Sthira sukham asanam. Asana is a steady, comfortable posture (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.46).
This principle of yoga means that our yoga pose practice should incorporate both steadiness and comfort. Or, effort and ease. Or, comfort and challenge. It means that we should push ourselves to that edge or “wall”, but not beyond our ability.
“Life begins when our comfort zone ends” is an adage that says it all. Never challenging ourselves to be better at anything means we never will be. But pushing ourselves too hard, too soon can be exhausting and harmful.
Why is observing sthira sukham asanam essential to our asana, or yoga pose, practice?
- It keeps us safe, in that place between comfort and extreme challenge.
- It keeps us active, while reminding us that steadiness (effort) is as important in asana practice as it is in the other areas of yoga (the ten observances, breathing, focus, and meditation).
- In another sense, “steadiness” means that we hold poses for a length of time with the goal of finding peace, calming the thoughts, and studying and controlling the breath.
- Physically, we strengthen as we hold our poses longer and better. Mentally, we learn we can overcome discomfort and break through to success. Spiritually, we get in touch with ourselves on a deeper level.
Want to create sthira and sukha in your downward dog pose?
- Bicycle your legs one at a time gently, to see how your hamstrings are feeling today.
- Let your head come to rest freely downward, fully relaxed.
- Gaze and focus between your toes or up at your navel.
- When your arms and shoulders are fatigued or burning, imagine more of your weight coming into your lower body and out of your arms.
It’s all about finding your edge, or “the wall”, and then moving successfully beyond it!