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During May we explored Svadhyaya and took a closer look at ourselves. Following on from that inward gaze, this month’s studio theme Ishvara Pranidhana means self-surrender. Often when we think of surrender and associate it with giving up, feeling powerless or defeated. Control is such a sensitive issue, and by surrendering, we’re ultimately releasing our tight grip. But when we learn to surrender to something greater, we can begin to find freedom in the unknown. How can we apply this theme both on and off the mat?

Find non-attachment

Often we step on the mat to practice yoga, and we believe each pose should look a certain way. Maybe it’s a famous yogi’s Instagram that makes you think you should be able to balance on your fingertips in Crow pose- whatever image you have ingrained in  your brain about what a pose should look like- let it go! Through Ishvara Pranidhana we surrender or release any attachment to the “should.” Off to mat, we can visit this theme by not holding on to feelings or conversations once they’re finished. Our brains like to make up stories surrounding behavior and emotions, but if we take them for just what they are instead of attaching non-existent meaning, we’ll find peace.

Learn to lighten up

This is an important one. On your mat, you’re doing a lot of work with the body, breath, mind and subtle energies- but it should still be fun! Notice what happens during your practice if you fall out of a balancing pose or a bind. Ishvara Pranidhana teaches us to detach from the result and enjoy the journey.

Stay open-minded

Some people interpret Ishvara Pranidhana as surrender to a spiritual or religious higher power. Whether or not that follows your beliefs, keeping an open mind and having faith in something (anything!) bigger than oneself releases some stress. It’s not all up to you, and by surrendering a bit of that control we work so hard to achieve, we make space for the present moment.

About the author: Miranda Raimon is a yoga instructor, Kula studio manager and freelance health & wellness writer from the San Francisco Bay Area.