When you hear or read the word “surrender”, what does it mean to you? Does it make you think of giving in, giving up, waving the white flag when you’ve lost the battle you’ve fought so hard to win? In yoga, surrendering is not losing, it’s not giving in—it is opening up to possibility, releasing worry, letting go of self-expectations, and living in the moment.
Surrender then, is not submission. Surrender is allowing your higher power—the universe, God, or whatever that bigger presence is for you—to guide you, if you allow it to. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali refers to this inner presence as Ishvara, our foremost teacher (Yoga Sutra I.26). “Through intimate listening to this voice within us, we begin to have a relationship with inner guidance in all aspects of our life.”
In yoga, people often struggle with certain poses. For example, balance poses: Tree, Eagle, Half Moon—I struggle with balance poses everyday, some days, more than others. I used to get angry with myself, that incessant monkey mind would rattle on and on, “Why can’t I do this? How can I be a yoga instructor if I can’t do this pose? What is wrong with me?”. Thoughts like those would fill my mind, allowing no room for mistake, no room for growth, and no room for inner guidance.
Slowly, as I continue my meditation practice—following my breath—I have learned to do the same in my yoga practice. When I stop trying so hard to be perfect, and allow my body to ease into the pose, when I follow my breath, and allow myself the option of making a mistake, I am more able to hold my balance.
Yoga is practice for living life. At the end of a yoga class or session, we take Savasana, Corpse Pose. Savasana is truly surrendering—it is allowing the body to assimilate all the benefits of the yoga practice, it is living in the present moment, following the breath.
To practice Savasana, follow these steps:
Lie on your back with knees bent. Keep your head centered. Extend your arms to the sides, palms facing up to accept energy from the universe. Turn the upper inner arms away from the trunk, and gently tuck the shoulder blades in, bringing a slight lift to the chest, yet not overarching the lower back. Maintain the arm position, and then stretch the legs out one by one. Allow the inner legs to roll outward and relax completely.
Allow your breath to flow smoothly in and out. Close your eyes and relax the facial muscles, beginning with the forehead and eyelids. Then relax the cheeks, lips, and tongue. (Relaxing your tongue will release tension in the face, which has a direct effect on the brain and mind.) Relax the throat and neck. Continue to bring attention to each part of the body, consciously relaxing each part, starting with the head and traveling all the way down to your feet. When the physical body is still and at rest, the breath naturally draws you inward toward the essence of yourself.
Learning to surrender is not easy, but it is important to remember that when you surrender, you are not losing the battle—in essence, you, the true “you” is winning.
“… Ishvara pranidhana focuses not on ego but on the sacred ground of being, it reunites us with our true Self.”
Reference: Ishvara Pranidhana: The Practice of Surrender. Shiva Rea. Updated:May 23, 2017. Original:Aug 28, 2007, www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/the-practice-of-surrender