The theme for November, Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender, devotion) is the last of the Niyamas discussed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
For many years of my life, this concept was a difficult one for me. Brought up in a fairly conservative version of Christianity, the performance of spiritual devotion always felt imposed, like something you had to do to prove you were good—because in my church experience, that was something you had to prove. It wasn’t a given.
Please know, I’m not saying this as a blanket statement about Christianity—I’m only referring to my own experience. And it’s my own experience I refer to when I say that the first time I stepped onto a yoga mat, there was something palpably different about what kind of assumptions were accompanying me there. I showed up in my early twenties, a somewhat rebellious maybe-atheist with a broken heart, unable to touch my toes, suffering from anxiety. I wasn’t there to learn about devotion. I just needed to feel like I could get through a day.
And that’s mostly what those early practices gave me: a way to get through a day. And then later, through weeks and months until over time my yoga practice became the most reliable thing in my world, the toolbox for building a life I found I was pretty happy to be living.
But it wasn’t just stress-relief or a calmer nervous system that came. There was a feeling that started to bubble up quietly when I practiced: a feeling that I was in touch with some kind of creative force, something alive and benevolent, and I wanted to devote myself to knowing it. I’m sure some people call it god. I have sometimes, but mostly not. Mostly I don’t even want to name whatever that mystery is. But I do want to live my life in a way that keeps me close to it.
I’m always curious, when I teach, whether those moments are happening in the room at any point. The quiet, reverent ones where someone feels a connection to some form of creative energy, and breathes themselves into an expression of devotion to it. I see it sometimes. I see it in the room when things get still.
And I see it other places, too. In my children’s faces when they are telling me about something they’re excited about. When I watch my musician friends play, and can see a steadying kind of stillness come over them, and they seem to have surrendered themselves to some beautiful bigger thing. Devotion can look like a million different things. As the poet Rumi said it: “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
We hope this month provides you with some opportunities to dive into what feels creative and alive to you, worthy of devoting yourself to. We feel lucky to get to share some of those moments with you!
Much love and thanks for reading,
Erin H/Indi Yoga