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Sthira Sukham Asanam

David Schouela

Verse 2.46 of Patanjali's yoga sutra states Sthira Sukham Asanam. Sthira means steady, stable and motionless while Sukha means comfortable or ease-filled. Asanam means meditation posture derived from the root "as" which means to sit. It also means to be present in one's body, inhabiting fully in it. Image

Here Patanjali is stating that one's posture in meditation should be steady and comfortable or filled with ease. Whereas Patanjali is mainly referring to the sitting posture, any posture can be used that brings steadiness and ease.

The same principle applies in hatha yoga and is best understood in the standing postures. In the standing mountain (Tadasana) we stand with our weight evenly distributed on all four corners of our feet, we lift the kneecaps, and engage the thigh muscles by wrapping them around the femurs. The tailbone is extended towards the floor while the navel draws towards the spine allowing for a lift up and out of the waist. The tops of the shoulders draw away from the ears and our neck is lengthened, crown pointing towards the heavens. With Sthira firmly established, the upper body can be light and free. This is Sukha. We relax the shoulders and the jaw. We loosen the throat and soften the tongue. It is like a tree with it's two opposing forces, the downward energy of the roots of the tree anchored deeply into the soil contrasted by the upward energy of the branches, stems and leaves extending towards the sunlight.

The same principle applies to our practice off the mat. Sthira means that we can be firmly established in our values not shaken by the winds of opposing forces or difficulties that arise in our lives. At the same time we need not hold on to fixed views, able to bend freely with change and remaining non-attached to outcome. This is the freedom of Sukha.


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