Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Surrender

Could surrender be the next big step in your yoga practice?


Remember the Niyamas?  They are the second limb of the eight laid out by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. The Niyamas are the personal observances such as purity, contentment, diligence, and introspection. The fifth Niyama is "Ishwara Pranidhana".

Ishwara is often translated as "God" but is more of a concept with a wide range of meanings depending on the philosophical underpinning of its use. It could be translated as Higher Self. Depending on belief, faith or lack of it, the word Ishwara may be challenging for some.

Then there is "prandhana". Layered with meanings of devotion, dedication, respectful attention, the word often is translated as "surrender".

The English word surrender may seem to render us weak. Vanquished armies surrender, the loser surrenders. Is Patanjali asking me to be a loser? It is possible that the whole concept of surrender does not sit easily with us, especially for individualistic Westerners in a culture that makes dominance a virtue. I might think that if I surrender I will become a door mat, and the I that is doing that thinking rebels against that.  This is the ego-I at work.

Furthermore, "surrender to God" might really be a step too far!

Surrender is the ultimate act of letting go of our ego. Love is surrender. Think of a time when you were consciously loving, filled with love for another. Love places the other ahead of oneself, and as such it is devotion, dedication, respectful attention and surrender. The ego-I that does not wish to be a door mat has no place in a heart filled with love.

Patanjali points us to surrender to "Ishwara" as this is the path to move beyond that ego-I that stands in the way of our unification and wholeness with the ground of our Being. It doesn't really matter how we conceive of Ishwara - for some it will be Jesus, for others Mother Mary, or God, for others an Earth Mother, or Siva ... that which resonates with the individual is what is important.

Whether we are on the mat or in daily life, the fifth niyama invites us to dedicate all action and all inaction to that higher force, so that we can shift that ego-I out of the way and transform our lives into an congruous flow of love and wholeness.

When you are next on the mat practising yoga, could you surrender, to the breath, to release, to the felt sense of the shape you are adopting? Could you surrender thoughts to sensation, sensation to just being?

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