Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Comfort and Strength

By Healingyoga

As a yoga blogger, you just never know where you'll get inspiration for your next post. This one comes from Christmas music, which seems to be cropping up everywhere these days. Comfort and joy. Yoga's version of comfort and joy is Sthira and Sukha. The concept here is a balance of opposites -- effort and ease, strength and comfort, stability and relaxation. I've heard many definitions of Sthira and Sukha, but the idea remains the same.

The first time I heard a yoga teacher say "If you're shaking in this posture, you're working to hard and need to come out," I had a true ego response -- "No way -- I can handle it." Yes, I was the good little yoga student, muscling her way through her poses. I had lots of strength but very little comfort, which was obvious by the fact that I held my breath often (I could have used this wonderful and wise yoga towel to remind me to breathe).  

The idea of strength and ease didn't crystalize until I was in a yoga training years later learning about Ananta. Rather than relate the story here, I'll include the entry in the Urban Dictionary (of all places):

a Sanskrit word meaning "infinity", "without end". It may refer to Vishnu (The preserver God in Hindu's trinity) or
Ananta Shesha, a serpent on which Vishnu lies.
Ananta generally is referred to the Adishesha - the great serpent on which Vishnu rests after creating a new Universe. "Lord Vishnu's Couch" Ananta is strong enough to support the creator of the Universe and soft enough to be God's couch. So one of the main principals of Yoga - Sthira and Sukha (ease and effort) is represented by Ananta (Adishesha)Patanjali is a reincarnation of Ananta Shesha.

Sthira and Sukha are also how Patanjali defined asana. Funny how I had missed that for entire years of yoga pratice.

Interestingly enough, not only was I lacking Sthira and Sukha on the mat but in my life as well. As I started to change this, both my yoga practice and my life changed quite dramatically. Now there's a beautiful ease to my life that didn't previously exist. 

Yes folks, comfort and joy isn't just for the holidays...

One of my favorite mini practices that honors both Sthira and Sukha is simple but fun (not to mention excellent for developing strength and flexibility at the same time):

Plank to Dolphin -- Yes, it's that simple. I just alternate between the two in a mindful and gentle fashion. I hold each for as long as is comfortable (meaning my breathing remains stable).

Being that the holiday season is upon us and that's it's a difficult time for many, I think it's appropriate to wish you both Sthira and Sukha beyond your yoga mat. 

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