PYS II.46 sthira-sukham āsanam
The connection to the Earth should be steady and joyful.
Sthira means steady, sukham means joyful, asanam means seat. In this sutra, Patanjali did not refer to any specific asana. It is meant to refer to all asana, all poses. He said that if we want yoga, then we have two qualifiers to consider in the pose that we take: steadiness and joyfulness. He did not say that the pose should be perfect. He did not say that the pose should be fancy and worthy of ten thousand likes on Facebook. If we need to use props or modify the pose to achieve steadiness and joyfulness, so be it. The April focus of the month is inversions, and so we will try to the best of our abilities to find steadiness and joyfulness even in a pose that may seem challenging.
In Jivamukti, we also want to get a little deeper into this investigation of what seat is. Every asana or pose that we take is a relationship with something else. It is not an independent action. There is something we are sitting on, something we are grounded on, something we are reaching for, somewhere we are resting on. There is an object. There is a relationship. And so we take this seat to be our connection to the Earth. The commentary for this yoga sutra according to the Jivamukti school is: The connection to the Earth should be steady and joyful.
Tadasana or mountain pose is the foundation of all the poses. Here we learn to root ourselves to the Earth. As our feet are grounded, there is an energetic antenna at the top of our head lifting us up. This is how we want to stand- grounded yet uplifted. This is how we want to live- humble yet inspired. Even as we come to inversions, we find that same grounding and lifting. The same principles apply, only the placement and movement of energy change. In sirsana or headstand for example, it is the top of our head that is rooted and our feet that are lifted. We can think of this move to an inversion as our ever changing situations in life. As our lives take a turn for the unfamiliar, how do we practice in such a way that we can keep steady and joyful?
Yoga asana is a way for us to experience the philosophy that we subscribe to. If we agree that our connection should be steady and joyful, then we take this intellectual understanding of the sutra into our bodies as we come into yoga asanas, and then we take this experience of the yoga exercise into our daily lives. When we practice inversions and come face to face with our doubt or fear or insecurity, we can easily lose our steadiness and joyfulness. We may start to obsess over alignment or nailing the pose. We may start to get frustrated. If we catch ourselves heading this direction, we can stop. We can pause. We can examine ourselves and our motivations and our reactions. Steadiness and joyfulness do not come from an intense unreasonable desire to be perfect. They do not come to us by way of clinging and craving and attachment. On the contrary, the need for perfection and the need to look good are surefire ways to lose our steadiness and joyfulness. If we want to find steadiness and joyfulness, we search within. We dig deep if we need to. They come from inside us, not from external conditions. Even if the physical body struggles, we can still access that place of steadiness and joyfulness. When we keep our mind soft, our thoughts peaceful, our actions compassionate, the ease in the physical body will follow. We begin to relax into the pose, even in an inversion, even when things radically change, even in the midst of difficulty and unexpected challenge.
Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Steadiness and joyfulness in our asana and in our connection to the Earth come from within us. If we see the world and judge it with a heart filled with rage, we perpetuate anger and suffering in the world. If we see the world in all its imperfections with compassionate eyes, we use our own steadiness and joyfulness to project kindness into the world. When we invert our bodies, our perception starts to get used to the unfamiliar. We practice being at ease with a new way of seeing things. If we want to be connected to the Earth, and if we want to reach a state of yoga, then it is necessary that we shift our perception to a kinder world view. We reverse our old ways of thinking that we can exploit other humans and animals and our environment. We ease ourselves into a new way of thinking and speaking and living. We shift our movement and energy to come to a place where we are grounded by our humility, that we are one amongst many, while we are uplifted by our significance, that our actions affect all, that our compassion transcends our limitations. Steady and joyful is the way of surrender. Steady and joyful even as we invert our body and mind is the way to the path of yoga.