How to Embody Sthira and Sukha In Your Yoga Practice
Yoga Sutra 2.46 describes Yoga Asana as a “steady, comfortable posture.” It’s where we get the Sanskrit words “sthira” (steady, stable) and “sukha” (ease, comfortable).
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is a collection of aphorisms or teachings and is considered to be one of the foundational instructional texts for the yoga practice.
Have you ever been frustrated when you can’t hold Crow Pose or keep stumbling out of Warrior 3 Pose? What if I told you that your desire to “stick the pose” is a form of perfectionism and is ruining your yoga practice?
I remember trying to crane my neck to peek at the woman on the mat next to mine, sweat dripping from my forehead, as my legs trembled and arms shook. We were holding Warrior 2 Pose for what seemed like decades.
She held a calm demeanor and kept her gaze out in front. Her face wasn’t red from holding her breath like mine was. She didn’t seem to struggle at all.
That’s when the yoga teacher said, “The breath always comes first. If you’re losing your breath, pull back, ease up. The pose isn’t the point. The process is the point. It’s how you get there that matters most.”
As if speaking straight to my ego, she reminded us to let go of the desire to nail the pose. My perfectionism and desire to do it right and – honestly – to look good doing it, was hindering my ability to experience the fullness of yoga.
In any posture, the goal is to find steadiness and ease; a far cry from holding my breath and collapsing out of Warrior 2 Pose.
So how do we go from slamming ourselves into tough postures to gracefully moving with ease and strength in a way that feels good? Read on to learn more about sthira and sukha and how we can embody steadiness and ease in our physical yoga practice.
Try These 3 Ways to Incorporate More Steadiness and Ease In Your Yoga Practice:
Here are three mindful suggestions that may help shift your mindset from perfectionism to embracing – and enjoying – the process. And as you experiment with these tips, you’ll naturally find more sthira and sukha on your mat. 🙂
1. Consider Your Mat a Place for Exploration
Begin your practice by setting an intention to focus on how things feel in your body as you move.
In this way, you become an observer as much as a practitioner. When you find yourself holding your breath, can you adjust with a big inhale and find steadiness and ease on the exhale?
In any posture, the goal is to find steadiness and ease.
Use your time on the mat to discover what steadiness and ease look like for you. Give yourself permission to experiment with that. Bring a sense of playfulness to your practice. From here, you’ll come to embody sthira and sukha.
2. Make It Your Own
The Bhagavad Gita says, “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”
3 *Seriously Relevant* Life Lessons We Can Learn From the Bhagavad Gita
It’s not the journey of learning how to nail Crow Pose perfectly.
It’s the process of connecting with self (mind, body, and spirit) and moving from that place with a sense of steadiness and ease. You do this by listening to your body and making adjustments unique to your experience.
That is the process of yoga asana.
3. Trust the Process
A huge part of trusting the process is letting go of the outcome. Which requires no shortage of steadiness and ease!
It’s when we drop the desire for perfection that we can embrace the process and trust ourselves to find what we need on the mat.
So often we show up to the mat with expectations of how our practice will go or what it will look like. It’s when we can drop the desire for perfection that we can begin to embrace the process and trust ourselves to find what we need on the mat.
This place of surrender and trust is where the good stuff is. This is when we can really begin to enjoy the journey. And it all starts with embodying the concept of sthira and sukha.
Sthira and Sukha: Shift Your Yoga Practice From Perfectionism to Process
The next time you roll out your mat, remember to set the intention to explore, to listen to your body and breath, and to take a moment to release any expectations you might have brought with you.
Remember the goal is a steady, comfortable posture. If you find your perfectionism is no longer serving, remind yourself of sthira and sukha, and then give yourself permission to let it go. Who knows? It might just be the key to Crow Pose.