Ishvarapranidhana means love and surrender to the divinity within the
In Sanskrit Ishvara = creative source, purusha, (the authentic self which is
eternal) pure consciousness, God, Goddess or Supreme Guru. Pranidhana = with
sincerity, dedication and devotion, practicing the presence, surrendering to the
fruits of practice.
I like to interpret it as deep platonic love for the creative, source of pure
consciousness that is bigger and more powerful than us. Why should we have a
problem with surrendering to our own serene, innate, luminous force that lives
inside us?
For a western mind, caught up with these words that have become redundant for
us. We feel that this is almost impossible. We can’t fully surrender to our loved
ones or partners, how do we surrender to a higher, knowing, loving force?
Keely came to me in a state, at 45 she felt that she had gone through a mid-life
crisis and was at a loss as to what to do. She had conducted a year, long affair
with a man other than her husband, but it all had to come to an end once her
spouse found out. Keely had been given an ultimatum and couldn’t break up with
her partner especially after 15 years and initially, she selfishly wanted to keep the
two relationships going. However presented with a fait accompli like this she was
in a quandary.
I suggested the fifth niyama (observances for ourselves on the eight limbed–path
of Patanjali’s yoga sutras, (Chapter II, verse 32) – Ishvara Pranidhana or I.P. as I
would like to call it. The groundwork has to be done through the other four
niyamas first of purif ication, contentment, burning through obstructions and
cultivating self-study and study in order for I.P. to innately arise. Keely knew
about the niyamas as a long time student of mine and this is why she was so
upset that she had allowed herself to ignore them, as she knew she could not
have carried on this affair if she had tried to observe them.
The Samkhya system of Indian Vedic philosophy defines the language of yoga.
Patanjali accepts the theory that it is the clarification of advancement. How can
we advance out of the ‘me’ syndrome into the wider and bigger picture of a life
lived virtuously and well? I suggested to Keely to surrender to a better nature, a
better life, a song of true and platonic love, to a soul, which has no boundaries,
pride or stipulations, to a source/Goddess within her. Surrender yourself to a
higher purpose. This was the only way to deal with the stress and tension she
had unleashed on herself.
Fighting against feelings of despair and guilt and hatred of herself she felt that
this was a last resort, But Patanjali believes that this crisis response, can be an
essential ongoing practice. As B. K. S. Iyengar wrote in Light on the Yoga Sut ras,
“Through surrender the aspirant’s ego is effaced, and . . . grace . . . pours down
upon him like a torrential rain.”
How was Keely going to put I.P. into practice? A start is visualizing and bringing
up an image of a specific goddess or god, representing powers, attributes,
qualities and virtues of the Supreme Being, or the Divine nature within. Since I.P.
focuses not on our ego but on the inviolable ground of being, it reunites us with
our true Self. I.P. then is a pathway through the obstacles of our ego toward our
divine nature, which is freedom, peace, grace, clarity and unconditional love.
As I live and teach in India, where worship of the divine is part of everyday life. I
pointed out to her why I prostrate in front of my Devi (consecrated, living
energy) before starting every class. Through this devotion to her qualities of
absolute love, kindness, forgiveness, fortitude, grace and positivity, I am able to
carry this through my teaching and use an asana class into transforming people’s
lives off the mat.
Anand an inspiring yoga philosophy teacher who works with me always asks
western students to cultivate some form of bhakti (devotion) or surrender to the
Divine. This is the way of the path to enlightenment – Samadhi.
There is no obstacle, emotion or inner state, which is beyond the influence of I.P.
Even if you are a natural bhakti yogi or yogini or a complete cynic, whether you
are performing a straightforward task like cleaning your house or a daunting task
like a tough conversation, whether you feeling confused or guilty, the whole
breadth of life is in the orbit of I.P. When we listen to our true intuition or heart
and become aware how each action and emotion is a constant connection to our
higher Selves, our hearts become aware of the divine in everything.
©Copyright by Sonja Appel
Sonja Appel is the founding Director of The Sushumna Yoga School &
Studios in Goa, India.

Author's Bio: 

Sonja moved from London to India 8 years ago and is certified by the British School of Yoga in Hatha & Meditation & is also a certified Vibrant Living Teacher in Hatha Flow. Sonja has studied intensely mainly in India and London and believes that living yoga in it's essence helps to impart her knowledge better and more succinctly. She started practicing yoga fifteen years ago and has thirteen intensive years of experience teaching Yoga and twenty five years experience of teaching Pilates in London, India and Nepal. She is also registered with Yoga Alliance, E-RYT 200 (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, with Yoga Alliance for 200+ hours of Teacher Training.)

Sonja has devised her own practice in yoga called ‘Sushumna’ which is a carefully worked out vinyasa flow, meditation or pranayama, that allows one to do the practice as a meditation and in the process, helps to unleash within ourselves, all of our innate, kundalini Shakti. The flow is spontaneous and she mixes up the asanas in interesting ways, with the help of inspiring music, always ending with a deep relaxing meditation (Yoga nidra). As in Ashtanga - drishti, bandhas, ujjayi breath, counting & vinyasa is always employed.

"I believe in a holistic approach to the study of yoga, giving my students a well-rounded yoga education. I combine alignment techniques of the body, with breath techniques for calming and balancing the mind: Focus and visualization, to balance body and brain. Chanting and music for inspiration and concentration and also Meditation, (the ultimate reason for the practice of asana). I also believe that it is not progression through the 6 series' of Ashtanga that defines Wholeness, but rather a wider focus on all the limbs."

Sonja keeps up with a daily Mysore self-practice as taught to her by her late Guruji, Sri K Pattabhi Jois of Mysore and her own brand of Vinyasa flow. Sonja's Teachers are from all over the world and have greatly helped and influenced her, they are: Sharat Rangaswamy, Saraswati Rangaswamy, Shri Sheshadri, Cathy Louise Broda, Leela Miller, John Scott, Michael Gannon, Edward Clarke, David Swenson, Claire Best, Anna Ashby, Daniel Aaron, Simon Borg Olivier, Rolf & Marci Naujokat, Emil Wendel (yoga philosophy), Yat Malmgren (movement psychology), Mercia Hetherington (Pilates & Ballet) and Imogen Claire (Ballet). She has a B.A. in Classical Theatre and Acting and an M.A. in Contemporary Dance. She comes from a professional performing arts background and has found these two disciplines to be invaluable in balancing and maintaining calmness in her life.

Sonja also conducts workshops in Ashtanga, Sushumna Vinyasa Flow, Restorative Yoga, Mysore self-practice, Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow & Sushumna Pranayama & Meditation, acting & dance in India & Internationally.

Sonja does not believe in organized religion or dogma.