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Ishvara Pranidhana - Surrender

We are on the final Niyama this week and I think it's important for us to recap what we have learned so far first. If you don't feel like you need a recap, feel free to scroll to the next image with a quote on it and continue from there!

We went through the first limb of yoga, Yama (ethical disciplines), which is broken down into five practices:

  • Ahimsa - Non-Violence

  • Satya - Truth

  • Asteya - Non-Stealing

  • Brahmacharya - Moderation

  • Aparigraha - Non-Greed

The Yamas begin with non-violence for a reason. Without non-violence or compassion, we will struggle on our path. So, when we lie or someone steals from us, we must go back to Ahimsa, non-violence, and reestablish ourselves as non-harming and compassionate - towards ourselves and others. Satya encourages us to be honest and truthful in all aspects of life - truth is speech, in action & in thought. It asks us to recognize our own storytelling, to get really in touch with our own feelings, to speak our truth and do so sweetly. Asteya, or non-stealing, at it's core is encouraging us to find contentment and gratitude for what we have. Rather than looking around and seeing what others have, looking at our own life with an abundance mindset and a generous heart. Brahmacharya in the modern world is translated to mean moderation. So, finding your middle path - that sweet space between practice and play, effort and surrender, yes and no. It's important to remember that the middle path isn't always the same and can change moment to moment. Turn your gaze inward and honor where you are in each new moment. Aparigraha is, in my opinion, a continuation of non-stealing. It usually translates to non-greed. Again, this yama encourages us to embrace the present moment and find contentment for what we have.

Then, we went through the second limb of yoga, Niyama (duties/observances), which is broken down into five practices:

  • Saucha - Cleanliness

  • Santosha - Contenment

  • Tapas - Discipline

  • Svadhyaya - Self-Study

  • Ishvara Pranidhana - Surrender

First, we have Saucha, or cleanliness. This is cleanliness of our external environment, but also of our internal one. Often, our external environment is a reflection of our mind, body and spirit. It is part of our practice to start to sift through the contents of the mind and our physical space - tidying, cleaning, decluttering and getting rid of what no longer needs to exist in our space.

Santosha already came up a little in the Yamas - it encourages us to find contentment on our path in the present moment without becoming attached to the outcome or clinging to the past.

Tapas is translated a couple ways. First, discipline. Tapas encourages a consistent practice of the physical body, of the mind, and in the routines of life. Tapas is also translated to mean refinement. So, as we find consistency, we begin to burn away that which doesn't serve anymore - practices, people, routines, etc.

The last two weeks, we did a deep dive into Svadhyaya or self-study. The 8 limbed path of yoga is a gradual, inward exploration and Svadhyaya is when it gets real (in my opinion). Svadhyaya asks us the big question, "Who am I?" Not just who you appear to be on the surface, but the parts that live deeper within, the aspects of yourself that are more subtle, are quieter, are deeply sewn.

The final Niyama is Ishvara Pranidhana. Ishvara meaning, "God," "Ultimate Reality," "a state of collective consciousness," or "Supreme," and Pranidhana meaning, "Surrender," "Devote," or "Fixing." Traditionally, Ishvara Pranidhana is translated to mean "Surrender to God." However, in the modern yoga world, we translate it to mean surrender in general.

We went over the Yamas and Niyamas before arriving here for a reason. Ishvara Pranidhana asks us to let go. So, we have all of these amazing practices, all of these observances, duties, ethical codes to follow and at the very end Patanjali says, "let it all go."

I think it's important to note that this doesn't mean stop practicing or walking this path. What it really means is trust the process. Don't become overly attached to your practice, but don't completely let it fall to the wayside. Don't identify with your feelings too long, but let yourself feel. Ishvara Pranidhana is a balancing act in cultivating non-attachment. Ishvara Pranidhana is trusting that you are exactly where you are meant to be and learning the lessons you are meant to learn right now to move forward on your path.

As previously mentioned, Ishvara Pranidhana directly translates to, "Surrender to God." God can also be creation, the universe, the divine, nature, the higher self - whatever resonates with you. To keep it simple, I will use God, but please know that you can interpret this through whatever lens serves you and let go of the rest. I think in this surrender to God, or something bigger than myself, I find comfort. Surrender to God serves as a reminder that time is fleeting, that life moves fast, that this too shall pass and tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. I remember when I reflect on Ishvara Pranidhana that divinity exists within me, that there is a divine plan for me and my path is perfectly laid out to teach me, to help to grow, and to guide me to Samadhi (bliss or liberation; the last limb of yoga).

I didn't do a breakdown of how you can practice Ishvara Pranidhana. I think this can be a really personal practice and one that, ultimately, lives within you. Find your surrender these next few weeks. What happens when you rest in all that you know and all that you are? What happens when you let go of expectations? Know that you are loved and you are loving. Know that you are enough - you are more than enough. Know that you are safe. Kiara Flowers

REFERENCES: Living the Sutras by Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Bryant The Yogi Assignment by Kino MacGregor The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi

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