The Yoga Practice of Ishvara Pranidhana in a Global Pandemic

Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender And Let Go

We all want to feel in control of our lives. Some of us plan our days and weeks in advance, filing up our schedule with tasks, things that absolutely must get done for the cogs to keep turning, achieving our goals. In a way modern society and social media curates a message to strive, succeed and work hard to ‘live our best life’. There is a lot of pressure to control every aspect of ourselves, our careers, our bodies and our relationships. But are we really steering the wheel? What happens when something totally unexpected happens like crashing your car on your way to work causing disruption to your day, or even more unlikely, a worldwide pandemic meaning that life as you know it has changed for the foreseeable future.

The yoga practice of Ishvara Pranidhana, surrendering or devotion to a higher power, opens us up to experiencing life as it unfolds without resistance. Surrendering often has negative connotations like losing a battle, but instead think of it as surrendering our attachment to what is not serving us anymore. When ordinarily we might rely on our ego to decide which actions to take in our lives, we now must recognise that we have no control in these pandemic times. Practising Ishvara Pranidhana helps us to let go of this control and accept our current situation so that we can appreciate the simple joys of life and what is truly important. We may not be able to work right now, or our income has been reduced through no fault of our own. Public health measures mean that we can no longer go to the gym, yoga studio, restaurants or to the pub to meet friends. These restrictions on our lives are out of our hands. If our new situation causes anxiety, for our health or our finances, let’s surrender to this anxiety. Feel the physical sensations of panic but try not to attach to them. Acknowledge that we can do our best in this crisis, and only our best, we cannot do any more. Perhaps letting go of the big picture and instead fully experiencing and being present with what we’re doing and what we can do, redirecting energy away from worries that are beyond our control and towards our often rushed tasks like making a meal or simply being still and doing nothing.

We can extend the meaning of this practice to surrendering physically with rest and time off. We have been forced to take a break from planning, training and setting goals and have been offered more time at home. Without our daily commute, perhaps we can surrender to sleep longer, to rise slowly and mindfully. Maybe we can give up our gym sessions for a gentle walk. We must surrender our busy social lives, but this makes space for watching films or reading the books that we never had the time to read before now. Let’s open ourselves up to conscious relaxation of the mind and body. In this time alone, a break from normal life with nothing happening, we also have more time for valuable introspection. This is a chance to explore where we hold resistance. We can identify negative thoughts and surrender from any beliefs of unworthiness or inadequacy. Letting go of who we think we are, allowing us to be our true selves.

Ishvara Pranidhana embodies another relevant meaning to life in the current global crisis, and that is offering up the results of our actions to the divine or humanity. We are making these sacrifices as a community to protect the most vulnerable people in our society. There is no room for superiority or any other egotistical notions. By giving up our selfish desires and acting with the intention to serve the divine that is present within all living beings, we recognise that we are all one. We can even extend this practice to devoting time and energy to serve others in this crisis. We can offer our talents and skills to entertain, to help and to support our community. This can be as simple as doing shopping for an elderly neighbour, raising awareness and donating to a local fundraiser, or sharing skills through online classes. We may be socially isolating, but we can still contribute to society and help bring people together. By letting this experience to unfold while we surrender the results of our actions and devote our efforts to humanity, we can inspire peace and serenity within everyone we connect to and within ourselves.

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