Sthira Sukham Asanam

cat meditatingIn the West we tend to think of Yoga as mainly practicing Asanas (postures). I find it interesting that Patanjali only mentions Asana three times in the Yoga Sutras. In the second book (Pada); verse 46 it states: sthira sukham asanam which translates to abiding in stillness and ease.
We often consider Yoga as a movement practice flowing from pose to pose. But when we learn to stay still in a pose and find ease in that moment, this is what allows us to drop deeper beneath the choppy surface of mind and sink into the the trueself.

Sthira translates as stable, steadfast, effort and strength. It refers to endurance, vigilance and the ability to pay attention and be present.
Sukha translates as ease, delight, joyful, comfortable, relaxed. It is the opposite of discomfort, suffering or pain (duhkha). Here we bring in the principles non-violence and self acceptance. We nurture ourselves by doing something that feels good.
Asana translates to seat or posture and is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘as’ which means “to stay” or “to be”.
Patanjali explains that every yoga posture needs to be balanced with these qualities of Sthira and Sukham. We find a balance between firmness and softness, tension and relaxation, effort and ease, Strength and flexibility. Patanjali says that the combination of Sthira and Sukham creates a state of equilibrium (satva) that is without agitation (rajas) or inertia (tamas).

In your yoga practice do you naturally push yourself with effort, strength and steadfastness, with a tendency to over do it? Or are you naturally laid back with ease and comfort, with a tendency to be lethargic? I know I am the latter one and so to bring balance I need to work with more effort and steadfastness in my practice. And I know that what ever shows up on the mat is a mirror to your life. So where do you need balance? More effort or more ease? When life seems like a lot of effort and challenge, see if you can offer some ease or comfort. And when life brings ease and delight, then of course savour the moment but it is a good time to offer a challenge or make an effort to try something new.

Patanjali is ultimately expressing a way for us to be fully present in the moment as we abide in stillness and ease. The perfect marriage of strength and flexibility not only for our bodies but also for our lives.

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