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The Spirit of Offering


If Ishvara is the inner compass, pranidhana is remembering to stay connected to that essence not just occasionally, but throughout the day. Ishvara pranidhana is also translated as “offering the fruits of one’s actions to the Divine.” As we consider how to make Ishvara pranidhana a living part of our yoga, it’s useful to look to India, where the act of offering pervades the culture. Throughout India, images of the Divine are everywhere, and people of all ages are continuously making offerings of fruit, incense, and gestures, from Anjali Mudra (hands together at the heart) to full-body prostrations. All these practices cultivate an underlying connection with the Source; “me, me, me” starts to move into the background, and spiritual life moves more front and center.


The Way to Begin


For Americans, who seldom grow up with such a constant ritual life, establishing Ishvara pranidhana may require some extra attention and internal listening. Like breathing more deeply, Ishvara pranidhana shouldn’t feel strange or uncomfortable. There is no inner state, emotion, or obstacle that is beyond the positive influence of Ishvara pranidhana. Remember, whether you are a natural bhakti (devotional) yogi or a complete skeptic, whether you are undertaking a simple act or a challenging task, whether your state of mind is joyous or confused, the whole mandala of life is the realm of Ishvara pranidhana.


Because the scope of Ishvara pranidhana is so vast, Western yoga practitioners often welcome a few practical guidelines to help them get started. The yoga mat or meditation cushion is a wonderful “safe space,” on which you can test drive Ishvara pranidhana. As with any action in the world, the way you begin your practice can make a huge difference in how your yoga flows. Inner listening, setting your intention, chanting, and visualization are all formal ways of initiating Ishvara pranidhana.


As I offer my tension back to the Source, emptying and surrendering again, I very often experience a boost of


18 | OriginMagazine.com


In my own practice, I am becoming more and more able to recognize tension as a signal; holding and gripping are signs that my connection with Ishvara pranidhana is lessening.


strength or a deepening of my breath and flexibility. Even more importantly, I experience a shift from my small, crowded inner world to a big picture of being alive. Then, as with the Mysore women’s rice-flour offerings, the grace from the process remains, even when the pose has dissolved.


Because Ishvara pranidhana connects every action to its sacred source, Krishnamacharya is said to have described it as the most important yoga practice for the Kali Yuga we live in, an “Iron Age” in which all humanity has fallen away from grace. Ishvara pranidhana could be called “heartfulness” practice; it awakens our constant devotion to the Source of life and keeps our hearts open to the Divine in every moment, no matter what arises.


SHIVA REA lives in Malibu, California. She can be reached at WWW.YOGADVENTURES.COM.


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