Yoga sutra 2.45 samadhi siddhih ishvarapranidhana
‘From an attitude of letting go into one’s source (ishvarapranidhana), the state of perfected concentration (samadhi) is attained.’ Swami Jnaneshvara
The 5th and final Niyama, Ishvara Pranidhana or surrender to the Divine. We, in the west, tend to find this difficult to grasp as for many of us religion is an uncomfortable concept and any mention of God makes our stomach squirm. But the idea of God can be whatever we need it to be. Nature, the sunrising each day, the Universe. Simply trusting that there is more out there and surrendering to this idea can be so very comforting, it can take us out of our own minds, help us to see that there is more than just us and this knowledge allows us to hand over some control.
The final 3 Niyamas – Tapas (discipline), Svadhyaya (self study) and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to the Divine), when combined are also known as Kriya Yoga. This is the Yoga of action and when practiced diligently can lead to Samadhi, a state of Oneness and liberation.
What does it mean to you to surrender? Perhaps it’s just a letting go of trying to control all aspects of your life, or the letting go of trying to control those around you. Maybe you could hand over the fruits of your physical practice to the Universe and allow others the benefits of your hard work.
For me surrender comes up a lot in most day to day living. I need to surrender to feelings of discomfort, those of anxiety and of not feeling good enough. I allow myself to let go of things that have been said or done, or not said or not done and simply surrender to the moment. I hand over my future to the Universe, without trying to control every detail and outcome, and simply live for the beauty that is right now. It’s hard. Bloody hard. It takes constantly pulling myself up and reminding myself that I am just a speck in a whole. But it feels kind of nice knowing that my stuff isn’t really that big, that whatever I choose won’t really make that huge of a difference to the bigger picture and that I can surrender to the flow of life without feeling like I’m letting anyone, or anything, down but rather allowing whatever to be, to simply be.
These ten concepts make up the beginning stages of Yoga, the Yama’s and Niyama’s, the first two limbs of what we call Ashtanga Yoga – 8 limbs of Yoga. If you can practice these things diligently you are ‘doing’ Yoga, no matter whether you can stand on your head, or touch your toes, the very start of Yoga is can you be a good, honest, decent human being living in a world with others, and take pride and care of yourself. This is Yoga.