly challenging pose for ourselves.
When we are practicing our asanas, especially a pose that is challenging, we can invoke Isvara Pranidhana or surrender. Try relaxing into the pose, directing the breath to the spots that are uncomfortable. Deepen the 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 accepting 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.
“Surrender happens spontaneously with the knowledge that you are not in control of anything – not even your thoughts or feelings. When you realize that you are not in control of your life, but life is governed by some supreme law, then surrender happens.” - Gurudev Sri Ravi Shankar
“To some people, surrender may have negative connotations, implying defeat, giving up, failing to rise to the challenges of life, becoming lethargic, and so on. True surrender, however, is something entirely different. It does not mean to passively put up with whatever situation you find yourself in and to do nothing about it. Nor does it mean to cease making plans or initiating positive action. Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. “ – Ekhart Tolle
Nurturing with Food – Banana Bread
I am writing this blog ahead of a week in UT where I will be when this posts. Last year I talked about the week I spent there doing lots of activities but also enjoying a really delicious banana bread apres ski! I could not help but post it again in honor of my upcoming trip. Hope I will have another Utah inspired recipe for you when I get back. Do not overcook it, you want it to be moist. I have found on the rare occasion that I undercook it a bit, popping it by the slice in the toaster gives it crispy edges and it is delicious. Hope it hits the spot for you as well!
See you on the mat