The words Sthira and Sukha go hand in hand. The concept that they represent makes them nearly inseparable and greater than the sum of their parts. These are Sanskrit terms familiar to many yogis from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: sthira-sukham asanam. Sutra 2.46 describes the physical practice of yoga. Sthira translates as strong, steady, and stable. Sukha means comfortable, happy, and relaxed. Loosely defined, we should strive to practice yoga and life with both strength and ease.
Sthira and Sukha are equally important qualities to develop and balance in both the practice of yoga and in life. A yoga practice can be stable and gentle or steady and joyful just as we can find harmony in our lives between strength and simplicity. A real life example of such balance can be seen in a new mother who is strong, resilient and fierce while still being gentle, loving and soft. Another example is a beautiful palm tree that is strong and stable but ready to flow with the wind with ease and beauty.
On the yoga mat:
In our physical practice, a balance of sthira and sukha manifests as a sense of stability, ease, comfort, and power in the yoga postures. Our muscles are engaged to hold the shape of the asana with steadiness while being free of tension and strain. The body can move easily and fluidly, while feeling grounded, relaxed and strong. Our alignment is precise but not rigid, allowing our bodies to feel free within the space created by the pose. At the mental and emotional level, a balance of sthira and sukha can be experienced by a sense of peace and tranquility while our minds remain focused and clear. We feel centered even under the pressure of performing challenging postures. Our drishti focal point is steady and strong and we are not distracted by outside stimuli. A balance of sthira and sukha allows us to release any negative emotions that may arise in our practice. At the spiritual level, we experience a balance of sthira and sukha as a connection to the divine while remaining present within our bodies.
Just like in yoga, it is important to balance sthira and sukha in our daily lives. To be strong, stable, and steady are wonderful qualities, but we also need to balance that with joy, flow and ease. Cultivating sthira and sukha as we move through the seasons of our lives establishes a foundation for the realization of our higher intentions, for identifying and acting as our best Self, and for weathering the inevitable difficulties that come our way with grace.
Joslyn Shehab, M.D., RYT-200