Yielding and Surrendering selves into Self
Isvara Pranidhana: the last of the Niyamas of the 8 Limbs of Yoga
Isvara Pranidhana is the fifth and final Niyama, and it translates to surrender. The Niyamas make up the second of the 8 Limbs of Yoga and are essentially personal disciplines or observances we can practice to find freedom.
This is the twelfth post in a series about the 8 Limbs of Yoga. If you’d like to read the others and an overview first, go here. I’ll wait.
Isvara Pranidhana means surrender, but more than that, it’s a surrender to something greater than us.
A famous line in the Bhagavad Gita goes like this …
Yoga is a journey of the self through the self to the Self.
Notice the last self is capitalized. There are many selves within us (think of all of the facets of YOU!) and the last Self refers to the one that is aligned with spirit, God, Source, Oneness — everything. It’s our true nature beyond worldly form.
Throughout life we vacillate between selves and Self. Our selves are integral parts of us but they create separation. They are our ego identities. These selves make us human. The whole concept is paradoxical, and it’s okay. We are okay exactly as we are; we are HUMAN.
But at the center of it all is the Self — a part of us that is always surrendered to what is, at peace knowing life is moving exactly as it is supposed to. We just don’t live there very often. The Self is largely unknown unless we spend a great deal of time in spiritual practice.
The ego is the lowest form of our beingness. It’s also the loudest and most stubborn. The ego likes the status quo, despises change and wants to rule the world. How on earth do we deal with her?
Through technology (the internet, podcasts, ebooks, etc.) we can find many tools, but the one I learned years ago that still keeps me focused is the consistent practice of the yamas and niyamas and the six limbs that follow. I’ve yet to find one clear answer to all of life’s problems, but I can say with certainty that the 8 limbs are invaluable tools in our spiritual toolboxes.
The cycle of life is ongoing. Each time we get to the ‘end,’ surrender appears to be the only viable option — and the best answer. I remember the first time I heard the phrase, “the only way out is through.” Yes, I thought. What other way is there? Bypassing? We only end up where we started.
Personally, one of the most poignant lessons about Isvara Pranidhana was front and center this year. Death speaks loudly. Or perhaps it’s quiet though deeply felt. Either way, the energy is palpable.
My mother died much too soon, earlier this year, at 69. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer at the end of 2016; it was cancer’s third occurence and had spread to her bones and bowels. For the last fifteen months of her life, from final diagnosis until death, I went through every imaginable emotion — deep sadness, irritation, rage, guilt, blame and confusion. I felt sorry for her and for myself. I secluded myself, shut many feelings down and questioned my own existence.
Like everything in life, it was a process and I had to go through it. I used the yamas and niymas to help me heal.
I couldn’t stop it, couldn’t push it away, and though the negative emotions were necessary for my human evolvement, living there permanently wasn’t an option. As I write these words, I am embarking on the six month mark of her passing.
Just a few months before her death, when she was still well enough to exist with others, get around, have a semi-normal quality of life, I asked if she would read the prelude portion of my book, the portion I realeased as an e-book prior to the full book release. She agreed. I was honored. I’d never shared yoga with my mom. She wasn’t into it. It was one small way of uniting our existence.
Now that she’s gone and I’ve been working my way through surrender, there is no end to the depths.
I surrender one aspect of my self and my existence only to discover there is more work to do.
We are here to align our souls and our pupose with our human form.
The eight limbs of yoga is a model we can use whether or not we ever step on a yoga mat. Rigidity isn’t good and yoga reminds us to stay flexible and open — to all that is a human life.
This concludes the first two limbs of yoga. The yamas are moral precepts whereas the niyamas are internal processes, purification practices along the path. Come back to them again and again and continually learn what there is to discover about your beautiful human life.
Thanks for reading! I’m Heather Sage. Connect with me on the 19 for a glimpse into my mundane but beautiful life, and download my free e-book, Prelude to Yoga Prayers, before the full version releases in late 2018.