Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra teaches us five Yamas and five Niyamas, or ethical guidelines by which to live our lives. They begin with ahimsa, and end with isvarapranidhana. These guidelines prevent the accumulation of negative karma, and guide us to the final stages of yoga; contentment and connection to the divine.
Isvarapranidhana is the last of the niyamas, and can be roughly translated as ‘surrender to your higher power.’ Isvara can mean God, supreme being, or ultimate reality. Pranidhana can be translated as surrender, or to fix yourself to something, as in devotion.
Thus, we may equate the practice of isvarapranidhana with ‘let go and let god.’ In truth, the layers of meaning here have limitless depth. We explore isvarapranidhana in body, speech and mind with the following 60 minute yoga flow.
More thoughts on Surrender, Connection and Integration
We often equate the word ‘surrender’ with giving up, or throwing in the towel, we think to surrender is weak. However, in the context of yoga, to surrender to your guru or your concept of the divine is to recognize that every shred of goodness that you experience in this life is by the grace of your higher power. So too, is every shred of challenge. That is, if we can see all our experiences equally as teachings, pointing us towards greater spiritual growth.
The ego must be strong if we are to let it go.
To give up on ‘me and mine’ we must first have a strong sense of ourselves. We develop this insight through meditation and asana. Over time, we see there is no separate and self-existing ‘me.’ When we recognize that the fixed self is an illusion, we have the freedom to be whoever we’d like to be. Our higher power is a guide through this process, and an example of what our true identity might look like.
The ego requires doing, surrender requires resting.
True surrender is the ability to be ok with things exactly as they are, no matter how they are. With isvarapranidhana, we give ourselves over to ultimate reality, remembering that nothing we perceive exists in only one way. And by remembering that our higher power is in everything we perceive, our perception changes.
When we move through our asana practice, or through life, with ego as our director, we remain in a forward state of action, reaching for things outside of ourselves, and never finding the end point. The ego requires us to feel separate.
By instead dedicating all our efforts, giving away the fruits of our actions, or simply resting back into the care of a supreme being, we realize that there’s nothing we need to get, nowhere we need to reach. We are already present with the divine, and connected to all things.
samadhi siddhih ishvarapranidhana: From an attitude of letting go into one’s source (ishvarapranidhana), the state of perfected concentration (samadhi) is attained.Yoga Sutra 2.45
It’s through isvarapranidhana that samadhi, or full integration is achieved. When we are fully in union with god, reality, source, our true nature, whatever name we’d like to give to the divine, we will have reached the deepest state of meditation, and the true meaning of Yoga.
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