The Yoga Pose Should be Stable & Comfortable
In the Yoga Sutra, one of the ancient texts that yogis study to gain knowledge on how to live life with more joy and less suffering through the yoga philosophy, we learn about
Sukha and Sthira.
These two Sanskrit words are in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra 2.46
“Sthira Sukham Asanam”
“The posture (Asana) should be stable (Sthira) and comfortable (Sukha).”
“Resolutely abide in a good space.”
The word, Sthira, can mean resolute, compact, strong, steadfast, firm, static, and courageous. Etymologically it arises from the root Stha, which means to stand, to be firm, to take a stand.
The Sanskrit word Sukha can denote happy, joyful, delightful, mild, easy, agreeable, good, gentle, and virtuous. The literal meaning is “good space,” from the root words su (good) and kha (space). The term originally described the kind of smooth ride one would experience in a cart or a chariot whose axle holes were well centered in the wheels. This implies that sukha is a dynamic process.
The last word, Asana, comes from the root as, which can translate as sitting down, abiding, being present, dwelling, inhabiting. Being present and grounded to whatever you are doing in the moment is of most significance here.
This Sutra originally referenced the quality of a practitioner’s meditation pose. However, many modern yoga teachers now apply it to all the asanas. Finding a balance between stability and ease is a helpful and sustainable approach to a yoga Asana practice.
When we chose to bring stability (Sthira) and comfort (Sukha) into our Asana, we find the mindle path.
I find that it is also helpful to draw this into our lifestyle and relationships. When we do this we find a place of balance (the middle path). Living in balance allows us to find more contentment and spiritual insight, to be in a ‘good space’.
It must be noted, that this Sutra is a source of wisdom for Asana and for living in rhythm and balance. Cultivating Sthira and Sukha gives us the strength and solid foundation to weather the inevitable changes and difficulties we face throughout life.
This balance between stability and ease can be witnessed throughout nature. From a single cell that contains itself with rigidity, while still allowing things to pass through the membrane, to a suspension bridge that is strong and stable, but still flexible with wind and earthquakes.
In our practice Sthira shows up on the mat when one is able to ‘hold steady’ in body, mind and energy. The muscles are evenly engaged and free from unnecessary tension and strain. The pose is held, strong and steady, with a sense of stability. Ease, or Sukha, is a place of comfort in the pose. The breath will be even and steady while the mind resides in peace, observing whatever arises in the moment. Prana will flow freely and a meditative state is maintained. This ‘good space,’ brings about a sense of joy and contentment.
When we are able to bring these qualities with us throughout the day and maintain them, with whatever comes our way, then we are living our yoga off the mat. We can add stability (Sthira) to our lives by having a routine and consistencies. Ease, or Sukha, can be added when we make time in our schedules for rest and relaxation.
Maintaining a healthy balance of these two qualities allows us to “Resolutely abide in a good space.”