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Yoga in Practice - Ishvara Pranidhana

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Jul 23, 2008
Ishvara Pranidhana is sometimes referred to as the last Niyama (restraint or moral observance). Ishvara Pranidhana means to surrender to a "Higher Power." Some Yoga teacher training courses skim over this subject to avoid potential conflicts.

Why should the concept of surrender to a higher power be a potential source of conflict? If you look at the principle closely, this is to put your faith and trust in a higher power's hands. At the same time, there is a problem with describing what that higher power is.

Humans have struggled with the concept of a higher power since the beginning. There are no shortage of names for The Great Spirit, The Divine, The Father, God, Allah, Yahweh, and Brahman. We have all heard many more names, and there are many religions to complement our variety of beliefs.

Yet, putting our trust into the hands of God is not a call to exterminate every person who does not agree with our religious beliefs. Intolerance and fundamentalism have been a "tribal minded" curse on humankind since the beginning.

If we observe the social behavior of chimpanzees, we can look back into a "window of time." We can observe primal behavior and the chimpanzee's simplistic approach to tribal life. Although they appear peaceful, sometimes chimpanzees hunt other monkeys and kill each other.

Although humans are a unique primate species, we also display a tribal mindset through intolerance and violence toward each other. Human behavior has not completely evolved beyond massive warfare, genocide, and violence.

Realizing this - who is prepared to listen to an "outsider's" concept of God? When we surrender to God, how will we know what God wants us to do? In fact, we know what is right, and what is wrong, but it is very difficult to walk the right path.

If we really want to practice Ishvara Pranidhana, we must practice all of the other Yamas and Niyamas. To live a life of non-harming, honesty, charity, purity, contentment, discipline, and spiritual learning is a difficult path.

To be pure in our thoughts is nearly impossible because everyone has negative thoughts at one time or another. With thousands of thoughts running through our minds, they cannot all be pure and good. Most people do not take action based on fleeting negative thoughts because they live according to a moral code of conduct.

Therefore, we inherently know what is right and what is wrong. If you look into the moral guidelines of societies, from opposite corners of the earth, ethics are very similar.

Ishvara Pranidhana is to live an ethical lifestyle of non-harming, honesty, charity, purity, contentment, and discipline. All we have to do is let God handle the details.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. To receive Free Yoga videos, Podcasts, e-Books, reports, and articles about Yoga, please visit: http://www.yoga-teacher-training.org/member-offer.html
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