Sthira Sukham Asanam
May 17, 2017
Ok let’s break down what this bit of Sanskrit means. Sthira is steadiness, being stable. Sukham refers to sweetness – think sucrose. 🙂 And then asanam refers to a seat or position. So, sthira sukham asanam, which is the only line in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that even mentions asana (or poses, as we’ve come to know the term), is suggesting that we should feel both a steadiness and a sweetness in the pose or seat.
This is why yoga asana is a practice. It takes practice to first of all find steadiness in each pose, and even more practice to actually find that sweetness. Have you ever been in a yoga class struggling to “achieve” a pose? Probably didn’t feel too peaceful, did it? Instead, if we practice going at our own pace and working where we can actually practice the pose without holding the breath or clenching our teeth, we feel more at peace. We ask the ego to have a seat while we practice feeling steady and comfortable in who we are and what our bodies can do, modifying and supporting ourselves as needed. Then we find gratitude that our bodies can do just that. We might feel an energy shift and experience a moment of sweetness in the pose. That is sthira sukham asanam. Now we are practicing yoga on the mat.
But what about off the mat? Life puts us into some pretty challenging poses (or positions) at times. Are we supposed to be able to feel comfortable and a sweet joyfulness when we are feeling pain or sadness? When I stub a toe, I’m pretty much not feeling very peaceful. Or when my kid is throwing up, I’m not feeling the joy. But here’s the thing, the more we practice this idea of sthira sukham asanam on the mat, we are that much more prepared to keep breathing steadily through life’s challenging poses – or at least it becomes more accessible to do so, and we can come to that place of steady peace more quickly than we were able to before.