On this blog I’ve been covering the Yamas and the Niyamas, which make up one branch of the eightfold path of yoga, according to Patanjali’s Sutras. The Yamas tell yogis what not to do. Posts about these restraints can be found here: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.
I do not write about these as a scholar, but as a fairly new yoga teacher, (three years in) and I am sure my understanding of the the Yoga Sutras will keep evolving over time. It has been my joy to write about them, allowing me to absorb the concepts more deeply as I go. If my writings about them resonate with readers of this blog in some way, I am grateful to have had that opportunity for connection.
The fifth Niyama, Ishvara Pranidhana, means devotion. According to Patanjali’s Sutras it means self-surrender to Supreme consciousness. It is when the will of the yogi lines up with the will of the Divine.
No longer are you doing your practice, trying to get in shape. No longer are you trying to get “better” at the pose. No longer are you worried about what you look like on the mat. No longer are you worried that you did’n’t get enough practice in this week. No longer are you interested in beating yourself up over anything. Ishvara means you surrender it all to something greater than your small self. You let go of anything other than being the highest version of yourself, in the moment. It is not done for accolades. It is not done to get ahead. It is not done for a prize. It is only so you might be of service to something higher.
The ego leads us to think if we take time to meditate, we are giving something up. We don’t have time. When we are in the space of Ishvara Pranidhana, we are fully integrated with our Higher self, and the biggest secret is… it’s not a sacrifice. It’s bliss. No longer do we meditate because we should. We do it because it is wonderful. This state can also be found when we are “in the zone.” How many times have you been inspired seeing a person doing exactly what they came here on earth to do? A singer hitting that perfect note. A basketball player making the shot. Leslie Glickman leading Something Big? Their highest selves lining up with their human selves, bringing something of light to the world. Sometimes it happens in quieter humbler moments. A special education teacher taking an overwhelmed child under their wing. A chef excitedly preparing a new menu. A grandmother gently rocking a baby. No matter what we are doing, when we lose our small selves and merge with the Divine, we are practicing Ishvara Pranidhana.
Take a breath and think about a moment when you lost track of time and felt truly at one with your Higher self. It might have been for just a moment or two. A moment out of time, when everything lined up and you felt like you were right where you were meant to be.
What were you doing?
What is it that makes your sweet soul fill up? What are you doing when you feel most yourself?
Maybe do more of that today.
And if you can’t actually physically do it, take a moment to think about it, imagine it. Draw it near.