Yoga is a spiritual practice that originated over 5,000 years ago. Its was created as a path to enlightenment, as a way to connect with the Divine. Many people are surprised when I inform them that there is a spirituality behind the physical practice of yoga. In the West, we gravitate toward the Hatha Yoga, or the physical practice. But there are actually many more layers to yoga that delve deeply into human spirituality.
The best thing about the spirituality of yoga is that it can be adapted into any religion or philosophy that you already possess. The goal of yoga is to experience enlightenment, or a deeper connection to both the physical world and the spiritual world.
Sri Ramakrishna was a yogi in 1800s who made it his life’s work to bring people of all religions together. In fact, he found enlightenment by individually practicing Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Swami Satchidananda, another great yogi who passed in 2002, created Integral Yoga. At his ashram in the hills of western Virginia called Yogaville, Satchidananda created the LOTUS temple, which stands for Light of Truth Universal Shrine. The LOTUS temple celebrates all religions and philosophies, including science, secularism, and religions not yet created.
One way in which yoga is inclusive of all religions is through the concept of Ishvarapranidhana, or surrender to a higher power. We all believe in a higher power in some way, shape, or form. If you practice the Judeo-Christian faith, you surrender to God, in Islam, you surrender to Allah, and if you are an atheist, you surrender to Mother Nature, because your body exists under the constraints of time.
The concept of Isharapranidhana is meant to be comforting in times of need (see Celebrate Life), and it is meant to deepen our sense of self. By surrendering to that which is, and not trying to fight it, we can deal with anything that comes across our path.
In Buddhism, there are the Four Noble Truths, which can be summed up by the phrase “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”. When we surrender to that which is, we can decide if we want to suffer or not. Running from pain will not benefit you. In fact, it actually delays the pain, making it much more intense than if we had just dealt with it in the first place.
Surrendering, however, to what is going on in your life, be it good or bad, will allow you to experience a sense of balance and calm. Deal with what is on your plate today, and let tomorrow’s worries or tasks be dealt with tomorrow. Surrendering also allows space in the body and in the mind for possibility. When we make judgements about what we can or cannot do, we prevent ourselves from trying. But when we surrender to possibility, we become open to change and growth.
Today I invite you to practice surrender, even if just for a moment. If you are dealing with something difficult, let it be. If you are trying to get deeper into a yoga posture like Pigeon Pose (below), try surrendering to the tension. When we let go and stop fighting the tension in our lives or in our bodies, expansion happens; life becomes more pleasant and the body becomes more flexible.