varapra?idh?na is a Sanskrit compound word composed of two words vara () and pra?idh?na (). vara (sometimes spelled ?shvara) literally means "owner of best, beautiful", "ruler of choices, blessings, boons", or "chief of suitor, lover". Later religious literature in Sanskrit broadens the reference of this term to refer to God, the Absolute Brahman, True Self, or Unchanging Reality.Pra?idh?na is used to mean a range of senses including, "laying on, fixing, applying, attention (paid to), meditation, desire, prayer." In a religious translation of Patanjali's Eight-Limbed Yoga, the word varapra?idh?na means committing what one does to a Lord, who is elsewhere in the Yoga S?tras defined as a special person (puru?a) who is the first teacher (paramaguru) and is free of all hindrances and karma. In more secular terms, it means acceptance, teachability, relaxing expectations, adventurousness. 
Sanskrit: ? ?
- Yoga Sutras II.32
This transliterates as, "?auca, Santo?a, Tapas, Sv?dhy?ya and varapra?idh?na are the Niyamas". This is the second limb in Patañjali's eight limb Yoga philosophy is called niyamas which include virtuous habits, behaviors and ethical observances (the "dos"). The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali use the term vara in 11 verses: I.23 through I.29, II.1, II.2, II.32 and II.45. Patañjali defines vara (Sanskrit?) in verse 24 of Book 1, as "a special Self (?, puru?a-vi?e?a)",
Sanskrit: ? ? ? ?
- Yoga Sutras I.24
This sutra of Yoga philosophy adds the characteristics of vara as that special Self which is unaffected (, aparamrsta) by one's obstacles/hardships (, klesha), one's circumstances created by past or one's current actions (?, karma), one's life fruits (, vipâka), and one's psychological dispositions/intentions (, ashaya).
varapra?idh?na is listed as the fifth niyama by Patañjali. In other forms of yoga, it is the tenth niyama. In Hinduism, the Niyamas are the "do list" and the Yamas are the "don't do" list, both part of an ethical theory for life.
Hindu scholars have debated and commented on who or what is vara. These commentaries range from defining hvara from a "personal god" to "special self" to "anything that has spiritual significance to the individual". Ian Whicher explains that while Patañjali's terse verses can be interpreted both as theistic or non-theistic, Patañjali's concept of vara in Yoga philosophy functions as a "transformative catalyst or guide for aiding the yogin on the path to spiritual emancipation". Desmarais states that vara is a metaphysical concept in Yogasutras.varapra?idh?na is investing, occupying the mind with this metaphysical concept. Yogasutra does not mention deity anywhere, nor does it mention any devotional practices (Bhakti), nor does it give vara characteristics typically associated with a deity. In yoga sutras it is a logical construct, states Desmarais.
In verses I.27 and I.28, yogasutras associate vara with the concept Pranava (, ?) and recommends that it be repeated and contemplated in one of the limbs of eight step yoga. This is seen as a means to begin the process of dissociating from external world, connecting with one's inner world, focusing and getting one-minded in Yoga.
Whicher states that Patañjali's concept of vara is neither a creator God nor the universal Absolute of Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism. Whicher also notes that some theistic sub-schools of Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism, inspired by the Yoga school, prefer to explain the term vara as the "Supreme Being that rules over the cosmos and the individuated beings". However, in the Yoga S?tras of Patañjali, and extensive literature of Yoga school of Hinduism, vara is not a Supreme Ruler, vara is not an ontological concept, rather it has been an abstract concept to meet the pedagogical needs for human beings accepting Yoga philosophy as a way of life.
varapra?idh?na has been interpreted to mean the contemplation of a deity in some sub-schools of Hinduism. Zimmer in his 1951 Indian philosophies book noted that the Bhakti sub-schools, and its texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, refer to Isvara as a Divine Lord, or the deity of specific Bhakti sub-school. Modern sectarian movements have emphasized Ishvara as Supreme Lord; for example, Hare Krishna movement considers Krishna as the Lord,Arya Samaj and Brahmoism movements - influenced by Christian and Islamic movements in India - conceptualize Ishvara as a monotheistic all powerful Lord. In traditional theistic sub-schools of Hinduism, such as the Vishishtadvaita Vedanta of Ramanuja and Dvaita Vedanta of Madhva, Ishvara is identified as Lord Vishnu/Narayana, that is distinct from the Prakriti (material world) and Purusa (soul, spirit). In all these sub-schools, varapra?idh?na is the contemplation of the respective deity.
Radhakrishnan and Moore state that these variations in vara concept is consistent with Hinduism's notion of "personal God" where the "ideals or manifestation of individual's highest Self values that are esteemed".varapra?idh?na, or contemplation of vara as a deity is useful, suggests Zaehner, because it helps the individual become more like hvara. Riepe, and others, state that the literature of Yoga school of Hinduism neither explicitly defines nor implicitly implies, any creator-god; rather, it leaves the individual with freedom and choice of conceptualizing vara in any meaningful manner he or she wishes, either in the form of "deity of one's choice" or "formless Brahman (Absolute Reality, Universal Principle, true special Self)". The need and purpose of vara, whatever be the abstraction of it as "special kind of Self" or "personal deity", is not an end in itself, rather it is a means to "perfect the practice of concentration" in one's journey through the eight limbs of Yoga philosophy.
Larson suggests vara in varapra?idh?na can be understood through its chronological roots. Yoga school of Hinduism developed on the foundation of Samkhya school of Hinduism. In the non-theistic/atheistic Samkhya school, Purusa is a central metaphysical concept, and envisioned as "pure consciousness". Further, Purusa is described by Samkhya school to exist in a "plurality of pure consciousness" in its epistemological theory (rather than to meet the needs of its ontological theory). In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines hvara as a "special Purusa" in verse I.24, with certain characteristics. hvara, then may be understood as one among the plurality of "pure consciousness", with characteristics as defined by Patanjali in verse I.24.