What does it take to hold a yoga pose for a while ? The body and the mind should be strong, stable, grounded, yet comfortable. True engagement of all the required muscles, without strain or tension. The ability for the breath to flow smoothly. But how?
Yoga is a practice of opposites. In Yoga, we practice Sthira and sukha; Sthira means steady and firm, while sukha means gentle and comfortable. We need both in order to have a balanced practice/life. Sthira keeps us grounded, sukha keeps us lighthearted and flowing with ease. Yin and Yang.
Many of us that are “Type A” characters have the Sthira down pat. We like to have a plan. We like to execute. We often measure our self-worth by what we are achieving. The firm and grounded part is easier for us to identify with. The sukha, the lightheartedness, the ease, is harder to incorporate into our lives. In my yoga classes, I’ve often used the analogy of a bird that’s on a long flight. In order to get to its destination, it needs to exert the right balance of effort and surrender. It cannot flap its wings constantly, and it cannot simply glide the entire way. A healthy combination of the two is necessary. Just as in life, on and off the mat, we need that elusive balance.
Success. On a personal note, I have always had to measure success in some way. The fact that I was in Sales for 23 years didn’t help matters. There, it was all numbers, all measurements, all the time. But I think we end up in certain places, certain jobs, not by accident. It suited my Sthira character. There was a goal. My performance was measured. I knew how I was doing versus my quota, and versus my peers. I achieved. I won certain awards, and I lost certain opportunities.
But here’s the thing: In the “good” years, I felt validated. I was those numbers. I was those achievements. I was success.
In the bad years, I had failed. I had to be better. I had to change something. External validation of who we are.
Yoga. It has taught me to look within to see what is authentic. What is me. No one can measure “me.” No one does “me” better than me!
Yoga. It has taught me that Savasana (the final relaxation, which some people mistakenly confuse with sleep) is the most important pose of the practice. Life lesson. I flap my wings, but I must also learn to glide.
Yoga. It shares important lessons with me every day.
Stay strong and grounded, yet be soft enough to be flexible. Be firm, yet be gentle. Measure yourself by the immeasurable qualities that are within.
Sthira and sukha. Flap your wings, then glide. Do you exhibit a healthy balance of both?