We have finally found ourselves at week 10! If you have stayed with me each week to read about the Yamas and Niyamas, I want to take a moment to thank you. My deepest gratitude, I am grateful that there are people who want to read what I write. The final Niyama is Ishwara Pranidhana; living with dedication to the divine, self-surrender. It is through our act of surrender we are able to access Samadhi; union with the divine, which is our eighth limb on the yoga tree. We practice using all the tools on the Yoga Sutra tree to work towards Samadhi. We use the Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara (turning inward,) Dharana (concentration,) Dhyana (meditation,) to hopefully one day reach Samadhi.
This Niyama does not need to be practiced with a specific religion in mind or any religion at all, at least from where I'm standing. This is about you and how you communicate with your higher power. Whatever you call that higher power, does not matter; God, Goddess, Jehovah, Yahweh, Buddha, or the Universe (my favorite.) What does matter though, is having that relationship. This relationship could have been established many years ago or yesterday. And it may have changed over the years. My higher power is no longer the God I called upon when I was a child kneeling in prayer. For most of my teenage years and through my 20s, I considered myself an atheist/agnostic. I wasn't sure about there being an ultimate being or creator. Somewhere between then and now, I have found a relationship with my higher power. When I look around at nature and see lakes, trees, and beautiful blue skies. . . I know something has to be responsible for the beauty I see. When I sit and think about the human body and how miraculous it is, how it heals itself and innately knows how to bring itself back into balance; I know there has to be a higher power, more intelligent than me, who designed this place we call Earth. And then when I look up at the stars and think about the infinite Universe or how vast the ocean is; I feel an energy and power that is responsible for all of this. I can't help but to be thankful when I think of all the beautiful creatures, things, and places on this planet. I am thankful for the air I breathe, for the body I inhabit, and for the spirit that keeps me connected to it all. When I focus my attention on nature, that is when I feel most connected to my higher power. Find your way to connect with your higher power. Maybe it's in meditation or prayer. Maybe a walk on the beach or amongst the trees. Wherever and however you commune with your higher power is up to you.
As we practice our Yamas and Niyamas on and off the mat, we practice Ahimsa (non-violence) with the most importance of all practices, the next is Ishwara Pranidhana. When we choose to let go and allow ourselves to surrender to a higher being, we let love flow through us. Our yoga practice has given us tools to be who we are at our very core, our essence. We no longer need to pretend to be someone else. Our devotion to our higher power becomes evident when we are giving and expecting nothing in return. We give because that is our way to show our gratitude for what we have been given. We share our gifts with the people around us and we choose to be of service. When we give, we get more back.
Obviously, yoga is huge part of my life. It began as a way to relieve stress and the more I practiced, the more I knew I needed yoga in my life. When I finally made the scary decision to enroll in teacher training, I did not expect yoga to become what it did in my life. My yoga teacher training was life-changing. It put many things in perspective and it helped me to realize what was no longer in alignment with how I wanted to live my life. When I made the choice to leave public education and pursue teaching yoga full-time, I knew it was the right decision. I knew then, that my Dharma, my path, was to teach yoga. As time goes on, I see how my path becomes even more clear. I didn't decide to teach yoga to become a yoga-lebrity on Youtube, to become rich, or popular. I did it to serve; to help people heal themselves. I know that not everyone will like me or how I teach. And I'm okay with that because that means I am being authentic. As I always say, I don't want to be everyone's cup of tea. If everyone likes me, that means I am doing something wrong and not being true to me, which wouldn't be practicing Satya (truth.) Teaching is something that comes natural to me because I love to share knowledge. The only difference now, is the content that I teach.
When we "surrender and surrender some more," as one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Gabby Bernstein says, we place our faith and trust in the Divine. We aren't trying to control or manipulate outcomes, we just go with the flow and we live our lives in the moment. How freeing, right? Now, this doesn't mean we don't take personal responsibility for our actions, it just means we aren't attaching to any particular outcome, and we trust there is a Divine plan. We don't know what the future holds or how the rest of our lives will unfold. Ishwara Pranidhana is placing trust and faith in something greater than ourselves and knowing it will all work out to benefit all. At least, that's what I'm hoping for. Again, I don't have all the answers, but I think I have an idea. I know I can't control outcomes or people; all I can control is myself and my response to life. And I choose to let go and live free, with no attachments to cause my own suffering. Again, that's what I'm working towards and constantly practicing. Find your purpose and be of service to the world. And then let go of the results. Trust, that the Universe has your back!