By Gita Desyanti, yoga & breathwork teacher at Udara Bali

I first heard the concept of Sthira Sukham during my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. As we delved deeper, not only through asana but also through learning yogic philosophy, we were introduced to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a collection of 196 Sutras (aphorisms) on the theory and practice of yoga.

The concept of Sthira Sukham, derived from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.46, underscores a foundational principle in yoga practice: the balance of steadiness and ease. It was strongly reminded and advised both during practice and theory that yoga poses need to have these two qualities: steadiness and ease, or it’s ‘not’ yoga. And ‘asanam’ means not only posture or poses, but it can be translated as the seat, one person’s manner of pose and/or sitting, on the mat and in our daily lives. It offers profound insight into both the physical and philosophical dimensions of yoga:

  • Physical Dimension: Asana Practice

Steadiness (Sthira): Achieving steadiness in asana involves grounding and stability. This means being mindful of how different parts of the body connect with the earth, providing a solid foundation for the pose. For example, in standing poses, we bring awareness to the foundation and how the feet support the body. The alignment and engagement of the feet create a stable base. In seated, reclining, or prone positions, the contact points with the mat should distribute weight evenly to foster a sense of groundedness. Being aware of these contact points or ‘seats’ in any position immediately brings more presence to the body. This steadiness is not only physical but also mental, promoting focus and presence.

Ease (Sukha): Ease in practice refers to comfort and a sense of relaxation within the posture. It involves listening to the body, respecting its limits, and allowing the breath to guide the practice. Sukha emphasizes the importance of not forcing the body into a pose but finding a version of the pose that feels right and sustainable. This approach nurtures self-awareness and self-care, encouraging a practice that is harmonious and non-striving.

  • Energetic and Philosophical Dimensions

Steadiness (sthira): Steadiness can refer to connection to the Root Chakra. It is energetically linked to the first chakra, the root chakra, which governs our sense of security and grounding. Cultivating ‘sthira’ helps enhance our connection to this chakra, fostering a sense of security, safety, belonging, and feeling at home in the body.

Ease and Self-Care (sukha): Ease and self-care relate to our ability to recognize and honor our own needs. It teaches us to approach our practice with compassion, prioritize self-care, listen to our bodies, allow for rest and recovery, and progress at a pace that suits our individual capacities. This principle can be extended off the mat into our daily lives, encouraging a balanced approach to challenges and responsibilities. It involves synchronizing poses with breath and cultivating awareness of breath texture and length to enhance comfort and ease.

In order to achieve ‘sukha,’ we need to first bring steadiness to our practice. Knowing our capacity and needs and letting go of the desire for perfection while finding what brings comfort and works for us at that moment brings purpose to the pose and life itself.

The sutra reminds us that our yoga pose does not need to be perfect. Quite the contrary—it insists that our approach to the practice is what counts and that when you lose your sense of steadiness and ease, you’ve gone too far. Steadiness and ease are the gauge of your practice. The concept of Sthira and Sukha in yogic philosophy alludes to exactly that: the polarized yet completely balanced nature of life.

Overall, ‘sthira sukha’ requires attention, breath awareness, and alignment with our individual rhythm, fostering a sense of harmony between body and mind. Achieving steadiness (‘sthira’) involves being aware of our presence, our surroundings, how we feel, and how we can create a sense of ‘sthira’—steady, grounded, and connected to the earth beneath us.

Now the question is how to bring Sthira and Sukha into Yoga and Life into practical application.  Here are some of the examples: in one of the most challenging practices or poses, when a practitioner forces themselves into a headstand without sufficient strength and control, they might achieve the pose momentarily but at the cost of stability and comfort. In contrast, a practitioner who stands firm and balanced in a Warrior I pose, fully embodying steadiness and ease, is practicing in alignment with the true spirit of yoga.

Sutra 2.46 reminds us that yoga is not about achieving perfect forms or impressive poses. It’s about the quality of our engagement and the state of our mind. Whether on the mat or in everyday life, embodying Sthira Sukham encourages us to cultivate a balanced, mindful, and compassionate approach to all our activities.

By integrating steadiness and ease, we foster a practice and a way of life that supports our overall well-being, promoting harmony between body, mind, and spirit.

In our daily life or off the mat, this principle reminds us of how often we try to impress others by overextending our capacities and trying to meet someone else’s expectations without being aware of our own state of being and capacity. Striving to be somebody else can make us forget the authenticity and potential we already have within. Taking steps with steadiness, sustainability, ease, and grace allows us to be true to ourselves.

Visit our yoga schedule and timetable to check out our different yoga classes where you can practice Sthira Sukham through asanas, Meditation, Yin Yoga, and Yoga Nidra. These practices always remind us to sit, stay, or lie down comfortably while observing the busy mind and experiencing emotions and physical sensations. Click here for the yoga schedule.