Sthira is a sanskrit word meaning steady, strong, resolute and firm. Sukha translates as gentle, easy, joyful, agreeable and good. When using these words in relation to our yoga asana practice it denotes firming our muscles, using the core muscles to hold ourselves steady and still, staying strong in both mind and body to take a pose. While doing this, though, we want to find ease. So while our body and mind is strong enough to hold firm, we find the ease in taking deep but gentle breaths- not forceful. We calm the mind from thoughts like “I can’t” or “it’s too hard” and we find the blissful place in the pose which comes out of that steadiness. For anyone who has done yoga and held an uncomfortable position for any length of time you know how difficult both of these concepts can be; it helps to move your prana (the energetic breath) through the body. Bring your focus to the subtle movement of the breath as your lungs expand and allow it to wash over your body to bring some relaxation where you can. Often times we find ourselves holding tight in areas of the body unnecessarily. We might be furrowing the brow in concentration or flexing a muscle that isn’t needed for the pose. Our shoulders might be lifting toward the ears even though we aren’t even using our arms. When we pay attention to the subtle effects on the body and bring ease where we can we are able to further relax both body and mind.
Like all lessons in yoga, this has implications for life off the mat as well. Holding steady and being resolute is important when we are talking about our values, our ethics and what we hold to be our truth. To know yourself and be true to yourself regardless of what might be popular in society is important for our own happiness. It can take courage to be true to your own beliefs and value systems. This is sthira at its core- staying strong and true. But in that strength we are able to be truly free and joyful. We aren’t struggling with the internal battle that comes about when what we do and say are not in line with our belief and value systems. We find lightness in our lives through that strength – both metaphorically and actually as our bodies seem to lighten as we lose the load of having to pretend.
I think it’s a difficult decision to start to behave in a way that corresponds to your own soul level awareness. It can mean no longer living an ordinary life in an ordinary way. It can mean giving up people that are not in our best interest. I think it can mean giving up a lot. If we do it though, will the burden of life lift? Will we be able to walk through life knowing that we truly are being the best versions our ourselves? It’s a difficult decision as I said. For me I wonder if it means giving up the work that pays the bills for something more in line with my consciousness. Or if I can stay true to myself while paying the bills. Right now I know I need to stay where I am with one job that meets my basic and material needs and two jobs (yoga and thai yoga massage) that fill my spirit. Balance between sthira and sukha will come to me – I just don’t know what that looks like right now.