If you’ve ever relinquished control over a situation and simply “let go,” then you know the power of surrender.
Of course, to say you “simply” let go may not be accurate. Letting go and surrendering are difficult for so many of us. Especially in a society that values taking control.
But it’s important to understand that there is a distinction between surrendering and giving up. As such, this post will explore the niyama known as Ishvara pranidhana and how it relates to surrender.
Introducing the Niyamas
Over the course of the past several months, we’ve explored the five yamas (non-attachment, non-stealing, non-violence, non-lying, and non-excessiveness) of yoga and how to apply them in your everyday life.
The yamas comprise the first step of yoga’s foundation, as it were. The niyamas comprise the second. Collectively, they are the precepts that help us navigate life in the most ethical way.
As noted above, the yamas are often referred to as the list of “don’ts.” Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t be violent, etc. Therefore, it would stand to reason the niyamas would be the list of “dos.”
And they are, to some extent. But they are more subtle that that. One of the most subtle of the niyamas is the practice of ishvara pranidhana.
What Is Ishvara Pranidhana?
Don’t worry. We won’t load you down with Sanskrit terms. And you never need to even say the words Ishvara pranidhana. For our purposes, we’ll simplify this niyama by saying it basically means surrendering to a higher power or force. You may call it by any name.
Sounds simple enough. In fact, mastering this niyama is often referred to as the easiest path to peace and realization.
But is it truly easy? Of course not. Especially if you’ve been (accurately) dubbed a “control freak” more times than you care to count. And if you’ve been given accolades for your ability to control, that makes it all the harder.
Still, just as with the yamas and the other niyamas (which we’ll look at in the coming months), gaining a deeper understanding of Ishvara pranidhana is liberating. It can help free you from self-doubt, stress, anxiety, and the overall reliance on your ego to make decisions.
How Can You Experience the Power of Surrender?
In many Eastern traditions, they place a premium on surrender. But modern Westerners have a difficult time wrapping their heads around this. As we mentioned above, surrender is often associated with giving up.
Or, it’s seen as useful only as a last resort rather than a virtue. The whole idea that you must only surrender to a higher source when life has gotten so difficult you can no longer manage (i.e. control) it on your own.
So we’ll investigate a few ways you can start exploring how to surrender without feeling like you’re giving up.
Be With What Is
Here it is in a nutshell. Be with what is.
Again, this sounds so simple. In truth, it’s really challenging. We’ve grown comfortable with our conditioned patterns regardless of how rigid, fixed, and limited they are. But there’s an old saying – what we resist persists.
When you push up against the less desirable activities life has to offer – and it has plenty – you can be sure they’ll be coming around again. In the meantime, you can’t learn from them.
Try to open up to them instead. Have faith in a higher power offering up this teaching experience.
Ultimately, surrendering to what is requires you to trust in your self and everything that comprises you; right down to your perfect imperfections.
Ease up on Worry
No matter how much you may savor control, you can never do anything more than your best. And worrying about situations over which you have no control is really just a waste of time. It won’t make the future any easier, and robs you of your peace in the moment.
When you turn yourself over to a higher power, you’re more able to accept the results of “your best” rather than be continually dissatisfied. This, in turn, allows you to relinquish some of that control so you can more fully engage in the moment.
The Power of Surrender on the Yoga Mat
Once you begin to show up to your yoga mat with regularity, you’ll notice how this niyama changes the way you practice.
Having a willingness to surrender to the fact that you can’t touch your toes or twist very far, for instance, will free you of any judgments or criticisms around this. After all, they’re merely poses.
Even just the act of showing up in a yoga class and following instructions frees you temporarily from the constant chatter of your ego. Each time you engage in a forward fold, you’re bowing to your higher power. And every time you take a backbend, you begin to feel your heart open to what’s next and trust in it.
Take Time to Rest
The ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality can be all too easily misinterpreted.
Think of your body as your flesh castle. Weird term, we know. But it’s your home and you want it to sustain you for an entire lifetime. If you detach from this idea, you’re more inclined to abuse it and have unreal expectations of it.
Whether you’re in the midst of a tough workout or a difficult day at work, understand that your body has limits. Sometimes you need to stop and take a breather. It’s not weakness or giving up. It’s recognizing that your body is giving you signals to slow down and rest.
And it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself in that moment.
Could You Use More Surrender in Your Life?
If the power of surrender feels all too elusive, just know that you’re not alone in feeling that way.
We know how tough it is to find time for mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation that help to foster more surrender in you life. That’s why we bring these practices to you.
Contact us today to find out how you can offer yoga, meditation, and other mindful practices right at your place of business, organization, or school. And see what a difference it can make.