http://fitnessnyc.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/02_adhomukha1.jpg

2-46  Sthira Sukkam Asanam

These Sanskrit words come from the Practice Book (Sadhana Pada) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and remind us to be steady and firm, and nonetheless relaxed as we practice the asanas, or “postures” of yoga; our teacher BKS Iyengar has made many brilliant recommendations about utilizing props, as well as our keen attention, to move towards this challenging practice of making “effortless effort,” and also achieving proper alignment in our asanas and in our bodies.  When we turn to the Sutras that follow 2-46, we seem to enter the deeper  territory of this “alignment”,  and effort with simultaneous relaxation, that has more to do with our inner experience, and the quest intrinsic in yoga of peeling away the surface layers, to find the more revelatory answers to fundamental questions of who we are, in our most essential selves. Take a few moments in your week to either look online (or download a pdf of the sutras here or here) or in a Sutra book you own, to read Sutras 2-47 and 2-48, and the direction they suggest.

Ravi Ravindra’s Sutra book aptly speaks of the French word for posture as “attitude”, which clearly points to the idea of an inner experience relating to our body’s “posture.” Guruji (the affectionate and reverent name for BKS Iyengar to his students) has repeatedly claimed that alignment and enlightenment are one. So the practice of relaxing and finding steadiness in the body, along with alignment, while it may seem like physical instruction, reaches into the emotional and psychological realm of freeing our bodies to free ourselves. This close attention to how we do each asana lifts the practice out of it being simply physical, into the realm of an embodied awareness practice.

Each time I practice with this awareness, I make myself available to a deeper connection with the Infinite (Ravi Ravindra uses this term frequnetly in his spiritual writings) as it lives inside me, though I may name that as Buddha consciousness or Christ consciousness if I have a more specific naming of that which lives beyond or within the personality self. Bringing the whole subject back to my earthly self, in my body, I know that how I carry myself in the asanas and beyond creates an inner effect that I know as my mental and emotional attitude, how I am FEELING, and what sorts of thoughts are arising. We can each explore through our practice and our daily lives what we observe about how we are carrying ourselves physically and what impact we notice internally in relation to what we are noticing. We can also notice an inner experience and see if working with alignment, effort and relaxation in our practice can shift an undesirable state.

(photo credit: fitnessnyc.wordpress.com)