lotus pose

Padmasana: the lotus pose

Yoga sutra 2.46 states, sthira sukham asanam: The posture for yoga meditation should be steady, stable, and comfortable. You may have heard this yoga sutra in class—at least in its English translation. The yoga postures are to be done with steadiness and ease. Without these two qualities, it’s not yoga.

Before you get caught up in specifics, this sutra does not insist that your yoga pose be perfect. Quite the contrary—it insists that your approach the practice is what counts; and that when you lose your sense of steadiness and ease, you’ve gone too far. Steadiness and ease are the gauge of your practice.

A yogi who struggles to lift the legs in Headstand due to insufficient practice to build strength of the upper body and find action with bandhas—yet kicks the legs up with no control and “achieves” the pose—is not practicing more advanced asana than the student who stands firm and comfortable in Warrior II pose.

Sutra 2.46 tells us to let go of achievement of the “perfect” body forms we see exemplified in magazines and on Instagram. It tells us that our outer appearance is less important than our inner state. Only when the mind is calm can the body be calm and strong. Each of us are presented with this lesson every single day on our mats, and even more so off our mats.

To really tap into a complete experience of sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease), slow your practice down; strip it back to its essentials and move into and out of each posture with your breath leading each movement. Feel how your body responds to each breath, and move accordingly. Keep your gaze fixed. The steadiness and ease will naturally arise, and your practice will take on an entirely new quality.