The last of the niyamas is ishvara pranidhana, which literally translates to “surrender to the Lord.”
There are many different paths available to find your own comfortable means of ishvara pranidhana. Every human being is different, and who or what they surrender to may be as well. Whether it be dedication to a higher power or ritual in the daily activities of your life, find your means to connect with the universe at large.
The greater grace
The purpose of ishvara pranidhana is to see the bigger picture—and you do this by surrendering to something bigger than yourself. You shift your perspective from the ego-centric “I” to the greater grace of being alive. You approach your life, practice, and day-to-day tasks with a spirit of offering versus of taking. And you stay connected to love and openness no matter what arises.
Dedication to the yogic path
Since ishvara pranidhana marks the end of the yamas and niyamas, the first two limbs of yoga, let’s examine the way each of them can contribute to the daily practice of dedication.
- Ahimsa: When you practice non-harming and nonviolence, you are serving the greater good of all living things around you. You are surrendering to love and gentleness.
- Satya: The truth helps to keep you open. When you engage in lies, you close yourself off from the truth of reality. In altering your perspective, you lose sight of the path and the big picture.
- Asteya: By not stealing physical or emotional items, or even time from other people, you stay connected to the greater good. You are dedicating yourself to being considerate and kind to others.
- Brahmacharya: When you show restraint, both sexually and otherwise, you are not taking more than you need and leaving less for others. Once again, you are helping the greater good.
- Aparigraha: To be unattached to thoughts, possessions, and outcomes will help you to move your mind’s focus away from the ego. You can let things exist as they should, instead of trying to control them, and practice the art of letting go.
- Saucha: When you are pure of mind, you will be pure of intent. Each action you take will be backed by love and understanding, as there is nothing to muddy the waters of focus behind your actions.
- Santosha: Since the goal here is to be happy with what you have, as well as with yourself, this niyama allows you to focus on the needs of others.
- Tapas: Much like saucha, when you have burned away your impurities, your heart is free to act with clear intention. This, in turn, allows you to more easily connect to the greater good.
- Svadhyaya: When you know yourself, you act from a place of sincerity and truth. If you do not know yourself, your actions will stem from a place of confusion, sometimes without your awareness. Take the time to get to know your true self.
Virtue is its own reward
To get to ishvara pranidhana, we must first pass through all of the other yamas and niyamas—and this requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Each of these sutras builds upon the others; and as you get more comfortable with one, you will notice the others come more easily, too.
You may also notice that moving through your days with dedication and offering does not feel like work, but rather something that you want to do. Remember, in the end, the love and devotion you extend to the universe will come back to you and be its own reward.