Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali II:46 STHIRA-SUKHAM ASANAM

The Yoga Sutras, written by Patanjali was the first book to outline the art and science of yoga, explaining how to reach enlightenment (Samadhi). These sutras serve as a map for the inner journey, helping to develop every level of our being and enhancing every aspect of our life.

Patanjali divided the 196 sutras into different four chapters (pada) that comprise what is often called Classical Yoga.
Book 1: Concentration (Samadhi Pada)
Book 2: Practice (Sadhana Pada)
Book 3: Progressing (Vibhuti Pada)
Book 4: Liberation (Kaivalya Pada)

In chapter 2, sutra 46 Patanjali states:

Asanam: The qualities of a yoga posture
Sthira: steadfast, stable, effort, strength
Sukham: ease, delight, joy, pleasant

In this sutra, Patanjali explains that every yoga posture needs to be balanced with qualities of Sthira (steady, stable, effort, steadfast) and qualities of Sukham(ease, delight, and joy).

It is by practicing both of these extremes, between effort and ease that we find balance in the middle. It is like a singing crystal bowl. As you make the bowl sing, the sound expands out more and more, between sound and silence, and high and low, but within these extremes the physical bowl is vibrating in the center. By performing our yoga postures with qualities of Sthira and Sukham, we find ourselves ‘vibrating’ in the center, in our heart!

We find a balance between firmness and softness, tension and relaxation, effort and ease, muscle and flexibility, which offers a delicious luxurious challenge. Patanjali says that the combination of Sthira and Sukham creates a state of equilibrium (satva) that is without agitation (rajas) or inertia (tamas).
Depending on our personality type will determine which aspect of Sthira and Sukham we need to work on more. If we naturally find our self full of effort, strength and steadfastness we need to work on softening and experiencing the delight in our poses. If we are more lethargic we need to push ourselves harder.

So the next time you are practicing and your body is trembling with effort (or jumping with joy) can you soften slightly and connect to a place within you that is at ease, and find the delight within the effort? The next time you are practicing and you feel too at ease with no sense of strength in your pose can you dig a little deeper and look the tiger in the eye a little bit more finding the quality of steadfastness that Patanjali refers to?

I think Sthira and Sukham is also great to practice off the mat. When life seems hard, or a situation comes up that feels full of effort, can we look into the situation and find the joy? When we are lazy can we find the strength and effort to get off the couch?

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a fabulous book and a great tool for deepening your yoga practice. My two favorite translations are:
•Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, By Sri Swami Satchidananda (more in depth, helps you understand sutras more fully)
•Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, By Mukunda Stiles (shorter more poetic)

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