I grew up in New York and one of the things I distinctly remember is the smell of autumn, my favorite time of year. I remember the crunching of the leaves under my feet as the trees shed their layers and the cool air in the mornings indicating the seasons were indeed changing.
It’s always been something I look forward to for more reasons than I can name. Mostly, it’s my favorite time of year because of the introspective nature of this specific transition. There’s almost a collective turning inward as we assess all that we’ve learned in the past year. We begin to settle in and get ready to shed layers from our own existence that are no longer serving us and we clear the way for new intentions to fill our space as the year ahead approaches.
During this time of year where big shifts take form around us, we’re faced with the challenge to remain in balance amid fluctuation. There is a particular type of balance explored in yoga asana that is helpful to remain centered while navigating these shifts and changes. It’s a balance between sthira and sukha; sthira meaning strong, steady, or stable and sukha meaning ease, comfort, or joy. These two terms are widely known from The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, a collection of 196 Sanskrit verses or aphorisms, created in India. These sutras serve as a guide in yoga practice to move towards deeper connection, wisdom, and awakening.
Yoga Sutra 2.46 says “sthira-sukham asanam”.
In essence, this means “a posture should be steady and comfortable.” This is a loose translation and, of course, there are many different variations and interpretations of this sutra, as there are with all 196 of them.
Moving Between Effort and Ease
Another common translation you might hear when talking about this sutra is discovering a balance between effort and ease. Balance in this way is frequently talked about in relation to the physical asana practice because we learn well in tangible space.
For me in my personal practice, this balance is present when I can find steadiness in a shape that is activating my body, while simultaneously accessing a sense of peace in my breath. If I hold too tightly to what I think the shape is supposed to look like and try to force myself into it, I disconnect from any feeling of ease or intention and I will likely create injury. When I take the time to connect inward and understand what my body needs, I release expectations and allow an easeful flow to enter my space.
I know I’m hyper focused on steadiness when I create the same shapes, in the same order, each time I arrive on my mat. I get stuck in the routine of it because it seems easier than moving to something new. Inevitably, I lose the inner connection and access to what my body needs in each unique moment, I lack creativity, and my practice begins to feel stale.
When I’m able to invite in more variation I find inspiration and access ease, a space where my body, my mind, and my heart can be free to roam and create in the highest, most serving way possible in each moment. Ease doesn’t show up when I’m stuck in a rut, ease arrives when there is fluidity and opportunity to discover true connection.
Remaining Centered in The Exploration of Balance
When we take this exploration off the mat, we can find that same balance in our entire world and create a centered place to operate from.
Moving into the months that tend to be slower in pace, we can easily fall into stagnation. It seems that everything in nature begins to lie dormant and we too might find ourselves adopting the same energy. If we fall too far toward sthira we lose drive and creativity, if we move too fast toward sukha we lose container and guidance in our practice. Finding a sustainable balance can seem out of reach when so much is fluctuating around us. When I lose sight of the big picture, I am reminded to turn inward and focus on the small shifts. These seemingly small moments and actions set the foundation for all of the big moments to be truly transformative.
There is no singular, prescribed practice that can guarantee us a centered, grounded space to move from, and that’s the beauty of this human experience. We each have the opportunity to explore what alignment looks like and feels like for us. As we seek balance in our individual worlds, we can move towards balance at the collective level.
These practices might be helpful in accessing balance within sthira and sukkah and creating ease with intention in your life.
When you need more structure
- Invite in intentional routine
- This can be as simple as 3 steps in the morning to start your day in a grounded and centered way.
- Connect to your intention everyday
- Invite this practice wherever it fits, maybe while you brush your teeth in the morning you repeat an intention in your head. Anything that resonates that day, “I am aligned” “I am valuable” “I am grounded in my greatness”
- Use a daily task list
- Lists can be an incredibly helpful tool in creating a foundation for you to move from. If you’re anything like me, you add to the list to a point of overwhelm, the good news is there is room for growth! You might make a list that is a 5 item max, once you check those off you can make a new one.
- Gentle tip: try to have the list items be individual tasks instead of multiple tasks nested inside one. E.g. “Check email inbox” can turn into “respond to these 3 emails, send out follow up survey, cancel that subscription, schedule 2 meetings” and so on.
When you need access to creativity
- Seek joyful moments and activities
- Maybe going for a walk brings you joy, watering the plants, or wearing a cozy sweater. Write down a few things that bring you joy and try to invite one or two of those practices in each day.
- Celebrate your Curiosity
- Reward your curious and creative endeavors. Often, we are reprimanded or shamed for exploring outside of the lines, instead of this old narrative, celebrate the moments where your mind runs free. Give yourself permission to dive into the new and untouched topics you wish to discover. This is a practice in celebrating the journey rather than the destination, the process instead of the product.
- Schedule in rest
- Our minds cannot possibly be creative or inspired if we are burnt out. Schedule in your rest and restoration, you deserve moments to simply be.
The season of many transitions is coming to the forefront. As we all embark upon our own journey, we have the opportunity to turn inward and create deep connections to a centered and grounded place. As you release what no longer serves you during your transformation, invite in the practices that support your growth. Finding this divine balance within effort and ease in an ever-evolving practice, remember to connect with what aligns most with you and be guided by that.