“Sthira Sukham Asanam” is a beautiful sanskrit phrase coined by Patanjali, father of the Yoga Sutras. Commonly, it is defined as “good space”, “steady comfortable posture” or “steadiness and ease”.
Sthira translates to steady, stable, grounded and strong; and Sukha translates to comfortable, easeful and peaceful.
In essence, our yoga practice should be a balance of these two principles — strength and ease. On a physical level, sthira sukham asanam tells us:
(1) The “no pain, no gain” mentality does not lead to better physical results. WHOO HOO! If a physical movement/pose does not feel right or brings you pain, do NOT practice that pose. Our bodies are created uniquely and are constantly changing. Learning to identify what is not serving you in ‘the body of the day’ is part of the practice. Not all poses/styles of yoga are for all people at all times. The teacher in you can feel and identify what is not serving — slow down and listen.
- E.g. If your daily vinyasa class is leaving you feeling a bit anxious or exhausted some days, it might be your body telling you to incorporate a slow-flow, hatha, or restorative class into your life. I personally love hatha and foam rolling on days like that. Why not book that massage too!?
- On the opposing end, if you are feeling sluggish and uninspired, standing poses and vinyasa (or even a jog or lifting weights) could be what your body/mind are craving.
(2) Practice “Finding Your Edge” and taking on healthy challenges. Bring your practice to a place where you feel challenged, but are not in physical pain. Our breath serves as an indicator as to what is a sustainable challenge. If your breathing is restricted or suffering, give yourself permission to back off and find a more sustainable place to be. This might mean that your practice looks different than others in the room at certain times, and it will definitely mean that it looks different than yesterday…and that’s actually PERFECT! Different day, different body, different edge.
(3) Your practice should offer your body a balance of STABILITY and MOBILITY. This is a big one especially if you are a yogi or yogini. We often tend to think the answer to everything is stretching more and getting more and more flexible. This is definitely NOT the case. Certain joints and areas of our body are designed for STABILITY (Hi, low back, neck and knees!) and by over-stretching these areas we can throw things out of alignment and experience pain. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re all about lifting weights, body building, etc. and are experiencing tightness and restricted range of motion — it might be time to incorporate some active and passive stretching into your routine.
In yoga, our practice just begins on our mats. The real challenge lies in applying these principles to our daily lives off the mats. Sthira Sukham Asanam offers wisdom for healthful living.
And oftentimes how we behave on the mat, mirrors how we behave off the mat.
If you don’t give yourself permission to back off of poses that are causing you pain, are you doing the same thing in your life? Are you curious to try handstand, but simply write it off because its unfamiliar? These are CLUES into how you’re living life as well!
Here is some food for thought:
(1) The “no pain no gain” rule does NOT apply in life either.
- Are you inflicting pain upon yourself through old habits or outdated routines (or a lack of routines)? “Pain” can be easily disguised as exhaustion/feeling overwhelmed and/or uninspired and feeling bored.
- Are you investing in relationship(s) that leave you feeling strong and peaceful, or ones that leave you exhausted and irritable? Dial down the negative ones and dial up the positive. We will have all kinds of relationships in life and not all are rosy, but it is important to water the ones that serve you.
(2) Healthy challenges can be incorporated into your daily life too!
- Every day of your life does NOT need to be super challenging and exhausting, but how you’re living should align with your dreams and goals. It can be helpful to identify how.
- Consider writing down your goals for one month from now, six months from now, a year from now and five years from now. If you’re in a relationship, have your partner do the same for themself. It is also valuable to create goals over the same time horizon the two of you can achieve together.
- Setting cruise control is OK — sometimes you know you’re on the right path, at a good speed, with the proper attention span and and have both hands on the wheel. You’re steady and comfortable and see the light at the end of the tunnel in sight.
(3) On a day to day basis, feelings will inevitably vary. But overall, but do you feel grounded and at ease?
- Examine where and how your time is allocated. Are you spending your time in ways that serve your dreams and goals?
- Evaluate how you FEEL. Do you feel stuck in your life and need to change something? Feelings to make bigger changes could take longer than a day, so listen and see how you feel consistently over time.
I’d love to hear from you all and if this principle identifies with you! Let me know in the comments section below.