Exploring the Sutras
Lesson 8: Yoga Sutra 2.46
Book II.46 Sthira sukham asanam
This sutra is near and dear to my heart because it is the very sutra that got me excited about the sutras. As a Hatha yogini I began with the asanas, or poses, of the practice. The postures just resonated so deeply in my body and brought me to such a high place that I don’t know I would have found any other way. My asana practice began when I was 18 years old and not exactly a focused spiritual being yet. I took a Hatha yoga class at my college because they offered it for gym credit! Funny, I was just at my mom’s house back in Virginia and she had found a bunch of my old report cards and there was my first yoga class on my report card with an “A” for a grade!! I laughed out loud at that one although it definitely helped my GPA at the time. Anyways, what I’m getting at is that there are so many ways to open the door to yoga. For most westerners it is through the body and therefore through the asanas. They are a profound tool for transformation and teach us how to be centered and focused on the task at hand. If I had first been introduced to yoga with a different aspect, I don’t know if I would have stayed on the path.
According to Patanjali there are eight limbs of yoga and asana is the third limb, following the yamas and the niyamas which are like the Ten Commandments of yoga in my mind. If we approach yoga linearly it would appear that we could not begin an asana practice without mastering all ten of the yamas and niyamas. That would be really really difficult for most of us as the first Yama is ahimsa- non violence and the second is satya- truthfulness in everything. I feel so grateful to have had Pattabhi Jois as my teacher because he told me that he thought the first two limbs should be asana and pranayama before the yamas and the niyamas. The reason being that the asanas can teach us so much about the yamas and niyamas and they give us ample opportunity to practice non violence with ourselves and being honest with ourselves and not being attached to things. I really love that philosophy and have practiced and taught from that same place for years now. The beautiful thing about a sincere yoga practice is that it is through the daily practice that we learn how to be more mindful and how to relax in our effort and be more in the moment. Asana is a powerful practice and as long as we recognize the impermanence of the body and the reality that it will change throughout our lives, we can celebrate ourselves and truly practice yoga in its entirety.
Now, as you know, I love he Sanskrit words and their meaning so let me break it down for you. Sthira means strength, stability, endurance, and the ability to stay. Sukha is the word for sweetness and incidentally it is the root of the word sugar. It refers to the bliss or sweetness of the pose. Sthira and sukha are the two qualities of an asana (pose) that we as yogis are constantly working towards. They seem contradictory and yet they are complementary. As I understand it, to paraphrase, this sutra tells us that in every asana we are looking for Effort without Tension and a state of Relaxation without being Dull. The only way we can ever hope to achieve this high state is through abhyasaha- consistent regular practice! So, keep doing your practice and all is coming! That’s a Guruji quote and I think of it daily. Have a great week and stay tuned for the next two sutras that also relate to asana.
Namaste and Aloha, Nicki