Those astute to my teaching and blogs will notice how much I enjoy creating playlists for classes, especially those based on a theme. Today the sounds of "Sweet Surrender" invade my mind and lead to this song. Perhaps a distraction, I'd rather think of it as a way of connecting internal thoughts to outside vibrations, and in this case thinking about Ishvarapranidhana, how to surrender The Self, thoughts, actions, Dharma to the greater good.
Teaching physical postures is easy, sharing your experiences and thoughts on God, religion, that is another story. So this bring us to the fifth (and last) Niyama, the practice of Ishvarapranidhana, surrendering to our source/deity/God we can find peace.
Up to a certain point in my life I believed there was no God, could not fathom how on Earth this concept ever became mainstream. How could "He" allow for so much suffering and pain? So instead of attending church, I went to the laboratory, dedicated my life to learning, learning to learn, applying what I have learned and helping others to learn. I have spent a considerable amount of time in the gym, in classes, cardio equipment, yoga classes, Pilates classes, with Physical Therapists, personal trainers, Acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors to help keep my physical body in balance so that I can continue all that I do and dream of doing. And I continue to self-study sound familiar?
And yet for years the spiritual side of yoga left me blank, empty, I never quite could connect to it like a Warrior I, Navasana or even Pigeon poses (yes, I love pigeon pose...) or even pranayama practices.
Until one day I was watching the 2014 series with my youngest son Cosmos with Neil Degrasse Tyson, it was so familiar and then it hit me that I remembered watching the earlier series with Carl Sagan MANY years prior. So in true fashion, I researched this series on my own, it was a little too old for my teenager to watch.
In his speaking about the physcial nature of the Cosmos, Sagan spoke of the rules of physics and how they applied to our being. There was my epiphany, having studded very little physics in my earlier years, this was all new to me. God could simply be the sum total of rules and equations that brings order to the Universe. We do not need to identify, personify, A God (you know that dude with a long white beard that lives up in the clouds) we need to simply surrender to all that is, was and ever will be. Surrender your identity to the Universe, you are simply a product of space dust.
So now in teaching about yoga, the union of mind, body, breath, soul I can easily disconnect concepts of religion and engage in concepts of the Rules of Nature. Oh, and if you need any questions anwsered about physics, I defer to that child I sat with all those years ago who just completed his first year of studdying Astrophysics at PSU. Yeah, that is how The Universe works.
Moving onward, and inward, come to your Place in Space (your mat for now) and simply surrender, sing the tune if you need to. Our sequence is designed with the intention of preparing the body for a long seated posture (Sukhasna) for an extended period to allow for a meditation practice.
- Begin standing and explore movements of each of the major joints, fingers, hands, ankles, elbows, shoulders, toes, ankles, knees, hips, neck. Simply permit yourself to move freely, explore what is happening to your physical self here and now. This is your Self-Study, Svadhyaya.
- Follow with Sun Salutations and modify as needed to help generate heat, to help deepen the connection to movement, fluidity and willingness to release. This is your Tapas.
- Make your way to the mat, connect to a sequence through the chakra centers including Sufi grinds (root), Baddha Konasana (sacral), Navasana (naval), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (if possible work with movement and arms reaching back over head; heart chakra), simple neck rolls, and Matsyasana if it is part of your practice (throat chakra). For the third eye try some eye yoga movement, this may take a lot longer than intended if you notice your eyes are fatigued or if you spend extended amounts of time at a computer. Inversions may or may not be appropriate for your experience level, consider Dolphin pose. This sequence is for cleansing the chakra energy, going back to that first Niyama, Sauca (cleanliness).
- Complete the sequence with a supported Savasana, using bolsters/blankets/sandbags/eye pillow to allow yourself to completely surrender in preparation for Ishvarapranidhana. Find Santosha here, permit yourself to be content with the effort, consider samadhi.
As for the meditation itself, well, that is up to you! Some of my favorite meditations include:
- 61 Point Meditation
- Yoga Nidra
- Countless Kundalini Meditations
Research, ask your yoga instructor, friends, other practitioners their preferred methods of meditation. If you are new to this practice, consider a guided meditation such as Yoga Nidra, many options are available online.
Continue this practice off the mat by recognizing thoughts and actions as a means of surrendering to your God/Universe. How would you link these into your purpose and Ishvarapranidhana,
~Peace and Blessings
I hope you have enjoyed this series of study of the Niyamas. If you are interested in continuing a personal practice and need guidance, support, shared energy, please contact me to discuss your needs.