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Sthira and Sukha

August 2, 2011

In my last blog I wrote about Dual Actions, and how they help us to safely find the appropriate opening of the moment. The most important dual actions of them all are sthira and sukha, translated simply as effort and ease.

These two Sanskrit words come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:  sthira-sukham-asanam (2:46) Practicing yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner gives rise to harmony with the physical body (asana).sthira = strong; steady; stable; motionless; firm; lastingsukham = comfortable; ease filled; happy; delight; relaxed asanam = asana; posture; seated position; physical practice.

Mr. Iyengar translates this sutra as “Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit”. He continues, “whatever asana is performed, it should be done with a feeling of firmness, steadiness and endurance in the body; goodwill in the intelligence of the head, and awareness and delight in the intelligence of the heart. This is how each asana should be understood, practiced and experienced. Performance of the asana should be nourishing and illuminative”. – Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Simply put, without a strong and stable base, our posture collapses and can cause injury, while without enough relaxation in the muscles and delight in the heart and mind, our posture is rigid physically, and close-minded mentally and emotionally. Without a balance of these two elements, we will not be nourished or enlightened. While you’re in your next yoga class, think of these two qualities, and see if you can bring equilibrium to them both.

By the way, there are only two sutras out of the whole 196 that speak directly about yoga postures, and this one is the first of those two. Doesn’t that spark your interest to find out what the rest of the Yoga Sutras are all about?

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