Yoga Practice for Life

In it’s 196 short aphorisms, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra offers a complete guide to practicing yoga with the goal of freeing ourselves from the mental obstacles that prevent us from living to our fullest potential. In one of the few statements relating to yoga posture, or asana, Patanjali says clearly, ‘sthira sukham asanam’, which means, ‘the posture must be stable and comfortable’.

This instruction really only makes sense when you understand that yoga asana is primarily intended to be a foundation for the more subtle, inner practices of breathwork and meditation (sidenote: it’s also a good starting point when considering the often-asked, controversial question, “is it yoga?”. I don’t know too many people that can remain stable and comfortable in ‘wild thing’ or some of the other wacky gymnastics that have come out of the American yoga scene).

Stability and comfort are important if your goal is meditation (and not contortionism) because if you don’t feel stable and comfortable, you’ll never be able to focus on anything other than how unstable and uncomfortable you are, and is that really what you want to be meditating on?

Interestingly, the word sukha which is translated in this context to mean comfortable, is made up of two sanskrit words, su, meaning good, and kha, meaning a hole or aperture. So, sukha literally means ‘good space’, a phrase that best describes one of the main reasons I show up on my mat #everydamnday.

My morning practice grounds me, providing a mental and emotional stability I didn’t always have, and gives me the tools I need to restabilize more quickly after I lose it. This stability helps me to feel more comfortable in my body and relaxed in life situations, which puts me in a ‘good space’ to make deep connections with others, to handle challenges with more equanimity, and to enjoy life more fully. And that’s really what’s important to me, because I’m not practicing yoga to become better at yoga, I’m practicing yoga to become better at life.

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