Friday, July 17, 2009

Ishvara Pranidhana


I’ve decided to boycott the weather channel for the rest of the summer. Before I left to teach yoga outside last evening they were calling for hail and thunderstorms and as I looked up at the perfectly blue sky and enjoyed the warm breeze during the whole yoga session I questioned which part of Ottawa the weatherman lives in, because it definitely wasn’t the part I was in. I send thanks to everyone that braved the predicted storm to come out and do some yoga. I had a lot of fun!

Today I’m finally bringing to a close something I started when I originally began writing this blog over a year ago. When I started writing I began with moving through the Yamas and Niyamas of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. I started with ahimsa (non-harming) and explained it to the best of my knowledge. I then continued through the other 4 Yamas and 4 Niyamas. When I got to the last Niyama- Ishvara Pranidhana- I got a little hung up, but I feel it’s time to take this challenge and present it to you the best that I can.

Ishvara Pranidhana- Which I keep having to copy and paste on my screen because the spelling trips me up- is simply the process of surrender. And even the word surrender is enough to scare most people away from this yogic observance. Very rarely do we use the word surrender in a positive sense. I tried to find a more suitable word but others were worse- abandonment, abdication, My favorite synonym was eating crow. *Smiles* What a funny way of putting it. So I’ve decided to rename this observance letting go, yielding or releasing. Even putting it as mildly as that this is still a tough thing to do. A lot of our societal beliefs centre on controlling every aspect of our life.

I watched a lady order a fancy coffee last week, one of those frapimocha latte thingers, and she watched the guy making it as she barked out orders “More caramel!” “Less expresso!” And by the time it was done she still wasn’t happy and she demanded a free coffee and even after she got that she said she’d be talking to the owner of the store, maybe even the district manager. Wow! Obviously this is the extreme side of our need for control. But sometimes it feels like we hold so tightly to the little things that we burn ourselves out over useless details.

And that’s the whole idea of Ishvara Pranidhana- slowly releasing our need to control every little thing. Another part of this practice is trusting in something greater than ourselves to send us in the right direction if we let it. I think this is another stumbling block for the practice because many people don’t like the word God and they don’t like the idea of trusting anything greater than themselves. I’m not here to promote religion, I wasn’t raised in it myself so I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but I offer the argument that there is ‘something’ greater setting the flow of our lives. Anyone who doubts that can think about all the chaos humans create in this world with our wars and our hate groups and all our fears. There are so many things that present a challenge to our species and yet we still hug each other and love one another and sometimes we hold a door for strangers. If the world was just a big melting pot of self created and controlled chaos than how could any of us find it in ourselves to do something for the sole benefit of other people and the world around us.

And that’s the true spirit of Ishvara Pranidhana. We may not always be able to physically help those around us but even setting a personal intention of putting the well being of people around us before ourselves, without concern to what gains this involves for us, is an important step in reaching inside and bringing the best part of ourselves to the surface.

But first we need to surrender to our own lives. Learning to give ourselves rest when we need it, and exercise when we need it and healthy food when our bodies would benefit, as well as forgiveness and love and all the other things we need to help us be healthy and whole so that we can have the health and energy to move past ourselves and start considering others.

It can be a challenge to find the balance we need in our lives but learning to let go of all the things we are trying to control one piece at a time helps bring us closer to that balance point.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this topic.
Happy thoughts! Namaste.