Friday, July 09, 2010

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the oldest written texts, and an oft-quoted revered repository of Yogic wisdom, asana is described in sutra II-46. Sthira Sukham Asanam. I love this sutra, as so many of us who seek pithy Sanskrit phrases to elucidate the practice. There are many ways to translate this thread, as is the case for all Sanskrit words. (For example, we printed the 37 definitions of the word “Yoga” in the April, 2010, issue of LA YOGA.) My current favorite is: Find steadiness and sweetness in your seat, your posture, your pose, your shape. It’s been something that I’ve talked about in my classes all this week, including when I was teaching at Yogaglo and there was an earthquake during the class, which was the ultimate challenge of maintaining steadiness.

Sthira is steadiness and sukha is sweetness. People say that Sanskrit is a mantric language, and the sounds themselves hold the meaning of the word. I believe this to be the case with these two words. Shtira just feels steady, there’s a sense of steadiness that is held in the mouth as the word is formed and spoken. Sukha, well, it has the same root as the English words sucrose and sucanut, or more properly stated, the Sanksrit word holds the origin of the English. A lifetime of knowledge adds to the sound.

This is what we are seeking through the practice: steadiness and sweetness. It may come in a moment, in a breath, in the way we finally find that moment in downward facing dog when the pose fulfills the promise of being the resting pose it is rumored to be. In between the sweet breaths, there is plenty of bitterness, indeed. There is effort on the way to releasing effort. We wobble like Weebles on our way to finding a steady stance. Yet we are relaxing, surrendering, falling back into the warm embrace of sweetness.

There are statistics that the amount of sugar, particularly processed sugars, eaten by Americans is increasing exponentially. That’s not the type of sweetness I’m talking about here. Nor am I condoning the proliferation of artificial sweeteners that trick the body at a very deep level. I have a theory that part of the reason why there is this collective increase in sugar intake is because people are searching for sweetness; we’re longing for it. And we don’t always know how to find it. And with each news report, calamity, each day that oil still spills in the Gulf, with each earthquake, it becomes harder to find.

But Patanjali said, Sthira sukha asanam. There is a place we can go to find sweetness and it is within the practice, and most importantly, within us, if we dare to surrender.

Sthira Sukha Asanam.

If you want more Sthira Shukam Asanam, I'll be teaching one day of philosophy and meditation, Friday, July 16, in Palm Springs. Check out more details here.
This was my editor's note from July 2, leading up to the holiday.

This weekend we celebrate freedom. We celebrate the legacy of independence, forward-thinking, rebellion, citizen activism, our collective individual rights, our ability to vote and speak our minds.

This is what this day means to us and what being born, growing up in or moving to this country at this period of time means. With this celebration, I believe we also have a responsibility to cultivate and to maintain these freedoms.

We can look at freedom at an individual level: Where are we imprisoned in our lives? Where are we stuck? Where are we holding ourselves back unnecessarily? What are the blind spots we’re not seeing? What are the obstacles we can break through? When we consider our individual freedoms, when we realize the truth, we know that we are already free. Freedom, liberation, enlightenment—these are our birthrights. This is what we are born to experience.

Living in this time and this place we are fortunate to be exposed to the teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda, in all of their paths, iterations, complexities, traditions—that offer us a template, a roadmap and an ability to discover and experience freedom. When we surrender and soften into ourselves, we know it, believe it, breathe it and embody it.

On Monday morning, July 5, we have the opportunity to go on this journey with Arun Deva (whom I recently had the pleasure of interviewing for the July issue teacher profile) exploring the Alchemy of Consciousness and the Transformative Power of Personal Practice at the Sivananda Center in Marina del Rey.

When we think about our larger freedoms, our ability to choose how we spend our money, what we purchase in order to enhance our health and well-being and our prerogative to support small farmers and ethical businesses, is also part of what it means to live here, in this country, at this time. I believe using our voices to maintain our freedoms is vital. This morning I read community member Tommy Rosen’s account of the recent FBI raid at the private food club Rawsome. (Read the account here.) Whether or not you believe in raw food, unpasteurized milk or the basic premises’ of this club, there are dangers in overregulation, in not allowing us to make choices, in the increased corporatization of our food supply, of factory farming and the dangers we are subjected to with lack of labeling around GMOs, proliferation of dangerous pesticides and other issues. At Rawsome, full disclosure is part of the deal. With true full disclosure, then we really have the freedom to choose. Freedom to choose is part of our independence. And this freedom to choose, I believe, should be more than just freedom to choose which brand of sugar-coated, GMO and pesticide-filled cereal in a box we buy.

If we believe the adage that practice, and all is coming, then do we dare to ask ourselves how are we practicing freedom in all areas of our life, on and off the mat, in and around our minds.
Happy Independence Day and to Freedom!
Has it really been a full year since I published a post on this blog? I've hardly been slacking, as an issue of LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health magazine comes out each month. And, starting at the end of 2009, we launced a weekly email newsletter, for which I write a short note. Those notes have their home only in the newsletter, and the represent whatever I'm thinking about at the time, so what better place to start publishing them but here, too!

I've also been busier since I've been teaching at class in the studio that is also filmed online at Yogaglo in Santa Monica, and I receive notes from people in LA and all over the world who are taking the classes.