“Sthira” refers to a sense of strength, steadiness and firm and “Sukha” refers to ease and openness while incorporating lightness and equilibrium.
Sthira and sukha are opposite but equally important qualities when performing asanas on our mat. Finding the balance is the key in discovering your own capability and capacity.
Translation from Yoga Sutras, Pantanjalis says: “Asana is the perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit”. This is so true when I am performing the asanas on my yoga mat.
One of the challenging pose to me is vrksasana – Tree pose. I struggled in the past to stand on one leg and raising my hand up to balance myself. Strength and firmness of the body is required to balance my bodyweight onto one leg and yet you have to remain calm and relax in order to stay in the position. You need to stay focus and grounded to where you are and enjoy the moment. As months pass by, I grew stronger with the posture and able to stay longer with a focus point. However, the challenge came when I have to close my eyes. I will usually lose balance within the minute I close my eyes. I lose the feeling of being at ease due to fear and cluttered mind. Balancing sthira and sukha is the key to perform this asanas well.
I have very tight hamstrings probably due to years of running and no proper stretching. Many of the asanas seems impossible for me to perform when I first attended the class. I gazed at other students in awe who can perform all those those difficult asanas at ease while here I am struggling with just touching my toes with uttanasana. Then I practice and push myself even though I feel that my hamstrings are burning. I find strength and perseverance to work on it and frequently seek improvement to go a little deeper and holding the pose longer. Once I have found that strength, the ability to relax in the pose comes easier.
These two yogic qualities relate very much to our daily lives. We need sthira – strength to stand up to our principles on what is right and what is not. Many a times, we are beaten by easily when we are out there fighting in the corporate jungle. Some principles and values are frayed in order to survive or climb the corporate ladder. It is because we do not want to be seen as the one who is the odd one out or we are just that near to achieving our goal. Having the right balance of sthira is important. Sukha is the quality of ease to remain calm when a situation may make us angry. An open heart is required so that we are not acting angrily to someone who does not deserve our wrath. We do not know what this person is feeling or going through when they are acting strangely or did things that makes you really mad. Maybe they are having a really bad day or maybe he or she is sick but is trying their very best to communicate with you? Being open allows us to step back and look at things in a different perspective.
Balancing sthira and sukha does not only happen at our yoga mat but it also relates to our activities. To me, by balancing it well is one of the key virtues to happiness.
Yoga Philosophy for Everyone
Edited by Liz Stillwaggon Swan
By Hazel Kok
200hr YTTC (Jan to May 2014)