Sthira and Sukha – 2 Vital Principles of Yoga Explained

(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.

The Meaning of ‘Om’

Originally posted here for Zuna Yoga

om

“For it to have its effect, the sound of AUM is remembered with deep feeling for the meaning of what it represents.” (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.28).

“Om,” in the yogic tradition, is chanted at the beginning and end of class or practice. It’s one of those things that’s often assumed as universally understood yet it’s rarely explained properly, if at all, by yoga instructors.

Om is an ancient sound used by various Eastern religions, including Buddhism, Hinduisim, Sikhism, Jainism, to denote the beginning and end of sacred scriptures, texts, and prayers. Many of the world’s religions indicate that creation began with sound, the vibrations of which are said to be contained within om. Each time we chant om, we connect with the eternal vibration of being that has been in existence since the beginning of all things and is the creative source of energy behind all existence.
The Om symbol consists of 3 curves, a semicircle, and a dot. The curves represent mind, body, and soul, and the semicircle at the top is maya, understood as an obstacle to achieving the highest form of enlightenment. Om is sometimes spelled “aum,” a more accurate phonetic spelling which divides the chant into its three individual sounds of a-u-m. “Aum” encompasses all possible combinations of sounds and lies at the root of all potential or pre-existing sounds. In linguistics, all sound is said to be produced between the root of the tongue and the entrance of the lips, the throat sound being “a,” the lip sound being “m,” and “u” representing the rolling forwards of all sounds until they stop at the lips. Like the letters of the alphabet, which in all possible combinations give rise to every word ever spoken, the sounds of a-u-m pass through every formation in the mouth necessary for vocalising language, making it a magnificently meaningful sound.

Om allows us to tap into the existing energy which always surrounds us but which modern distractions and lifestyles have shifted from our immediate awareness. For millennia, various names and personifications have been used by religions to represent a single all-powerful being. This placement of belief in a deity instead of in our immediate environment ignores the connection between the individual and that which surrounds us. We chant om to not only honor the beginning of all things but to appreciate all of creation that still surrounds us. The Upanishads refer to this state of collective consciousness and universal awareness as ishvara. Om is our key to accessing it.


We do not create om simply by chanting it. Instead, om serves as a medium through which we connect to these vibrations. Physically, chanting om creates a pranava or humming sound, as Patanjali describes, which stimulates the body into a meditational state, increases relaxation, and is said to stimulate the body to remove toxins and increase our capacity for self healing. Mentally, speaking om allows us to focus, shifting our attention outwards, away from internal struggles and helping us tune in to that which can provide us harmony in mind, body, and soul.
It’s common to hear the word “shanti” included after a final expression of om. Shanti means “peace” in Sanskrit and is intended as a parting wish for peace and happiness within the universe at large and within everything around us. Shanti is commonly used throughout India to express a light-hearted and peaceful state of being in casual conversation and descriptions of everyday occurrences, while om is reserved for more spiritual practices such as yoga practice or religious ceremony.
Om shanti.