Sthira sukham asanam. Steadiness, happiness, seat. From the Yoga Sutras, and often translated as The postures should embody steadiness and ease, or comfort and ease. It does not say the postures should be a physical struggle that you grunt, huff, and sweat your way through. Which is why after I work out the nervous energy, finding focus and warmth from moving posture to posture in flow, I settle in and start to hold the postures. Not for 5 breaths, but for minutes at a time. Sometimes these postures are simple, sometimes they are complex, but really, it doesn’t matter, because each posture is different for every body. What I find simple may be hard for you, and vice versa. So how do I approach these held postures?
With ahimsa. With the understanding that I’m not here to achieve a look, I’m here to find the quiet space in my body and meditate. I’m here doing these strange twists, folds, and openings to discover new things about myself while keeping the body in a shape that is able to sit, stand, move about. In approaching the held postures with this in mind, it’s much easier then for me to come into the posture in a comfortable manner. Not pushing myself to 120%, trying to look like what’s in the book, but moving with the breath in the direction of the posture, listening to what my body is telling me today. Getting to 60 or 70% and pausing, noticing if to remain in this posture I need the aid of a prop, the aid of the breath, the aid of the subtle movement of my deeper muscles. Making the decision to go further because my body’s 60 to 70% suddenly feels like 40%. Moving steadily in the direction of my perceived destination without being tied to the idea that I must get there, because here is pretty damn nice.
That’s a big part of it. As I watch others struggle, trying to achieve something that is in some ways, pointless… Don’t the older texts say we only need one pose? Of course, they can’t agree on what it is. Siddhasana, mayurasana, padmasana – all have their boons. As I watch others struggle, I see my struggles with life. My need to achieve and accomplish, instead of taking a moment to truly enjoy the moment I am in. Instead of discovering the contentedness that can exist when I pause and look around and say, “Well, this here is pretty damn nice.” Pausing and enjoying the moment doesn’t mean I’ll never get to the next phase, the next step in the journey. It just means I can find true joy in what I have already accomplished.
There’s a middle path in all efforts, and finding yourself in this steady space of ease, without completely checking out in the mind, is discovering that place.
Another key reason to practice finding comfort, ease, and your focus in this state: You cannot keep your body in a constant state of stress. You can’t walk around on your hands all day just to keep your concentration in the moment. So in these postures where you find steadiness and ease – even if they’re extremely easy – you then have to do the hard work of staying present, of keeping the mind from jumping about, of restraining the senses, not focusing on what your neighbor is doing or what your pedicure looks like or how bored you are. It’s in this moment that you have the chance to advance forward, go within, and see what lives beneath the easy mind chatter. What dwells in the subconscious, or even better, discover a sense of quiet and connection.
I’ve talked about checking out a lot, and I’ve come up with a variety of ways to keep from checking out. Flow, props, challenge, balance… all of those talked about ways to not check out. At some point, though, I have to want to check in. To drop in. To find my focus and to let it simply merge with this larger piece of me, of you, of the universe. This is the part that changes yoga from workout to something else. This is the part where you find the answers and the guidance that some people just seem to have and you wonder why it feels like they have it together and you don’t. Why they seem so sure of themselves and you don’t. This is where you discover that connection to your knowledge, your wisdom, your divinity, your connection to everything and nothing at once, where you see the dualities of the world. This is where you embrace your source, find your OM.
I’m a firm believer that I can’t tell you all of this resides in you and you believe it, possibly because I’m stubborn and need to learn things for myself. That’s why instead of saying it, I offer the opportunity over and over again to discover it. The gentle reminders to go within, to listen. Because I’m certain your understanding of this concept will be through a different lens than mine. So discovering it for yourself makes it all the more powerful. It is understood in your terms. It is seen from your viewpoint. It becomes your wisdom.