Surrendering is not something many of us are brought up to look forward to. The verb, surrender, can be defined as:
- To stop resisting an opponent and submit to their authority.
- To give something up or hand something over, typically a person, right or possession.
Synonyms offered for the term include “give up,” “give in,” “crumble,” “succumb” and “quit.” Often, we associate surrender with loss or failure, so it’s no surprise that surrendering is not a prospect many of us relish.
In a world where we are taught to fight and strive to reach our goals, the idea of letting go and accepting what is can be disconcerting and uncomfortable. This was certainly my own take on surrender. It was something to be avoided at all costs and I tried to distance myself from it as quickly as possible. It was an experience I tolerated if I had to, but I certainly didn’t embrace it. (Learn about The Freedom in Letting Go.)
Surrender Through Yin Yoga
Then I discovered the magic of Yin yoga. I was instructed to bring my body into the yin asanas, but rather than push further into the pose, I surrendered to where I was instead. It felt alien and it challenged my beliefs on how I had been approaching life. I found myself going back to Yin yoga class again and again because somewhere in the strangeness of the practice, I tapped into the power of surrender. (Read more about The Benefits of Yin Yoga.)
In Yin yoga, asanas are not about striving. They are not about pushing yourself to the limit, or aiming for a particular outcome. Instead, they are about accepting whatever arises from moment to moment, and surrendering to it completely.
The first Yin yoga asana I found challenging was sleeping swan. The strong hip opening action was uncomfortable for a natural “internal rotator” like myself. I was caught between wanting to push further, finding an expression of the asana that looked like the “proper pose” and just wanting to come out of it altogether. Instead, I sat with the discomfort, with my own dissatisfaction at where my body was, and I allowed myself to accept where I was. For better or worse, I knew I was going to be in that asana for the next three minutes, and rather than fight it, a better choice would be to surrender to it.
It Takes Strength to Surrender
This was a game-changer for me. I realized that you don’t surrender because you are weak, you surrender because you are strong. You are strong enough to accept whatever arises, confident enough to believe that you can cope with whatever comes up, and trusting enough to know that you don't need to fight it. When you realize that this is what true surrendering means, you find your power. You realize that your power is not in controlling the world around you, but rather in your ability to surrender to and cope with whatever it throws at you.
“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti
Deepening Surrender Through Meditation
While it was the physicality of Yin yoga that taught me to surrender, my practice was deepened by meditation. In Yin yoga, you meet the physical sensations that arise with equanimity and surrender, and meditation teaches you to do the same with your thoughts. There are so many worries, anxieties and plans that pop into your head while you are meditating. The temptation is to jump up and start doing something about them. Your mind wants you to take action and get moving, but, through meditation, you learn to surrender to these thoughts and urges. You discover that sometimes they fall away because they weren’t really that important, and other times you can act on them later. Either way, you surrender to the stillness and inaction of the moment, no matter how challenging it is.
Over time, you learn that these periods of inaction and surrender are just as powerful, if not more so, than times of dynamism and action. They teach you the virtues of patience, discipline and focus. They bring you greater wisdom, insight and understanding. In the process, you learn how to surrender and tap into your own inner strength.
Surrendering as a Choice
When surrender happens through choice and with intention, it is an act of strength. Given all the conditioning that we receive against surrender, to choose to surrender is a bold move, but a wise one. By surrendering to what is, you open yourself up to the infinite possibilities that the world offers. You make a powerful statement that you are ready to embrace them. Try it. Surrender. See where it takes you. (Read on in Yin Yoga: There's Power in Surrender.)