5th Niyama- Ishvara pranidhana-Surrender to the Divine
Surrender, as we know it in our society, is looked upon as failure, a giving up of oneself or defeat. In yoga, surrender is a means by which we achieve the ultimate and experience our full potential. It is looked at as successfully mastering a posture, a meditation, and/or The Self. Surrender is having trust in what is. Just like the trapeze artist has to trust the rhythm of the swing and let go to get to the other side, surrender is being in the flow and knowing when to let go and then floating between the bars. There is nothing certain of what will take place but simply trusting and letting go anyway.
Surrender opens us up to the idea that there is something greater then ourselves, something more intelligent than our thoughts, something that has a greater plan in play and we, as the participants, are simply doing our part. There are many names people have given this intelligence ranging from God, Braham, Allah, Universal Consciousness, cosmos, the matrix, etc. To practice this Niyama is to devote everything we do to the Divine. The more we surrender to the flow of Divine Will, the easier we move through life sharing our gifts and experiencing life. When we resist surrendering to the natural order, life can become an uphill battle and we experience tension or struggles. One way to know that you are not in the flow is when you are “trying” to do something, or” forcing” something to take place, like me trying to write this article. When I am “trying” to put things on paper only to get the article done, I get frustrated and stuck, not really knowing what words to say. When I surrender to where I am, allowing myself to be in the moment, then the words seem to flow out of me effortlessly.
Many people get hung up on the idea of something being Divine. But, when we look around us, there does seem to be a Natural order and flow to life. Let’s use the cycle of water as an example and have a little fun with our imagination. We know that water evaporates, and returns back to the earth in the form of water droplets. Now let’s imagine for a moment that this is the same as your cycle of life. A drop of water is formed (this is your birth); you move through your life collecting experiences and circumstances thinking you are separate from the other drops of water. Depending on these experiences you may judge yourself as less than or better than the other drops; you may compare yourself to them which contributes to you feeling good or bad about yourself. From time to time things feel really good and you move through the air effortlessly, other times you hang out in a cloud feeling stuck. You often look down to earth and see a grand body of water called the ocean. You admire, in awe, its size and beauty and long to be free flowing like it is. Then one day, when the desire is strong enough, you let go and drop from the sky and merge with the ocean only to find out that you were always part of this magnificent flow and cycle all along.
This Niyama does not require us to give up our physical body to feel and remember that there is more to us and life than what our ego wants us to believe. By practicing surrender on the mat we are training to let go of the tension in the body that restricts healing, clarity, and connection to that infinite part of ourselves. When we hold tension in the body it is the same as fighting the natural flow of Universal order. Whether you are a yogi that loses yourself in a Vinyasa flow or take your practice off the mat integrating it through your day with intention and devotion, this final Niyama simply asks that we live in surrender to this natural flow and do our part in the play of life.