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.

No comments: