In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines asana as sthira sukham, or steady and comfortable. Any yogi, new or seasoned, experiences both beautiful embodiment of sthira sukham and the complete opposite or utter disharmony in the body.
There are techniques yogis use to be steady, comfortable and full of ease in yoga practice, but how can these methods be applied outside of postures?
What use does a a beautiful dancer’s pose have if you cannot transform the balance, flexibility, and integrity the posture requires off of your mat and into your daily interactions with others and yourself?
And most importantly, how well do you adhere to these practices in times of stress and discomfort?
I find myself slipping away from the harmony I create during practice as I face issues and relationships that challenge me. I struggle in times of transition and feel insecure and vulnerable. I am overwhelmed with a sense of disconnect and loss of control. My emotions run the show and fuel the ego-machine. My mechanical behaviors take over, and I lose sight of truth and what yoga really is and what it has revealed to me.
For me, theory is useless without practicality. How do these teachings in the sutras assist me in my life? Words in a book can inform, but my experiences on and off the mat are where the credibility exists. Theory is useless without practice and application.
So, when a yoga posture is really difficult, uncomfortable, and unstable for me - I have to focus my attention, show myself compassion, relax unnecessary tension, engage, ground down... and breathe.
These tools and internal disciplines that I cultivate in practice are the key to blending my on and off the mat experiences into one. There is an opportunity for the two realities to merge; for harmony and balance to consume me as the insecurities and stories fade away into the nothingness they always were. The only things that can remain are peace and union.
After I shared my recent obstacles with my teacher, she said, “[Life], it is yoga - inquiry - another opportunity to see what comes up within effort... Should you move into struggle or hold in joyful steadiness and find ease.”
I discover new things everyday. New mirrors await around each corner, showing me things I already new and forgot or perhaps prefer to forget. What appear to be dead ends expose themselves as lessons to be noted (likely not learned, yet). Teachers appear in all forms and challenge me to question everything. As I navigate my new world, I will maintain my balance, ease, and stability. I will focus, ground down, be compassionate, and breathe. There is no difference between yoga on and yoga off my mat.
Above all, I will be grateful for this beautiful, uncertain, but always harmonious life that offers endless opportunities to find the joyful steadiness in the midst of struggle.
(And the teachers that won’t let me forget that).
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