YogaMaYam

This site is for learning and sharing about Yoga. Topics include teaching, asana, meditation and a nurturing forum for questions about your Yoga practice.

Sthira and Sukha: Balancing Steadiness and Ease

Written By:
Ananda Prema Shakti (Felicia Case)
© EarthStar Publishing, Inc.

In Yoga we create union, meeting somewhere in the middle of the extreme swings of life. We become receptive and gently uncover the way into our own personal practice based upon our health, age, background and lifestyle. As teachers, it is a privilege and high calling to open a portal so that all may find their own practice. Yoga then, is our own personal expression of being alive, yet participating in YOGA through uniting in a positive and transformative way.

The Yoga Sutras say that postures should be both firm and soft. The breath is everything and is the key to creating steadiness and comfort in yoga postures and practice. By leading into each posture with breath, we maintain steady consistency and are able to monitor the expenditure of energy and force. When we try to force a posture, and approach achievement of the posture with a Herculean level of effort and drive, we often mismanage and deplete our energy (and our joy!)

It is also helpful to contemplate the three gunas when we speak of Sthira and Sukha. Sthira (steadiness) likely leans toward the rajasic guna, the striving, driven quality that propels us to push beyond our limits to achieve. Though rajasic energy can be noble and inspire us to climb higher and try harder, on the negative, we may find ourselves competing with others. In working too hard and setting high mastery goals, our practice may become ‘too hot’ and we may burn out.

Sukha (ease) likely falls toward the tamasic guna, the non-striving, inactive approach wherein we may not be trying hard enough and may become easily discouraged. Though a tamasic approach can bring humility and non-competitiveness into our practice, it can also cause us to become dull, negative, and uninspired. If we just show up to yoga class and do the same ole’ postures the same ole’ way without ever risking losing our balance or going deeper into a posture, we may create a repetitive habit that keeps us stuck in a rut.

So what is the balance between sthira and sukha? A zero balance point is found within the sattvic guna of purity in habit, thought, lifestyle. In this way we approach yoga postures with gentle faith, exploration and optimism. The sattvic approach fuels us to do our best without getting a tight chest, and feel peaceful, strong, and flexible while enjoying the process.

How can we tell if we are trying too hard, or not hard enough? Probably the best way to assess is to observe ourselves (and our thoughts and feelings) during a posture. Are we tensing up? getting out of breath, shaking our head and sighing out of frustration? sweating profusely? Are we watching others and comparing? Then we are likely trying too hard. Conversely, are we just going through the motions, feeling numb, and not even trying postures? Are we watching the clock and thinking about getting home to watch Grey’s Anatomy? Then we may not be participating enough in our own experience, and not owning our own practice and rising to a challenge.

If we find ourselves slowly gliding into a posture without shaking, turning red, and straining, and if we breathe the ancient way of “breathing as if sleeping,” (only through the nostrils) even the most challenging postures will come easier. Enjoy the journey wherever we are along the way.

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