The Art of Surrendering to the Divine: Ishvara Pranidhana

The Art of Surrendering to the Divine: Ishvara Pranidhana
7 November, 2014

The Art of Surrendering to the Divine: Ishvara Pranidhana

Ishvara pranidhana is the fifth and final of the niyamas found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Ishvara refers to ones personal connection with the divine, while pranidhana means surrender. When we put these two words together, the niyama tells us to surrender to the divine, to cultivate a deep surrender that connects us to the all pervasive force that embraces all that ebbs and flows in our ever changing universe. It’s a very powerful practice. In fact, one could say it’s one of the most advanced principles of yoga because once we connect to the great beating heart of the universe, we become confident yogis, deeply empowered and better equipped to navigate the often chaotic landscape of life. On the surface, it seems ironic that we become more powerful when we surrender and let go, and yet – this is a yogic truth that offers us a profound transformation of perspective. When we practice Ishvara pranidhana, we align with the divine, and life flows with more grace and beauty.

Surrendering to a higher power in our every day lives is what we’re talking about here – not only when the going gets rough as so often is the way of the Western world. In Eastern cultures, this way of living is deeply ingrained into society. In India and Bali, for example, the sacred pervades every day life. In the West, it’s a more foreign concept, and one that we must work to cultivate.

Cultivate a relationship to Ishvara

In yoga, the act of cultivating a personal relationship with the divine is called Ishta-Devata. Reflect upon how the divine manifests in your own heart. If the word Ishvara or Lord doesn’t hold meaning for you, think of a name for the divine that does. What name do you connect to? Perhaps it’s your higher power, Spirit, Buddha, the Universe, the Great Mother, Nature, Cosmic Consciousness, the all-powerful force, the Divine, or God. When we truly feel connected to Ishvara, it’s easier to let go of the “I” and the “me.” The mind calms and in walks those spiritual qualities of inner-peace, freedom, and unconditional love.

Reflect upon the many ways you don’t surrender.

Pranidhana means surrender or dedication. Now think of its opposite. Gripping, controlling, holding, struggling, fighting, warring, battling – these are all ways in which we  do the opposite of surrender. When we meditate on surrender, we heal those parts of us that struggle or resist the natural ebb and flow of the universe – the part that holds, controls, and fights what is. Instead of fighting all that is, we can learn to dance and yield to Ishwara and dedicate ourselves to it as opposed to fighting against it. This controlling nature is so prevalent and yet, it’s not healthy. A great deal of energy is needed to control things. It adds unnecessary stress and in some cases, can even  make us ill. When we learn to let go, things go better than we could have ever expected and often times – magic happens!

Take a seat and close your eyes. Reflect upon the ways you fight against the very nature of life. How do your words, thoughts and actions construct the natural flow of Ishvara? We can start by taking a look at our past. How do you fight against your past? Really experience that feeling of struggle with your past. Breathe into it and surrender it to the divine. Surrender your clinging to the pleasure or pain of the past and place it in the arms of Ishvara. Now do the same with your present life. How do you control against the flow of all that happens in your life? How do you say “no” to the present moment? When we get really present and stay with the present moment, we naturally connect to Ishvara. Surrender your present life to the Divine. Last, feel into the ways you grip onto your visions for the future. We all worry about the future. Feel into that worry, breathe into it and release your future to Ishvara, where your future will unfold with grace and beauty. 

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