Ever heard the term, ‘to love is to surrender’?
It might sound counterintuitive at first, but hear me out.
When you surrender, you stay open to what life and other people have to offer. You open the door to self-love, love with others, and connection with everything around you.
So what does this have to do with yoga and Ishvara Pranidhana?
Pranidhana means to surrender in Sanskrit. As far as how it relates to yoga, let’s get into it!
In this article, we’ll cover what Ishvara Pranidhana means in yoga and four ways to practice it in your life.
What Is Ishvara Pranidhana in Yoga?
Ishvara Pranidhana means surrendering (pranidhana) to a ‘Higher Power’, ‘Supreme Being’, ‘personal God’, ‘Brahman’, ‘Ultimate Reality’ or ‘True Self’ (Ishvara). In other words, think of the fifth niyama as developing a profound and trusting relationship with the universe and with everything around us, while realizing the grace of being alive.
According to the yoga philosopher, Sri Swami Satchidananda, ‘Ishvara Pranidhana’ also signifies offering our actions to ‘the divine nature’ and humanity; remembering that we are all one.
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the 8 limbs of yoga, aim to assist us on how to live a life full of meaning and intention. The Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs of the eight-limbed path, are a series of steps towards the understanding and attainment of yoga, and each of them plays a significant role in the journey of acceptance and re-association of ourselves with the inner and outer world, in order to reach the pinnacle of Samadhi (pure contemplation).
That being said, the purpose of a yoga practice is to not just to be mindful, attentive, and balanced on the mat, but to take this mindset with us outside of the yoga class for a more profound effect. That’s where the Yamas and Niyamas (in this case, Ishvara Pranidhana) come in.
In the context of current modern practices, Ishvara Pranidhana encourages us to be more affectionate and connected with the world. When we surrender to our current reality, we receive wisdom and guidance from the world, a higher self, or any God you might believe in.
What Does it Mean to Surrender in Yoga?
So how can you achieve complete pranidhana and practice non-attachment both in your daily life and during your yoga practice?
Ishvara Pranidhana can be very easy, but also extremely difficult depending on your personality. The instruction of ‘letting go’ can sound excitingly simple, but it can also feel extremely vulnerable. Especially in our modern world, where we strive to have absolute control over each and every action, we don’t like to surrender that.
So what does this actually look like in yoga practice? I can mean shifting the intention of our actions in order to benefit the lives of others. It can also mean surrendering control during your favorite yoga class or letting go of the expectations of life.
However, the key to this is to stop thinking of “surrender” as failure and vulnerability, but as respect towards your body.
‘Surrendering’ and ‘letting go’ is also often associated with the concept of ‘non-attachment’. The practice of ‘non-attachment’ encourages us to recognize the situations in our lives that we have no control over and surrender by using all our lifeforce right here, right now.
How to Practice Ishvara Pranidhana Today
Now that we know how this daring practice pushes us to reach a higher state of connection, non-attachment, and self-love, we can address some of the ways to practice Ishvara Pranidhana in the contemporary world.
Seize The Moment
Let go of the obsession to control all the aspects of life. That release comes with embracing the uncertainty of the present.
Life is unexpected and will throw you through all sorts of twists and turns, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! When you let go of the need for control, it makes life an adventure.
Try to release your attachments to whatever creates the illusion of control. Instead, focus on celebrating and finding peace in the moment.
One way to train this is through meditating on the present moment; this can be your breath, a body sensation, your ‘ishta devata’ (‘meditational deity’), or something that belongs to your current environment.
During meditations, you’ll quickly notice your mind try to run away from the present and attach itself to planning or worrying about the future or the past. Observe these attachments and choose to let them go. When this becomes easier, you’ll be able to stay in the present, seize the moment, experience Ishvara Pranidhana, and move closer to freedom.
Devotion to Me-Time
Another way to approach the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana is by prioritizing me-time! And who doesn’t like a little self-care now and then?
Me-time can mean so many different things, but whatever it means to you, try to do it without your phone, laptop, tablet, smartwatch.. yes I mean it.. your smartwatch too! All these devices distract you from connecting to yourself.
Take a walk. Listen to your breath. Notice your steps. Sense your rhythm, your pace. Observe your thoughts as they come and go. You can try to connect sitting, or lying down. Do whatever fortifies and encourages this connection, but again try not to distract yourself from yourself. Feel and take care of your body, mind, and spirit, and this will help you surrender to self-love and get closer to your inner, True Being.
Practice Bhakti Yoga
This classical school of yoga focuses on self-study by removing the ego from the center of the practice and replacing it with the divine, with the ‘Higher Power’. It embraces devotion to nature and honors unity in diversity while respecting and celebrating all people, animals, and plants equally.
Based on the yoga philosophy, Bhakti yoga offers the yoga practice to the divine, and to every single being, while remembering that we are all one. Through this way of practicing yoga, the person can praise the true meaning of ‘Isvara Pranidhana’, and achieve selfless dedication.
Teachers and students of this unique path don’t consider themselves disconnected from one another or from the rest of the universe. Their actions, such as the use of rituals, kirtan, chanting, and mantras, together with their awareness of equality, increases feelings of love and harmony.
The Art of Giving
The first thing to focus on during this practice is to give from your heart and to accompany your offering with deep feelings of love for others without expecting anything in return.
The Art of Giving will teach you the feeling of abundance, which will set you free to give as much as you can. Knowing that there is so much abundance in the Universe will help you understand that you will never truly miss something no matter how much you give away.
This sense of abundance will allow you to let go of the expectations of receiving anything in return. It means you’re happy with the good work you’re doing, even when nobody notices it. However, you will only be able to reach that state if you truly manage to give for the sake of others instead of giving to satisfy your ego.
Today, wherever you are when reading this, at any time during the day, do something nice for someone else. Send them a text message, run an errand, do them a favor, surprise them, send good vibes. Then surrender any expectation that you’ll get anything back.