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Isvara pranidhana - The 5th Niyama





So, here's the last of the 5 niyamas in Master Patanjalis 8 limb path of Ashtanga Yoga, Isvara Pranidhana.


samādhisiddhir īśvarapraṇidhānāt (PYS 2:45)


"Through Ishvara-pranidhana, devotion to God, there is a realization of samadhi."

(translation from Jivamukti Yoga chant book)



Let's look at its meaning: (note, these Sanskrit words are missing the diacritical marks)

Isvara - Is = ruler, vara = the highest, also Lord, Master, Supreme God and personal God, that which you deem highest, the object of your devotion, highest power, trust in the process of life.

Pranidhana is made up of 2 parts, pranam is a loving greeting or to bow down to, Dana means offering or to give.

So Isvara pranidhana is to "loving bow down to that which you deem highest". Bowing down is not in about giving up your strength and conviction but is an act of surrender, worship, devotion, or something you give your attention too. You could also say it's about trusting in Life & forces beyond your control.

Samadhi = absorption, profound meditation

Siddhih - accomplishment, success, or supernatural power

So samadhi siddhir is a state of mind that is incredibly stable but not rigid. It's a clear and open state of mind, free from our personal agenda.


This concept is presented in the yoga sutras as a highest power, it doesn't give a name or form to it. However, you might like to for example, Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, kali, Durga, etc. The previous sutras on svadhyaya may have revealed your ishta devata already (desired deity or chosen ideal form).


At this point, I guess I should reiterate that yoga isn't a religion, it's the science of the mind & life, with tonnes of practices and practical application to inspire you to reconnect with your true Self. To look at what is "Lording" over you, what are you giving your attention to. Some of you might give the highest a form (e.g. something you can see), some of you may not. Whatever works for you. Isvara pranidhana is the fruit (result) of the 5 niyamas.


At this point, I guess I should reiterate that yoga isn't a religion, it's the science of the mind & life, with tonnes of practices and practical application to inspire you to reconnect with your true Self. To look at what is "Lording" over you, what are you giving your attention to. Some of you might give the highest a form, some of you may not. Whatever works for you.


So, here's your first exercise...

Write down all the things your p*ssed about.... (it'll take you about 30 seconds, because it's got fuel, they're your neurosis, the place of the often subconscious, continuously reoccurring thoughts. (They're known as samskaras in yoga, they make up some of your personality traits, the way you think, feel and consequently behave.) It might look a little something like this:

Why does (let's call him) Eric have to be so messy, he never cleans up after himself?

How can they afford to do all this cool stuff, when I'm X...?

What is wrong with my body, why am I feeling...X?

Why am I so rubbish at X?

Jeez, I love my kids...No I hate them, no, they're ok, gad damn!

I wish had X?

Why is my yoga teacher telling me all this stuff, I don't understand, or I can't do...maybe yoga isn't for me...


This exercise is to give you an opportunity to look at what is "Lording" over you, what are you giving your attention to. At this point, I guess I should reiterate that yoga isn't a religion, it's the science of the mind & life, with tonnes of practices and practical application to inspire you to reconnect with your true Self.


Note: Don't get bogged down in this list making, I guarantee you've got a lifetimes work in just a few sentences!


Now let's turn our attention to "samadhi siddhir" for your second exercise...

Close your eyes, sit up nice and tall, take some deep breaths, let yourself be full of breath and life force, or you could say the force of life. Now turn your attention and drop your mind, and sense of self into your heart. Spend some time here in quiet meditation envisioning your Divine ideal (ishta devata), the prescence of something limitless & larger than yourself in and around you. If you already have an idea of what that looks like, go ahead, and connect with That. Krishna, Jesus, the Buddha, the Goddess, the Earth, the Universe, your dog, your children, the sun, the moon, the limitless heart, the light, the breath, the highest power, or life itself.

Then visualise yourself in the loving presence of that, let yourself bask in that, loving awareness. That is your ishta-devata (cherished divinity).


If you're still not feeling it, listen to some mantra (as per the previous blog on svadhyaya). These are your means to connect with the different energies & personalities of the divine. There are many, many, many different types of personalities, they are all divine. They are called personalities, because its personal to you. The energy of the divine may speak to you, you may feel a connection to that through listening to or repeating the mantra yourself.

If all else fails, Patanjali tells us that "tasya vacakah pranavah" God is represented in the sacred symbol of aum, called pranava in the yoga sutras. Anyway, I digressed.


Part 3... Now in the loving presence of your divine ideal, hand over/surrender your sh*t from exercise 1. Start with the first one on your list, it's probably got the most fuel but try to take the loadedness out of it. Hold it, acknowledge it's there like a dear friend then with sincerity, gently breathe it away. You can imagine it flying off into the universe or being held by your divine ideal, so you don't have to. It's not yours to hold onto anymore. You can do this with the good things to, your absolute joys in life, hand that over too so it may be shared, this way you are relieving yourself of selfishness and pride. The mind is addicted to our stories and identifications, resolve to go beyond them. Whatever comes up, offer it up. With a pure and sincere heart and you will eventually and inevitably be free. Your cherished ideal expects nothing from you, ever. So, hand it over. Let that sh*t go!


Part 4...After you've sat there a while and anything that has fuel has started to reside (like a fire that's starting to die down) take a step back and try to rest and pause in the space between your thoughts. Don't try to explain or understand the thoughts. Just be right there with whatever you're experiencing, in pure awareness. Let the breath, breathe the body. Let the divine force of life, breathe the body, while you watch, as the impartial witness.


Now you can take this into life. Practice seeing all of life as divine. Each other being you encounter, see them as divine personalities, with no differentiation between "I like this person" "I don't like this person". When there is a sense of "I don't like this person, go back to your list, see if the reason you don't like this person is a reflection of some aspect of your personality and then repeat the steps mentioned above, remember your expansive divine ideal and hand it over. You can also practice experiencing each asana as divine. Feel as though it's the divine chanting when you chant. The divine is seeing when you see. The divine is cooking when you cook. The divine is making a mess with their toys in the living room....it goes on and on and is pure expression of divine life force.


I hope this helps.


Acknowledgments to Conor Byrnes Author of the Jivamukti Focus for Dec 23. And Embodying the Yoga sutras by Ranju Roy & David Charlton.





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