Steadiness, Ease, and Presence of Mind

By Mark Stephens on Tue, 05/03/2016 - 07:27

Steadiness, Ease & Presence of Mind

There are several basic elements that are ideally communicated to our students in every practice and given even greater clarity with newer students.  Among the most important is the idea that yoga is neither a comparative nor a competitive practice, despite some people doing their best to make it so.  

Exploring with this basic sensibility, the practice will be more safe, sustainable, and transformational. It’s a sensibility—a basic yogic value—that reflects the sole comment on asana found in the oft-cited Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: sthira, sukham, asanam—meaning steadiness, ease, and presence of mind (the latter, from the root word as, meaning “to take one seat,” which I interpret to mean to be here now, fully attuned to one’s immediate experience). It’s helpful to relate to these as qualities we’re always cultivating in the practice. Do note that Patanjali is not describing anything even closely approximating the sort of postural practices that began evolving several hundred years later and eventually became Hatha yoga, which has evolved more in the past seventy-five years than in the previous thousand.  

Nonetheless, we find the sensibilities of classical yoga brought forward in the earliest verified writing on Hatha practice, the mid-fourteenth- century Hatha Yoga Pradipika, where Swami Swatmarama tells the yogi to have “enthusiasm, perseverance, discrimination, unshakable faith, courage” to “bring success to yoga” and “get steadiness of body and mind.” Later, Swatmarama mentions “being free of fatigue in practicing asana,” suggesting the balance of steadiness and ease earlier emphasized by Patanjali.