Surrender to God, Surrender the fruits of your actions to God

Isvarapranidhana is the fifth of the five niyamas (observances toward our selves). It is about the quality of intention that we bring to our actions. This quality of awareness can be quite variable; sometimes we are busy with activities and yet hardly conscious of what we are doing, and sometimes we are aggressively focused on our actions as we fiercely work toward our goals. With isvarapranidhana, we aim to balance out these extreme tendencies.

In his book The Heart of Yoga, TKV Desikachar says “Our normal course of action is first to decide on a goal and then, bearing it in mind, start working toward it.” There is a lot of value in having goals for ourselves. Often, however, we can cling to our specific vision of our goal, and not recognize other options that are open to us. We run the risk of missing any happy accidents or discoveries along the way. When we allow our minds and spirits to open up to the limitless possibilities around us, we are able to soften habits of excessive resistance and control. Ideally, we can set forth toward our goals by focusing our attention of the effort and intention of each step along the way, and leaving the outcome open to be discovered later.

The asana practice (the practice of yoga poses) gives us many chances to work on this approach. Imagine that you are about to try a pose that is very hard for you. Right away you may start to think: “Oh no, this pose is too hard for me! When will I ever be able to do it as well as the other people here?” or “I’m going to push really hard and then maybe I’ll get this pose right!” Right away, your brain gets involved by remembering your past experiences with this posture and also by imagining a specific future. Perhaps this pose will never come easily for you! So let go of that burden, and use this opportunity to perform the pose with awareness and the graceful intention of opening yourself to any outcome it will offer you.

“In kriya yoga there exists the free choice of accepting God or not. The meaning of isvarapranidhana in the context of kriya yoga relates much more to a special kind of attention to action: we place value on the quality of the action, not on the fruits that can develop out of it.”

“…if we concentrate more on the quality of our steps along the way than on the goal itself, then we also avoid being disappointed if we perhaps cannot attain the exact goal that we had set for ourselves. Paying more attention to the sprit in which we act and looking less to the results our actions may bring us – this is the meaning of isvarapranidhana.”
~ TKV Desikachar, Heart of Yoga

Here are some ideas on bringing isvarapranidhana into your yoga practice and your life:
* Next time you notice your mind spilling over with thoughts about the past or the future, take a few deep breaths. Experience this moment, and see all that it has to offer. Let your eyes close and feel that you are surrounded by countless options.

* With each inhale and with each exhale, silently repeat “surrender.” Feel this release from control and prediction. Let your mind and your emotions and your physical body all open up to the feeling of surrender. Allow the air to flow freely in and out of the lungs, in and out of the bloodstream. Allow the blood to flow freely through your body. Allow the energy of life to vibrate in you, from you, around you.

* With each yoga posture, focus on Curiosity, Interest, Awareness, & Sensitivity. These concepts take us into a deeper quality of action, and further from trying to control the outcome of our actions. Notice that when you are occupied with an interest in this moment, your mind is freed from the concern of past & future.

Loving recognition to TKV Desikachar, and Vanda Scaravelli (“Interest, Awareness & Sensitivity” – from Awakening the Spine)

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Updated January 10, 2005