Sthira and Sukha: The Key Elements to Asana

Yam (1)

Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.- Krishnamacharya

What does it take to embrace your physical practice? What key elements are required? Well, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s
the Asana practice has two key elements: Sthira and Sukha. Sthira is being steady and alert; it also makes me think of a strong black cup of coffee. Sukha is comfort or ease; it makes me think of sugar.

If you are a coffee drinker, you know that there is such a thing as too sweet or too strong or too weak a cup. Depending on your pallet will depend on what you think a perfect balance is. It takes a certain self-awareness to know your preference. The same applies to your yoga practice. Over time you develop and cultivate awareness.

To rock your asana (physical practice) authentically requires a constant cultivation of both steadiness and comfort. It’s important to breathe in your yoga postures and also be engaged physically as well as mentally. This is where transformation unfurls, and new knowing develops. This zone provides space and possibility for epiphanies to arise.

It requires Tapas (self-discipline) to gauge whether you are pushing past your zone or falling behind it. In the western world, we are more of the no pain no gain mindset. We embrace mindfulness, but wind up thinking way too much about it, and not embody our practice and our life. Yoga is the union of all these things to bring us back to balance and our true nature. Asana isn’t a competition or elite athleticism; it’s a space to release the tensions of the Annamaya Kosha, to refuel the energy of the Pranamaya Kosha, to work beyond the big “I” of the Manomaya Kosha, to practice the Yamas and the Niyamas in order to the keep the Vijnanmaya Kosha on track, so that we can access our bliss body the Anandamaya Kosha, in order to reach our highest self.

Next time you are in class or on your mat, check in. Notice if you are steady and filled with ease. It doesn’t mean that you avoid advanced asanas but to keep the balance and awareness around breath and engagement. If you are not breathing you’re not practicing yoga, you’re¬†practicing anaerobic exercise which has benefits it just has different intentions and benefits.

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