Sthira and Sukham - The Balance of Strength and Surrender

 
In the Yoga Sutras, (an Ancient Indian text) only two of the 195 verses mention asana (pose), and only one (2.46) hints at what asana is supposed to be. Yet here in the West asana are what most of us fixate on. We glorify being busy and put as much effort as possible into our daily lives and our yoga practice. 
 
Asana is said to have eventuated as a tool to wear out the practitioner so that he/she could sit still for meditation. Yet, this sutra suggests that the asana achieves a balance of strength and surrender. 
 
"Sthira Sukham Asanam is one of the most quoted Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It means a yoga posture should be steady, firm and stable, yet also comfortable, light and delightful." ~ Esther Ekhart - Beyond Asana.
 
Sthira (Steadiness/Strength) - The word, sthira, translates as firm, stable, resolute, changeless. Sthira speaks not only of strength and endurance but also the ability to be to be present. It refers to both physical and mental stillness: a controlled, fully engaged body and a focused mind.
 
The asana should be performed within your physical limitations so you remain still, regardless of the difficulty of the posture. If you are fidgeting or your eyes are wandering, this is an indication that your mind has also run away with your thoughts. 
 
Sukham (Ease/Surrender)  - Sukha translates as agreeable, easy, comfortable and relaxed. Here we bring in the principles non-violence and self-acceptance. We nurture ourselves by doing something that feels good. 
 
If you find that your breath has sped up or is irregular, or that your muscles are shaking this is an indication that you may have pushed too far. With close attention to breath, you can calm yourself, so the posture remains still, strong, and steady and comfortable enough to allow relaxation and release to occur.
 
Try to surrender within each posture and avoid being in a head-space where you want to get out of the asana as quickly as possible. Try to stay when you feel the need to run. Aim to find balance in your practice between strength and surrender.
 
Asanam (Seat or Camp) - Traditionally, the word is linked to a posture or series of postures that prepare the body for seated meditation. Interestingly, the root (as) speaks of being present in one's body and living fully in it. 
 
In practicing asana, we practice being fully present with all the details, sensations, and experiences that occur in the body/mind. We balance this steadiness with surrender. We need to find a balance between effort and ease. 
 
Eventually we find that our practice on the mat spills over to our life off the mat and we begin to find balance in our everyday life. We begin to know when to be determined and take action and when to let go. 
 
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.” —Saint Francis de Sales.

Article by Martine Ford - written for the eNewsletter 1/2/17

Profile photo of Martine Ford of Spirit Yoga, Port Macquarie, Australia

Martine is a qualified yoga instructor and owner of Spirit Yoga in Port Macquarie, Australia. She moved back home to start anew and spread the joys and benefits of yoga to the coastal town of Port Macquarie. She doesn't pretend to have everything worked out perfectly, and openly shares any mishaps and insights she may have along the way. 

A former professional dancer, she has an extensive background in ballet, contemporary, character, jazz and yoga studies. Martine trained in Power Yoga to Advanced level with Duncan Peak in the Baron Baptiste style of Power Yoga. She also has certification in Yin Yoga (Jo Phee), Kids Yoga, Pre and Post Natal Yoga and has a Diploma in Dance. 

Her series of e-Books, Yoga for the Seasons & The Spirit Yoga Health Series are available on Amazon.

To receive further news from Spirit Yoga subscribe to the monthly e-News.