Bring Me a Higher Love: Ishvara Pranidhana


Ishvara Pranidhana

By Sonya Kuropatwa

February is a mixed bag. February can be about romance, and cuddles by the fire, and Valentine’s Day with your beloved. February can also be cold, and unrelenting, and conducive to comparing-that-leads-to-despairing… especially around the topics of love and relationships.

Romantic love is a beautiful gift, and still, it has countless limitations which most of us face again and again over the course of a lifetime. Even in the most ideal relationship circumstances, romantic love / passion / infatuation can only take us so far.

But we are LOVERS by nature! And love isn’t limited in any way, least of all by what we may experience with another person. So, how do we tap into the boundless flow of grace, mercy and infinite love that we intuitively sense around us?

The path of the yogi includes a practice called Ishvara Pranidhana, and there are as many interpretations as there are yogis …because the practice is deeply personal and intended to be unique to the individual. Most yogis describe the practice as a call to devotion or a surrender to that which is greater than one’s self.

Ishvara can be translated as ‘supreme’, or ‘god’, or ‘the personal’

Pranidhana is an action of ‘devotion’, or ‘surrender’, or ‘dedication’

Ishvara Pranidhana is a practice of humility and surrender to grace. When influences around us continue to contribute to the illusion that we, as individual personalities and entities, are at the center of our own universe, Ishvara Pranidhana invites us to turn both our blessings and our woes over to something greater than ourselves. We call upon trust, faith, and mercy to take over. We create and perform acts of selflessness and devotion. We seek for a broader perspective than the one that only includes ‘Me’. Ishvara Pranidhana is any practice in search of and surrender to ‘The Divine We’.

How does Ishvara Pranidhana Show Up On The Mat?

When your teacher invites you to set an intention at the beginning of your yoga practice, they are offering you an opportunity to practice Ishvara Pranidhana. Devote your asana practice to your notion of divinity/God/the supreme in whatever form that takes for you personally. Practice with your heart wide open. Practice from a place of humility and gratitude. Weave joy and discovery into your movement and your stillness. Be fully present. Turn over the little details of alignment, modifications, and the balance of effort and ease to The Divine Teacher Within, that part of you who is always seeking balance, equanimity, and higher ideals. That still, quiet voice within you IS your connection to ‘that which is greater than the sum of your parts’, and it has only your best interests at heart.

How does Ishvara Pranidhana Show Up Off The Mat?

~Practice Tiny (and Great) Acts Of Selflessness:

Hold a door open for a stranger. Offer to help care for a sick or home-bound friend. Donate to your local food bank or clothing distribution agency. Give a compliment. Treat others as you would like to be treated… and then some. Give with an open hand and an open heart, and expect nothing in return.

~Find and Maintain A Daily Practice:

Meditation. Study. Asana. Mantra. Nature walks. Prayer. The list is endless and unlimited. Try out different practices with the intention of pure surrender until your practice finds you. Shake off the notion that your version of dedication / surrender / devotion will look like anyone else’s. Hold it sacred in your heart… because it IS sacred, and it IS your heart.

~Trust & Surrender:

Take a judgement-free look at the issues that burden your heart and clutter your mind. What of it can be surrendered in devotion to a something greater? How might opening our hearts to receiving grace and mercy help overcome the very obstacles (fear, insecurity, grief, loss, hopelessness, misunderstanding, suffering) that stand between us and a blissful state of personal dedication and surrender to an elevated ideal of divinely inspired, higher love.




~Krishna Das