Yoga is both a noun and a verb. Yoga is a state of being and yoga is something we do. We practice yoga to reach yoga. And this can be confusing to understand. As a noun, reaching a state of yoga means we have reached enlightenment or samadhi - it is the union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness. We no longer identify with our mind or body, rather we know ourselves to be part of the same universal consciousness that lives within everyone. As a verb, doing yoga means we are practicing the eight limbs of yoga amongst the many other practices outlined in the Patanljali’s Yoga Sutras. These practices will lead us to a state of yoga.
This brings us to our final niyama - Ishvara Pranidhana. Ishvara translates universal consciousness / a higher power / God / source / *insert your chosen word or phrase*. Pranidhana means to surrender, dedicate or devote. So together, Ishwara Pranidhana is about surrendering to a higher power. This guides us to shift our perspective away from the ego ‘I’ and towards our true Self.
This Niyama encourages us to surrender all of our actions and the fruits of actions to a higher power. The word surrender has different connotations and can often be thought of as a last resort or as being weak but this is not true. When we refer to surrendering, we are referring to relinquishing control. It’s about completing the right actions with the right attitude without being attached to the outcome. And the latter is the most difficult part - surrendering and detaching from the outcome. Most of us have a false belief that we can control the outcomes of our actions due to conditioning from society coupled with the way our brains are wired. We believe that if we do X or Y then Z will happen no matter what. We leave no space for other options and when Z doesn't happen we are disappointed. In reality all we can control is our actions and our reactions. The fruits of these are out of our hands.
With Isvara Pranidhana, we work with this higher power and co-create. We complete our actions to the best of our ability and then we hand over the rest to the Universe, trusting that what we receive is meant for us. We try to see the gift in what we receive whether it’s what we were hoping for or not. By doing this we learn to move with the ebbs and flows of life and remain open. We become less rigid and less anxious. We become more present whilst we complete our actions because we stop worrying about ‘what ifs’ and overthinking the results. Our thoughts and beliefs stop holding us back. We stop playing small. We experience a new level of freedom. One where we have truly let go, we trust and we understand that whatever is meant to be will be.
This takes practice and dedication. It is easy to intellectualise these concepts and write about them but living by them is a process. It’s a journey and we must be gentle with ourselves as we navigate it. Let’s begin or continue our journey by exploring our own connection with Ishvara and how we can incorporate this Niyama into our everyday life. Grab your journal and pen and let the words flow onto the page as you answer the following questions:
What is your connection to universal consciousness / a higher power / God / source / *insert your chosen word or phrase*?
What do you believe? How do these beliefs align with your thoughts, words and actions? If there is a lack of alignment, how could you bring these all together?
How can you surrender more in your daily life?
How can you live in the energy of surrender?
How can you work with the universe rather than against her?
How can you co-create with the universe?
How can you start to see everything as one rather than separate from each other?
How can you release your attachment from the outcome?
How can you release your attachment from external gratification and physical objects?
How will you continue on your journey home to yourself?
With love and gratitude,