Ah, the holy grail of peace. The goal of all the Yama and Niyama together is to help us reach this point of surrender, Ishvara Pranidhana on the path to peace.
It is said that if you can master this Niyama there is no need to practice any of the others, as this is the culmination. Given the fact that most of us feel a compelling need to be in constant control and add to that the fact that we are regularly battling the so-called “monkey mind,” Ishvara Pranidhana is also the most challenging of the Yama and Niyama to regularly practice.
Ishvara pranidhana is the idea of surrendering to the idea that there is something bigger, more profound and meaningful than ourselves (gasp). It’s a sum total of offering your actions up to the divine and humanity because we are all one.
Did you have a bad day today or a good day? How about yesterday? What prerequisites, events, or emotions are you basing this decision/outcome on? It’s probably expectations, societal ideals and what’s considered (by others) acceptable.
Ishvara pranidhana, the tenet of surrender, is the idea that there is a force bigger than ourselves present in our lives. Bigger than any expectations we may have, our desire to control outcomes, fit in, or our insistence on busywork and to-do lists.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
How many times a day, or even a week, do you stop and look at your life and what’s happening around you in wonder? Without judgment and without complaint. Just pure wonder and surrender?
Like on a day when you are “in the zone”—when the stars align, when your message is on point, your job feels like a dream, your life has meaning. Take note. Surrender to the moment.
Let yourself be taught by what life is offering you. Observe the experience and the emotion you attach to it. It won’t all be “good” and it won’t all be “bad.” But it will be valuable.
What if, just suppose, you could be “in the zone,” in that space of peace and harmony, all the time. Like every day.
How so, you ask?
Let go of the need to control, of the rigidity of perfection and rules. Of the need to follow the crowd and keep up with the Jones.’ To let go of attachment and worry about outcomes, what others think, if you will fit in…
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength”.
–Corrie Ten Boom
Ishvara Pranidhana in life.
All this worry and stress around outcomes we have no control over is the source of our suffering and the block to Ishvara Pranidhana. If we realize that we can only do our best in each situation we create space to be fully engaged and present in what is happening instead of distracted by thoughts around what will happen after. Because when we are distracted by those thoughts we cannot do our best.
Greet each event, experience and emotion as an opportunity for growth, a lesson to embrace. To do this we must let go of expectations and put ego on the back burner. Turn away from the focus on ourselves and look into the greater meaning.
Ishvara Pranidhana on the mat.
The most important pose in all the vast catalog of yoga asana? Savasana.
It seems like the easiest, right? In theory and on paper it sounds like it would be. Just lay down. Relax. Let go.
Right. It really doesn’t happen for most of us that easily. We run over the to-do list, the grocery list, the unpleasant conversation we had that day with a coworker or the fact that we dislike the song playing during savasana.
Any number of things are floating around in our heads during the pose that is supposed to help us surrender. Let go. Let things that do not serve us die. It is, after all, corpse pose.
Surrendering on the mat allows you to surrender in life. To live in peace and harmony a majority of the time.
It’s the difference between being careful and carefree.
“And the day came when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin