In this day of self-empowerment and all the talk of being strong and taking charge, it’s often difficult to even speak the word surrender. But I believe it takes a lot of courage to surrender. And surrendering has been a huge part of my self care journey. It’s when I surrender that I feel the most calm, the most relaxed, the most at peace.
Yoga class is one of those times when I practice surrendering. Often, teachers will ask us to “surrender softly into the pose.”
What does THAT mean? You are bent at the waist in warrior three pose with one leg behind you, your arms stretched in front of you balancing on your other leg. Your mind is saying, “Get me out of this position now!” Surrender is not on my mind at that point. Occasionally, escape or even run, might be more of what I would like to do at that point.
But I have come to realize that what my teacher is actually inviting me to do is to become aware of those parts of my body that are screaming, to send the breath to that place, and then watch how the uncomfortableness dissipates. She’s inviting me to let go of the chatter in my head and access the peace that is always living within me.
Sri Chinmoy says, “Surrender is a journey from the outer turmoil to the inner peace.”
Surrendering on the mat helps me surrender off the mat. It helps me see what is really happening in all areas of my life. When that person I love so much pushes my buttons or that complete stranger on the freeway drives recklessly, it is in the surrendering that I can respond rather than react. My loved one isn’t really wanting to hurt me, something else is going on within them. That person on the freeway doesn’t even know me, and is most likely having a bad day because of something totally unrelated to me. And when I respond by breathing or sending them love, my heart rate doesn’t go up, I am not unkind and I can let go so much faster.
Deborah Adele in her book The Yamas and Niyamas, Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, says that surrender is actively putting ourselves at the feet of something greater than we are. Deborah suggests the following ways to practice surrender:
- Participate in self-less service
- Give up trying to control, manipulate, and fight with life
- Find your faith and trust
- Pay attention to what life is teaching/telling you
- Get in touch with the feeling of expansion
- Be vulnerable, undefended, and available
- Care deeply about something other than yourself