Isvara pranidhana is the yogic practice, with the second limb of The Eight Limbs of Yoga, of surrendering to divine will or offering up your efforts for greater humanity. In so doing, you become a conduit of pure love abundantly flowing, and you realize your efforts are not initially your own but you feel fulfilled and humbled by the honor of being able to participate in the dance of the Universe circulating positivity.
For over five years, I had a pretty predictable life as an elementary school teacher. While I loved concocting new ways to engage my second-graders in problem-solving, creative writing and even yoga, each day, a deeply growing yearning urged me to drop everything and transplant myself somewhere completely foreign, where I had to learn how to swim in new waters, without the safety net I had been carrying since childhood. Having lived a very sheltered life of routines and obligations, the fear of the unknown felt like the terror of jumping off a cliff into a dark abyss. Terrified, I jumped, listening to the persistent inner voice telling me to just trust. And so I offered up my comforts for something I felt was greater than myself at the time.
Over a year spent volunteer teaching abroad in a little country I had never known, called Costa Rica, proved to be one of my greatest life challenges and blissful awakenings. It was there that my yoga practice transformed into a daily refuge and what colored the lens of that year’s experiences with so much grace and many epiphanies.
Returning to California in 2010 began the struggles and rewards of becoming a full-time yoga teacher. Through much financial hardship in trying to follow my newly integrated passion, on several pivotal moments of distress, I questioned divine will: If this is not my path, then I accept that; But let me know if it is. A reply always manifested in a new opportunity to continue pursuing my vision of sharing yoga—that is, union with one’s inner light that enables one to thrive. And so I continued, surrendering my efforts to divine will, experimenting with new ways to be of service and integrate my variety of passions, like travel and cultural immersion, outdoor adventures, healthy plant-based eating, active lifestyle and spiritual connection through movement and the arts.
Now, 10 years into following that passion, here we are—practicing a new way to flow with the ever-changing river of life—live-streaming community yoga. “When there’s a will, there’s a way,” should be replaced with “When there’s divinewill, there is a way.” As Rumi said, “What you seek is seeking you.” Our passions, what we love, are our roadmap to our purpose, and when we can trust and use our gifts and talents to pursue them, we play an important role in uplifting humanity. A grace flows through us, with which we are supported by unlimited resources within life’s synchronicities, when we offer up our efforts to divine will.
Michelle facilitating a women's yoga retreat in Monrovia, CA in 2015
What does surrendering feel like to you? I find that it’s often perceived as a weakness, like quitting or giving up on an important fight. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “to cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.” But what if the “enemy” or “opponent” is your best self or divine will or true peace? What if the struggle is against yourself and is motivated by fear of not being enough, anxiety about not trusting that the Universe has your back or underestimating your ability to adapt to change? Then, what would surrender look and feel like?
Let’s view this through the lens of physical yoga. For the first few years of my practice attending yoga classes, I would often mentally cringe when I realized that the next posture to be held for a while was revolved chair pose or Parivrtta Utkatasana in Sanksrit. I had an aversion to holding still for more than ten slow breaths in this belly-compressing pose, so I felt anxiety, like an 8-year old on the way to the dentist. My mind became turbulent, seeming to suffocate my ability to breathe deeply. Stillness in discomfort felt like torture. Oh, the inner drama my ego was creating, and thus, my body was experiencing!
Years later, practicing yoga alone each morning during a very challenging year living abroad, my physical postures, or asanas in Sanskrit, became a place to try out my courage, self-trust and faith that life was supporting me. I integrated the long holds of revolved chair pose, intentionally slowing down my breath. In my commitment to trust I was going to be okay, I surrendered the struggle. It was a struggle against acknowledging my own power, ironically. And I gradually felt liberated from my own aversion. I began to see how my self-created drama induced the resistance against my own well-being and peace of mind. When I just let go of fighting or resisting and accepted the situation, in this context, the pose, as it was and focused on breathing my way through it, my act of surrendering translated into self-empowerment. I could be just fine, not having to control the outcome of the situation. I understood that I was resilient and that no situation is permanent.
Parallel to and coinciding with that year in my life, I realized I perceived the challenges and discomforts of living humbly as a volunteer in a developing country with a very similar aversion. My ego had been clinging to the way I thought things should be as I was accustomed to back home, and I resisted change, which only brought me more suffering. As I applied my yoga discovery of surrendering to situations I could not control, I began allowing myself to see and gradually appreciate the beauty and blessings of the new landscape and culture I was immersed in. Not knowing what was next became an exciting adventure, at times. And my perspective was open to tasting a new way of living and being. My heart was open, and everything changed from there.
Living in Costa Rica, July 2009
In the following recordings, Michelle Chua of Root 2 Rise Yoga interviews (live on Instagram @root2riseyoga) Monisha Garner, Colon Hydrotherapist, about how our habits affect our mental, physical and spiritual well being--a dive into our yogic practices of self-study, nonviolence and truthfulness. She’s the owner of Moya Body Care in Torrance, CA. Connect with her at: https://linktr.ee/moyabodycare
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REviews of Root 2 Rise Yoga:
Michelle truly lives out what she teaches. She is so much more than a yoga teacher - I learned this when I went on her exquisitely curated trip that she organized to Costa Rica this past June 2018...Hopefully like me, you'll be delighted by her effervescent love of movement, nature, and all people!
Michelle clearly stands out with her beautiful and bright energy. I love how her practice and teaching encompass body, mind and spirit. She not only teaches yoga but lives and exudes it.
Michelle not only teaches 'yoga', she embodies it fully with her heart and soul...
Michelle is by far one of the best instructors I've ever had, period. Patient, clear in her explanations and demos, and so encouraging...
My first yoga class was with Michelle years ago. You can have the best (yoga pose) sequence and not teach from your heart. With Michelle, I also feel her passion when I'm in her class. I can see she loves what she does, and she inspired me to want to teach yoga, too.
I’ve had dozens of instructors over the years, but Michelle is far and away the best yoga mentor I’ve ever practiced with. She epitomizes grace during these difficult times. Michelle has saved my sanity and my back while working from home, keeping me grounded with her sharing of yogic teachings and meditation techniques. Her repertoire of physical asanas is encyclopedic, and I’ve loved learning new poses and stretching my boundaries. Jump in, all. You’ve got this!
©2010 Root 2 Rise Yoga