This is the last post of a blog series exploring the theory on the ten principles of yoga philosophy, also known as the yamas and niyamas. In this series of blog posts, we explore how we can bring this fascinating ancient wisdom into our daily lives.
Whether or not you practice yoga or not is not very important. These principles are all about making this world, an even better place to live in.
Ishvara pranidhana, surrender
Ishvara pranidhana commonly translates as ‘surrender’.
This fifth niyama of the ten yamas and niyamas is often misunderstood.
The term ‘Ishvara Pranidhana’ is made up of two words; Ishvara, which translates as ‘the Lord’, ‘Supreme Being’, ‘God’, ‘Brahman’, ‘Ultimate Reality’ or ‘True Self’ and Pranidhana, which can mean ‘devotion’.
In most translations of this niyama, we’re advised to surrender to the Lord. George Feuerstein helps us out with the tricky concept of ‘the Lord’.
“The Lord is not a creator like the Christian God, nor the kind of Absolute taught in the Upanishads or the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism.”
“In essence, cultivating surrender and devotion replaces self-preoccupation with a sense of our connection that sustains the entire universe. A sense of devotion and surrender opens us to experiences of being nurtured. We also learn that we have the capacity to become instruments of higher consciousness, serving and giving what we can to help others in their own awakening.” – Swami Ajaya, Western born author and psychologist.
Translated into modern day lives, Ishvara pranidhana shifts our perspective from the obsession with I and mine to an opener, more loving and more connected view of the world.
Also, with surrender comes a grace of not knowing and being open to a wisdom and guidance greater than ourselves.
More awareness is one of the many benefits of a yoga practice. This means more awareness about your mind, emotions, feelings, body, relationships, environment, … In that aspect, surrender to the Lord can be interpreted as tuning into or aligning with Pure Awareness.
The fifth niyama focuses on the sacredness of being and union instead of on our own ego.
Control is an illusion
Letting go of control might be an option. There is no control anyway. We invented the concept to not freak out…
If you’re all about control, you can’t be open to change at the same time.
Clinging on to objects, families, friends, jobs and situations intereferes with the flow of life. Hoping that things will not change is like hoping the sun won’t rise tomorrow. Things will change, that’s a given.
When do we get our best ideas?
Brilliant ideas usually take you by surprise when you’re biking, running, gardening and so on. When you let go …
Surrender in your yoga class
Seeing your yoga practice as your little sacred time. Placing your intention for the practice. How you begin your practice. Taking a minute to listen to the breath. Calibrating on where you are, what you feel, before diving into whatever practice you have.
Savasanah is surrendering to whatever is there. Whatever is there, can be there.
Giving your body some time to take everything in that you did in class.
For some, the favorite moment in class, for some, one of the more difficult passages in class as there’s not too many instructions beside: reeeeelax.
If you’re serious about lifting your life to a higher level. In that case, I have a little assignment for you.
Not being attached to the results of your labor is a classic form of ishvara pranidhana. We already mentioned meditation in this aspect but also the Art of Giving is wildly interesting to examine.
Today, at whatever time you are reading this: Do something really nice for someone else.
Send them a sweet text message, run an errand, do them a favor, surprise them, send good vibes: anything goes.
As long as you’re not expecting anything back, not even a thank you, nothing. Initially, maybe nobody even notices the work that you did.
The result of this? Just surrender 🙂 , and you will find out, or not, it doesn’t even matter.
I hope you liked what you read about ishvara pranidhana.
If you would like to read more about the niyamas:
Rachel Bonkink holds a Masters Degree in Commercial Sciences, has studied Traditional Chinese Medicine and thrives on teaching yoga and yoga philosophy classes. She has been a life coach for over 10 years and loves spending time by the beach in Morocco. She’s the owner of Revealing Vajra, a leading yoga retreat company.
In the past seven years Rachel has organized, marketed and hosted over 60 of her own world wide yoga retreats.
At the moment, she is writing a book on how to bring the yoga philosophy into daily life.