Sukha asana helps you to stay relaxed, yet stable

A demonstration of Sukha AsanaIn the yoga sutras of Patanjali, an asana is described as “sthiram sukham asana”. `Sukham’ means `comfortable’. Sukham in this context does not imply pleasure due to overindulgence. However, the sukha asana is the dukha (uncomfortable and therefore causing pain) asana for many who are inflexible. In India, we are used to sitting on the floor — though this practice is on the decline now. Hence, a simple cross-legged position is quite effortless. The sukha asana though simple has many key points to keep in mind. It has to have the quality of firmness or sthiram. Not be sloppy or rigid. We usually find most people in these two extreme positions. Sthiram also implies balance and homeostasis.

The minute I ask someone to be aware of their posture, they become rigid. This alertness is good and much better than jelly-like body language. However, this is not what we are looking at in Yoga. It is an awareness of being relaxed, yet stable. This body language has a direct impact on our approach towards life. Hence, we can cultivate positive mindsets by working on our body language consciously. It is an interesting and intricate science and art. We first cultivate sukham/comfort in simple positions or, in life, take on simple responsibilities and slowly work towards extending our comfort zone.

The technique

Sit in a cross-legged position. Hands can be relaxed on the thighs or in the yoga mudra as shown. There are many other mudras like the gnyana mudra that can also be used. Be aware of how the base of your body is touching the earth. Be aware of your vertebral column and how you are holding it.

Be aware of your back muscles and how they are feeling. Check to see if your base, back and head are in alignment. Now observe your breathing. Then bring your mind to parts of the body that feel stiff and gently focus on those areas, as you breathe. Feel the breath loosen those areas.

Focus on your body, observe it and continue breathing gently. This asana prepares one for the art of sitting still. This is important when one wants to sit in meditation. The body along with the mind needs to be prepared for meditation. Both need to be steady and focused. This preparation is ongoing and not a one time event.

We are constantly preparing by cultivating sukham. We learn to grow comfortable in our own skin. We learn to accept the good, the bad and the ugly.

If we are uncomfortable, sitting in this position, we know we have the choice to develop it through the various joint-loosening practices that we will see in the forthcoming weeks.