We all know the scene from the movie. A character drops to their knees, looks skyward and screams "HELP". In the yogi world, that moment is called Ishvara Pranidhana.
Ishvara: a higher power, the divine
*Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender to the divine.*
This topic is a little tricky to cover. We all have our own belief systems ingrained within us, so any talk of higher powers can get touchy. Higher powers are usually associated with religion, faith, doctrines, etc. All words that have caused fighting among groups of people since the dawn of time. But bear with me - I think you'll find Isvara Pranidhana helpful no matter your background.
Revisiting This: Is Yoga a Religion?
I think the first question we need to re-visit - is yoga a religion? My short answer is: not unless you want it to be. Here in the West, people typically do not make the leap to making yoga a part of their religion. With the roots of yoga in Hinduism and Buddhism, it's more common to see that happen in the East. No matter what, we should hold respect for yoga, knowing that it is a part of many people's religion.
But it's not a religion on its own, and that may be comforting to you, especially if you already have your own! For more about this, read my blog on Respecting the Roots of Yoga.
Ishvara: a higher power, the divine
When you think of the term higher power, what comes to mind? There's no right answer, nor does it have to be one concrete answer. Think of Ishvara as whatever is beyond your control.
Here are some ways I have talked about Ishvara in class:
"Feel the support of the mat beneath you"
"The connection with the earth"
"Feel the way the universe supports you"
We want to have so much control, but there is alot that is not up to us. That's when we have to let go; we have to surrender. The term surrender means we're giving up power to something else.
That is a scary, yet oddly comforting feeling. We fight so much; we don't want to let go. But when we whole-heartedly LET GO, we feel a sense of calm like never before.
The marriage of the two words means to surrender to a higher power. Let go and give it to something/someone else. Release control and let your Ishvara take over.
I know that feels scary. It's like - NO I DON'T WANT TO RELEASE IT, I CAN DO IT, I DON'T NEED ANYONE OR ANYTHING.
Don't worry, we still have power when we practice Ishvara Pranidhana.
The Power We Have
Surrendering to a higher power is not without its other work. We wouldn't actually be comforted by it if we did nothing else to help ourselves.
What can we do to help ourselves? It's actually simple now, because we've taken a 9 month journey through the steps. Those steps have been our monthly intentions - the Yamas and Niyamas. Remember, the Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limbs (parts) of yoga. They are ways to treat others (Yamas) and ways to foster growth within ourselves (Niyamas).
If we've taken all of them to heart, then we're doing what we can. This means we're treating others with respect and kindness, giving of ourselves, and bringing truthfulness to the table. It also means we're creating routines and learning about ourselves, all with a fiery passion. We're not perfect in the pursuit, but we're TRYING.
And now, now....we let go.
The Last of the Niyamas
Month 10. The final Niyama. The last of our journey with both the Yamas and Niyamas.
Here, we acknowledge that it's not all up to us. We could work hard at everything and still not get what we want. It's a hard truth. But we know that no matter what happens, we will handle it.
I love the poetic nature of this final Niyama. The first 9 months are the gift, and Ishvara Pranidhana is the bow on top. It's all the work we've done, plus one final and beautiful directive. Let go, give it to something greater.
Oh my goodness. What a JOURNEY. 10 months of our Journey Forward monthly intentions. Before that, it was 4 months of "Journey Forward Yoga". Then before that it was 7 months of "CMcKitish Yoga". 21 months of time together. That's 1.75 of a calendar year.
If you haven't been with us since the start, celebrate how long you have been with us. Because when we're together, we're working. Working on finding strength in mind and body. And if you haven't joined our classes yet, it's never too late to start.
Sending you my very best,
Journey Forward Yoga Founder
Revisit the Monthly Intentions:
Ahimsa was our very first one and I didn't do a blog on it! Here is an article about Ahimsa from Yoga Journal.