There are a few different ways to interpret this practice, however, regardless of this it is clear that it should be the last Niyama. Isvara pranidhana is made up of two words; Isvara which translates as ‘Supreme Being’, ‘True Self’ or ‘Ultimate Reality’ and Pranidhana which means ‘fixing’. Most definitions agree that Isvara pranidhana means to surrender to the highest Self and unity with the universe.
However, yoga is not a religion, and this ‘God’ or ‘Divinity’ is based on your own personal beliefs. In Yoga, there is simply an acknowledgement of something else, something bigger than us, purer than us – this may be your particular God, or Gods, or the Universe as a whole. With this in mind, Isvara pranidhana therefore could be translated as offering our actions up to ‘the Divine’ (whatever than means to you) and humanity – as we are all one, then ‘God’ or ‘Divinity’ can represent this collective consciousness. This is a definition which I personally feel is, in some ways, easier to connect with.
Isvara pranidhana is closely related to the practice of Brahmacharya, but specifically linked to the Self, affirming sacred presence. As a yogi practices the Yamas and Niyamas, there is a natural progression towards love, and towards divine intention and enlightenment – which is why this practice naturally sits as the last of the Niyamas.
Samadhi is perfected through letting go the limited matrix of a separate self while surrendering to isvara (the all inclusive aspectless and unconditioned great universal integrity or the underlying motive power behind the principle of Infinite Mind.)Patanjali – Yoga Sutras
Surrender to Self means a deep trust has grown, and that the individual can move beyond the constant worry, self-defence, stresses involved in constantly fighting for our sense of self. It is often described as the ‘easiest’ path to follow – simply let go – requiring no effort or energy on our part. In reality, this may be the hardest.
How to practice:
- Listen to your body – rest when needed
- Surrender to each asana – breathe, feel, experience
- In life – let go. Put effort in without worrying about the results. Be fully engaged.
- Trust your deepest self – your intuition and courage