(pic via Zuna Yoga)
Sthira and Sukha – 2 Vital Principles of Yoga Explained
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are considered the most concise and thorough explanation of yoga and it’s significance to us as practitioners today. The Sutras, thought to have been compiled around 400CE and literally translated as ‘threads’ from the Sanskrit word, serve as individual definitions of concepts and knowledge that together form the entire ideology of Yoga.
The style of the ‘sutra’ is designed to present us with essential knowledge in as few words as possible, free from ambiguity or irrelevant information. Each principle or thread of knowledge is laid out in easily understood and straightforward sentences which has led to their successful and accurate passing from generation to generation, right down to our understanding of them today.
Two vital aphorisms which the Sutras define are those of Sthira and Sukha, key aspects of both the physical and spiritual practice of yoga as it is understood today. Although there is no successful ‘completion’ or personal attainment associated with any genuine yoga practice, the translation of Sthira as ‘steadiness’, and Sukha as ‘ease’ are two aims which we should associate and seek to embody throughout our yoga practice.
Strength and Steadiness
To hold an asana (pose) with steadiness and strength (Sthira), we are working our inner core and drawing upon a lengthy period of sustained and regular practice. Strength and confidence in holding difficult asanas is not achieved overnight, and as such the attributes of Sthira are generally realised only after a period of consistent and dedicated practice.
Ease and Comfort
Sukha, on the other hand, is a softer and more emotional element of the asana practice which usually follows Sthira in its revelation. To truly relax within a posture or given situation, we must feel both strong and at ease within our bodies. Sukha embodies the feeling of ease and peace of mind that comes with a comfortable flow from one posture to the next and the ability to maintain each asana comfortably. It is this comfort and contentment within a given posture or flow which successfully defines Sukha.
The softness of Sukha combined with the alertness and strength of Sthira is the real goal of any yoga practitioner; no matter how far or deep the twist or stretch may be, once it is held steadily and comfortably with a sense of both Sthira and Sukha, both the body and mind will be at ease within it – and there’s nothing better than the feeling of finally being able to comfortably hold a posture you once struggled with, whether it was mentally telling yourself you weren’t able, or being too physically weak to do so!
In this sense Sthira and Sukha further promote and maintain the unification of mind and body we seek to achieve through yoga practice.