Introspective Yoga: Surrendering and Ishvara Pranidhana

I'm writing to you from beautiful Los Angeles, California. I've spent three nights here and I leave for Seattle tonight (as I am writing).

Going on this trip was amazing, because I found myself in the flow of things...

I found myself so in tune with the environment around me, even though it was unfamiliar. Some reflections popped up for me on this trip. And the more I thought about them, the more I was reminded of how important it is to trust your own life, and to surrender to the natural unfolding.

A moment comes... a moment goes... Another moment comes... And so on...

All of this made me think about the last niyama, ishvara pranidhana -- surrendering to God/the Universe, or believing in a cause bigger than yourself. Read the others here.

"Ishvara pranidhana is not about what your yoga can do for you, but about approaching your practice in the spirit of offering." --Shiva Rea

Sometimes, the idea of surrendering to the Universe can seem so abstract. What does it really mean to surrender? Like, to just give up and stop trying? (If it were that way, I would never leave my bed and just call that surrendering. Haha!)

Even though sometimes surrendering and "giving up" can seem alike, it isn't. Surrendering doesn't mean to give up trying and just await death. Giving up is like that, it's whatever, take it or leave it.

Surrendering means to give up the struggle. Surrendering means to give up on your ego. Surrendering means knowing that you don't have to be in control all the time, and things will still be OK.

Sometimes, surrendering is being on the mat and finding ease in a balance pose. Surrendering could be relaxing your foot, so that your toes don't grip, and lo and behold, you might just find yourself balancing perfectly.

Sometimes, surrendering during meditation is being able to stay and be with whatever is showing up in your mind -- good or bad.

Surrendering is letting life happen, rather than squeezing it to death.

Sometimes, surrendering is just giving up your worries. You went over that scenario 100 times already. You are making yourself anxious and sick. Why not just stop? Be in the moment and see what happens. Maybe a solution will surprise you once you can clear your head of worries.

For me, it's about trusting the unfolding of my life.

I'm so afraid of the future sometimes -- for myself, for my friends, for my world.

I'm so afraid whenever I feel uncertainty.

But I've learned to embrace ishvara pranidhana, I've learn to surrender and be in the flow with the unfolding of my life. I've learned to surrender and allow myself to be pleasantly surprised by life.

Why does surrendering even matter?

It matters because when we realize that we can trust the unfolding of life that God/the Universe gives to us, we are better people. We are less anxious. We are less angry. We can be more empathetic. We can react more mindfully rather than defensively. We can offer those around us and the world our more loving selves.

We can live knowing that there's something bigger than ourselves. Instead of it being about what you want, maybe life takes you to a place where it's better for everyone involved.

My trip was an opportunity to practice ishvara pranidhana. It's easy for me to stress myself out, so I worked on not doing that.

Here's one incident that surprised me: I came on the first day with no real plans, but to meet up with a friend. I knew I had wanted to try this particular restaurant, but I wasn't trying to force it to happen. And before I knew it, I was having a blast. I was in Venice Beach and amazed at its beauty. Then my friend suggested the restaurant I wanted to go to! And lucky for us, it was happy hour! 

How awesome is that?! That is what's possible when you let go of the struggle. That was possible for me when I decided not to have a strict itinerary and follow the moment.

What worries can you drop? What thoughts can you shift so you may remind yourself of the bigger picture? How can you deepen your relationship with the idea of ishvara pranidhana?

I leave you with this simple quote for practicing this wonderful niyama. "Each time we learn to let go of fears and attachments, we automatically surrender." --Yogi Amrit Desai

Thank you so much for reading my blogs on yoga philosophy. I wish the best for you on your yoga journey. You'll be hearing from me soon about other yoga topics. :)