Diving into the Niyamas: Isvara-Pranidhana

The fifth Niyama – one of the eight limbs of yoga that guides one on self-care and personal practice – is isvara pranidhana, which can be seen as faith in a higher power. Now that is a big topic, and I wasn’t even sure how to write about it. And even as I’ve started this post, I’m still not sure.

So I start with the higher power, which to me I often think of the universe. When I think of something bigger than myself, I think first of this planet and all of its interconnected ecosystems. Now maybe this is also because I finished this post in Montana, and spent the other night looking up at so many stars with no blocking from any city lights. All I could think was that I am such a small part of this giant universe.

There is so much that can happen. And while it might mean a lot to me, what does it mean to the larger world? More than that, how can I use this view to comprehend more of what happens to me when I get so caught up to how my life currently flows?

In his The Path of the Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachmman writes “Faith in the unknown can neutralize fear of the unknown.” From time to time, we will face unknown outcomes or situations. And yes, it can be scary. But maybe the way to frame it, is to look at those changing circumstances as opportunity. I may not know what’s going to happen moving to a new city (something I’ve done a few times!), but if I approach that with excitement and even a chance of adventure, I’m at a much better place starting off.

That’s the unknown of big, life-changing events, but every morning I start my day not knowing what might happen. Sure, I know my schedule and where I need to be and when. But what else could happen? Maybe I’ll hear from an old friend, or decide to go to a new restaurant or park or some other site which I’ve not visited? What might I discover or discover about myself if I do that?

This is of course suggesting good outcomes. I may be going about my day and receive bad news. But I strive to keep my optimisim. This then comes back to Bachman’s writing a bit. If I only expect the worst unknown, I could too easily become paralyzed by that fear. But if I can try to look at each new day as an opportunity, I can maybe more bravely face the unknown.

Easier said than done, right? But the saying that reminds us that yoga is  practice is too true. It is a practice, and I’m not going to give up practicing because one day I let myself get worked up about whatever might happen.

This is the part of a series of posts for The Mat yoga studio, sharing my thoughts and observations as a student only. The views and opinions are my own.


Patricia returned to Texas after spending several years on both coasts. She's a writer, amateur photographer and traveler.

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