Each month, I’ll post a new topic from Yoga Circles on this page so we can have a virtual Yoga Circles gathering right here on the site! The topic will change on (or about) the first of each month. Hope you’ll enjoy it!
This month’s topic is ISHVARA-PRANIDHANA (FAITH). Below the post are some discussion questions. I invite you to share answers in the comments, share the post, and help grow our virtual Yoga Circles community!
Note that I’ll be changing the topic each month, but I’m going to leave comments from previous months in the thread. All topics are taken directly from the text, which you can purchase here if you’re curious about previous discussions!
As we tap into the fire of tapas and learn more about ourselves through self-study (svadhyaya), we strip away layers of ego. Eventually, we reach a point beyond our intellect, and we need faith to go any further. Isvara-prandihana, the fifth niyama, is faith or belief in something greater than our individual selves. Without it, other practices are pointless.
In the yogic tradition, the “something greater” we revere is not outside of us. It’s an inner knowing that goes beyond the mind and the intellect. It is not us, but we are part of it in the same way a drop of water is not the ocean but is part of the whole body of water. We are part of the whole body of the universe, but we cannot understand it all with our minds.
Trusting God to Speak Through Us
As I writer, I practice isvara-pranidhana often. When I write, words that are not the creations of my mind or my ego often seem to come through me. In fact, I’m most productive and can function best when I let my inner knowing do most of the work. I also use the basic things my mind knows about grammar and punctuation and putting words together so they flow well in sentences, but that isn’t enough. In the same way, knowing ourselves (svadhyaya) is not enough. We need to become part of something greater and more profound. We need to have faith in something more.
I recently read an article about searching for meaning in life. The author, who is a yoga teacher and holistic health coach, took the surprising approach that we need to stop doing this! This seemed impossible and empty to me at first, but then I realized she was not saying there is no meaning; she was simply saying we don’t need to spend all our energy trying to figure out or understand that meaning. In other words, we need to practice isvara-pranidhana.
When we surrender to a higher power and allow that power to work through us, our energy expands. It takes faith to do this because our minds and egos want to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It’s scary to give up control, but as any wise person will tell you, the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. With so much that is mysterious, the only choice we have if we want to evolve spiritually is to trust a higher power and become part of that force.
It Takes a Universe
The choices we make as individuals affect the entire universe. This is a bold statement, but yogis believe we’re all connected. No, we can’t control or change the world on our own, but everything we do contributes, even if only in a tiny way. Do we want to be part of good or part of evil? Do we want to be love or do we want to be fear? To be love—to contribute to the greater good—we need to trust it exists and continually seek ways to connect our small selves to that greater truth. Here is where worship, prayer, mantra, meditation, and other spiritual practices are essential.
Virtual Yoga Circles: Questions for Discussion
How far do you think your sphere of influence reaches? Do you think your choices and actions affect the entire universe?
How often do you think about the meaning of your life? Has this changed as you’ve gotten older?
Do you trust a higher power? If you do, how difficult do you find it to surrender to that power? Can you describe a time recently when you’ve had to turn power over a greater truth?
Virtual Yoga Circles: Ideas for Follow-up Activities
Have someone lead a short, gentle yoga practice that ends with a long, meditative savasana, the pose of surrender. If no one is present who can lead the practice, use an online class or DVD.
Chant a mantra for surrender, such as “Om namo bhagavate vasudevay,” which can be translated as: “Om and salutations to the Indwelling One, substance of the Divine.”