The Balance of Sthira and Sukha
JAMEY JONES // October 1, 2011
Sthira sukham asana, yoga sutra 2.46, defines yoga asana as a steady, comfortable posture. Sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease) are the qualities to cultivate in yoga postures. In fact, only when these two qualities are attained is the pose truly an asana. Cultivating steadiness and ease in each pose requires a combination of effort and release — effort to hold the pose and maintain a grounded foundation, and release in areas of the body available for relaxation in the pose.
Sthira and sukha also describe the breath. And since the breath ultimately dictates the quality of each asana, and of the entire practice, this is the best place to begin. With each inhale arises new energy that can be channeled into strength and steadiness. With each exhale release is possible. Tapping into these qualities of breath brings about an awareness of the breath that naturally embodies sthira and sukha.
With steadiness and ease of the breath, yoga asana blossoms. The poses naturally assume ease and steadiness when the breath leads. Take for example virabhadrasana B, warrior II pose; virabhadrasana B is a common nemesis pose for many. Keeping the hips squared forward with proper placement of the feet takes balance and grounding. Holding the arms — straight — overhead further increases the intensity of this pose.
To temper the many demands of virabhadrasana B takes sthira and sukha. Steadiness is found with the proper foot position and in the ground of the outer back foot. Steadiness is found in sinking down into the pose with strong legs. Steadiness is found in the breath. Ease is found with relaxed shoulders (though arms are extended with strength). Ease is found with a gaze upward, forehead soft. And ease can be found with each exhale.
Finding sthira and sukha in your yoga practice can truly take it to the next level. These qualities are accessible in every asana, but it's up to you to cultivate them. With each breath inhale sthira and exhale sukha to transform your practice.