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Exploring Yoga Philosophy: Isvara Pranidhana

Ishvara Pranidhana

This final principle means surrender or more specifically surrender the fruits of your actions. Isvara, translates as ‘Supreme Being’, ‘God’, ‘Brahman’, ‘Ultimate Reality’ or ‘True Self’ and Pranidhana means ‘fixing’. It's a meaningful message as the last Niyama because they tell us: become a better human by practicing contentment, cleanliness, self-study etc but at the end of the day you don't control anything.

What are Niyamas?

As we saw in the article on the eight limbs of Yoga; in the traditional Yoga system the second aspect of practice is called niyama or inner observances, which helps us build character and guides us to live life in its fullest, most joyful form.

The five niyamas:

  1. Śauca - purity, cleansing

  2. Santosa - contentment

  3. Tapas - work, practice

  4. Svādhyāya - self-study, self-inquiry

  5. Ishvara Pranidhana - surrender the fruits of your actions

Isvara Pranidhana presupposes that there is a divine force at work in our lives. We must do the work to become more conscious, centered and elevated beings in order to feel fulfilled and at peace but the real peace comes from surrender, from knowing that once we have put in the work the result is not in our hands anymore.

How can surrender be applied to our day-to-day?

- I notice my response to things, do I feel fearful, excited, angry, frustrated? How is that affecting my life?

- I practice switching from fear-based mechanisms to surrender-based mechanisms. For example, I miss my bus and I'm late to my job interview, I release fear and anxiety and instead decide to trust that everything works out in my best interest - even when it doesn't seem like it.

Let me offer other ways we can practice Isvara Pranidhana:

- I practice noticing what physical sensations arise when I need the moment to be "my way",

- I practice these in my day-to-day life so that when something big arises like the loss of a job, moving country, a separation, I have the tools to navigate those situations with more ease and surrender,

- I learn new things and practice being 'bad' at something,

- I cultivate my spiritual practice to remind myself that there is something out there that is much bigger than me.

We all yearn for freedom. However, we often confuse freedom with control, thinking that if we micro-manage our lives we will be free of suffering. In fact, it is quite the opposite; control gives our ego peace of mind but it encloses us in an inner prison that prevents us from accessing the true beauty of life. Surrender is freedom in its truest form. Self-study and reflection give us tools to understand ourselves and the world around us which brings clarity and serenity for understanding why we are who we are but the real work comes now. We reach a point in our spiritual practice where life itself becomes our spiritual practice, we start to live each moment with pure awe and joy because we have the deep knowing that we are divinely guided.

At the beginning of my spiritual journey I struggled to grasp the concept of surrender, I was comfortable in the victim-mindset ("why does this always happen to me?!") and I found it difficult to believe that life would always work out in my favour. My spiritual practice taught me faith and surrender, which is far greater than simply believing in a supreme power; in fact, it means that we become aware of our own divinity and realise that we are not separate from God or supreme power.

There hasn't been ONE time in my life where I felt like the hardship I went through wasn't for a reason. Every hardship has led me to a better place. Now, call this mindset divine intervention, angel protection, I don't really care if I'm honest because it helps me feel at peace with life. And that's the most important thing.

Practice Yoga with me in person or online, where we explore ancient themes around philosophy and ways to move our bodies and experience ourselves in ways that help us navigate the modern world.

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