Alignment and Injuries,  Ashtanga Adaptability,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized

Surrender To is Not The Same As Giving Up


Okay, I know this could all boil down to semantics. “Surrender” and “giving up” do get used interchangeably sometimes, but hear me out.

I surrendered to the music. I gave up the music. Different right?

I surrendered to joy. I gave up joy.  Different right?

I surrendered to Yoga. I gave up on Yoga. Different right?

There is a difference between surrendering to Marichyasana and giving up on Marichyasana, right?


When we give up on a pose, but we cannot avoid it,  there is no intelligent effort. It is something that needs to be done and gotten through.  We “assume the position” and move on.  Kind of like crappy sex that you don’t really feel like participating in but you acquiesce for “the sake of the relationship”. We are doing Supta Kurmasana for the sake of our Ashtanga relationship.

Surrendering is different. Surrendering is an awareness of the present moment. Surrendering to Marichyasana means, “okay, Marichi, what do you have for me today? Lets see how this feels. Oh, shoulder is achy. I surrender to the present moment. No bind today.” This is like the sex that you are up for and it might be awesome or it may not but you just relax and see how it goes.

Surrender is intelligent effort.

How do you know the difference between surrendering and giving up in your practice? By how they feel.

Surrender feels like relief and release. It feels open and peaceful. It feels like grace and possibility. It feels like forgiveness and acceptance.

Giving up feels like lose and futility. It feels like frustration and anger. It feels like weakness and shame.

Surrender and giving up can effect the whole practice.

How do you feel as your are working up towards the pose that you have given up on? Anxiety? Like you are wasting your energy? Are you praying that your teacher doesn’t see you or assist you (because it is futile, right)?

When it is done, how are you feeling? Like it was a waste? Frustrated? Angry? Those emotions probably don’t go away for awhile and effect the next few poses.

Giving up on a particular pose can also effect our ability to do future poses. If we are not open to receiving the lesson of a pose, we may not have the ability to do other poses later on in the sequence.

Surrender positively effects the other poses in our practice. There is a feeling of ease. We are open to the lessons the poses are giving us. When we surrender, we are interested in what comes up so there is a playful anticipation.

How do we transform “giving up” into “surrender”?

By shifting the focus.

Focus on the breath.

Focus on others limbs of Yoga.

Focus on what the pose is teaching you. When you take those lessons into your life, the pose starts to feel like a blessing.

Focus on gratitude.  What a privilege to be able to get on our mats and experience our bodies and breathe and move with others.








Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail