How Should You Practice Yoga Postures?
Effort and Ease
Practicing yoga postures can help us cultivate the very useful skill of being at ease even when something is difficult. We can learn to be present with opposing forces when practicing the physical postures of yoga (asana) and in daily life.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, an ancient yoga philosophy text, addresses how we should approach doing a posture. Sutra 2.46 says that a yoga posture should be is stable and steady (sthira) and comfortable and easy (sukham).
Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali, 2.46: sthira sukham asanam
sthira = strong; steady; stable; motionless; effort
sukham = comfortable; ease filled; happy; light; relaxed
āsanam = posture; seated position; physical practice
As you practice yoga postures, you can infuse your effort with inquiry about ease:
- Am I on auto-pilot? Or am I moving consciously and feeling what’s happening with my body and breath?
- Am I forceful or rigid or regimented with my body? Or am I fluid and do I make adaptations when I bump up against a physical restriction, tension or pain?
I was reminded of the usefulness of this sutra recently when I decided to try a stand-up paddle board. After about 5 minutes of hugging every muscle in my body to the nearest bone with a hefty burn starting through my lower legs, my nephew shouted across the water at me, “It’s like a yoga posture, you have to relax!”
At every point in mounting effort, endeavor, or work, we have the tools to be easeful. The most effective tools at our disposal at any moment are breathing and the power of our mind to activate letting go physically and mentally. If we can infuse our action and effort with breathing and release, we can maintain steadiness without clenching.
It is often the combination of the breath, our state of mind, and a spacious attitude that brings ease into practice and life. Can you be attentive and present in anything that you do without tension? Once you master the idea of doing one simple yoga posture with effort and ease, roll up your mat and practice this principle in everything that you do for one day. That is living your yoga!