Many of us first discover yoga through the physical practice of yoga poses (asana). However, this is just one small aspect of a much deeper and richer practice, as explained in the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Asana – “sthira sukham asanam”
Asana is the third limb in the Eight Limbs of Yoga from Patanjali’s ‘Yoga Sutras’ and it literally means ‘seat’ – specifically the seat you take for meditation. The most important and in fact the only description of asana given in the Yoga Sutras is “sthira sukham asanam”, meaning that every asana should be ‘STEADY’ and ‘COMFORTABLE’ – STHIRA and SUKHA.
‘Sthira’ means steady or stable or grounded or strong and ‘Sukha’ means comfortable or easy (or ‘easeful’) or peaceful. Whenever you practise yoga you’re trying to find that balance between these two aspects. Seeking this equilibrium is what it’s all about!
If we can be steady and comfortable and not ‘pulled’ by the aches and pains of the body, or distracted by restlessness due to an uncomfortable position or a whirling mind, we can sit in meditation ‘endlessly’! This, according to the Eight Limbs of Yoga, is the purpose of asana.
But… it’s not just about that perfect seat
This constant exploration between Sthira and Sukha in our asana / yoga postures, as with all things, impacts our daily life. Asana teaches us to strengthen areas of weakness, shed light on places unlit and relax areas of contraction. It encourages us to practise acceptance, allowing things to just ‘BE’ and teaches us to cultivate balance in our life – to live with contentment and ease.
Do you want to explore this more?
Explore this concept further in our ‘Asana week’, part of the Eight Limbs of Yoga Program.