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yogi’s guide to public health: ishvara pranidhanani

Our last blog published at the end of May, as demands for social justice began gaining ground across the country. It was and is an important time to pause and listen. As a brand and as the individuals behind the brand, we’ve been deepening our understanding of racial injustice in America and investigating how we can be more actively antiracist in all aspects of our lives, personal and professional.

This groundswell of activism is a poignant time to consider the fifth niyama, or observance, which is ishvara pranidhanani, the practice of surrender.

Surrender is a challenging concept, especially when we have so much work to do. Surrender typically implies complacency, resignation or giving up. In the yoga tradition however, to surrender is not to quit.

In fact, quite the opposite.

In yoga, we surrender our ignorance and then we get to work. As discussed in the previous blog on svadhaya, the nature of individual existence is that we are fundamentally connected to every other living being. Yoga asks us surrender any thinking otherwise and honor the collective. 

Yoga frames the collective in terms of the divine, but if that feels like too much of a stretch, even our shared secular humanity is remarkable enough to praise.

Fighting the spread of COVID-19 demands that we surrender our individual agendas and honor the collective. The practice of wearing face masks exemplifies this shift in priorities, as the mask doesn’t protect the person who wears it but rather all the other people they encounter.

Fighting centuries-old systemic racism demands that we surrender our false assumptions about racial hierarchies and honor the collective. We are all equally human, and until the policies that impact each of our lives result in equity for all, we must demand change at every level.

Surrender is a recognition that we are all in this together. And surrender is just the beginning. The Yoga Sutras don’t end with ishvara pranidhanani … rather they lead us next into the third limb of yoga, asana, a topic on which experts abound and which requires no blogging from us… We can however recommend some of our favorites.