Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sthira sukham asanam...Asana is a steady, comfortable posture....


Now, I've been practicing yoga for 5 years now, and in the last 1.5 years practicing 4-5 times a week. I would say that I am dedicated to my practice, and if you asked any of my friends and family, well they would say the same (as they have to make an appointment to see me based around my yoga practice)!

OK, so I don't get out of bed at 5:30am and hit the mat; Sometimes if I feel tired, I'll make my excuses (to myself of all people??!) and bail out of my home practice; I'll sometimes begin my practice with the intention of a full primary series with full vinyasa and maybe, sometimes, half way through the seated sequence start to miss out the jump backs between sides and then the odd posture (normally post-supta kurmasana) and possibly just hit the finishing sequence. But in my mind, I'm dedicated to my self-practice.

11.46 of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras states that asana is a steady, comfortable posture. Maehle (2006) describes the meaning of the sutra as a posture must have the two qualities of firmness and ease. After describing the effects of the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances) he goes on to mention asana, posture practice. However, his description of the third limb he describes in just 3 stanzas, where others have a longer address. Patanjali, according to Maehle, uses two qualities that are diametrically opposed to describe posture: firmness and ease. If the posture is to be firm, effort will be required-contraction of muscles that will arrest the body in space without wavering. Ease on the other hand implies relaxation, softness, and no effort. Maehle contends that Patanjali shows that that posture cannot be achieved unless we simultaneously reach into these opposing directions. These directions are firmness; inner strength, and the direction of ease, which brings relaxation.

Now, my ashtanga vinyasa practice is, in my opinion, quite firm; as my body is gaining in strength, I am able to hold postures in correct alignment, I have become more flexible (although flexibility seems to be taking a longer time to build than strength); little by little my practice and my body is improving; little by little the first two limbs (yamas/niyamas) of ashtanga yoga are making more sense and establishing themselves into my life;  I feel healthier in body and mind and less susceptible to negativity and fluctuations of mood, God, I'm even teaching yoga to others!

So why, if I am living my yoga practice, the restraints and observances, and the asanas, do I feel further away from 'ease' in a simple seated position, than I ever have before?! I've given up my free time for my yoga asana practice, I've given up meat, wheat, alcohol (there's a caveat to this one) even fat goddam it, but for what?!!!

I sat for hours this weekend at my yoga course... I've finished now, I'm home and I can hardly even sit in a damn chair without my hips aching! If I tried half lotus or even siddhasana now, I wouldn't last a minute! Some members of my family laugh at me as they did tonight when I got round my mum's for dinner, walking like John Wayne, and say 'Yeah looks like I really need to take up that yoga you're doing!' (I do find that funny btw - I haven't yet lost my sense of humour!)

However, I can't help but think that sometimes I should've skipped the asana practice and maybe gone straight for samadhi.....!

2 Ibuprofen and a glass of wine please.....! x

1 comment:

  1. My wife was telling me something about this from the books she's reading ' 'The wild white goose' Diary of a (English) female zen priest' ( sounds excellent by the way and i can't wait to get my hands on it when she's finished) Something about long term meditators finding it hard to sit in chairs etc after their hips have opened so much from zazen.

    I seem to find it hard to get comfortable too, sitting in frount of the TV say, tend to give up and sit on the floor in half lotus instead.

    the other thing of course, Ashtanga is a full on practice, not surprising we all have our tally of littles aches and pains, stretches and strains. We can always switch to a softer yon style...but not yet, not quite yet : )