Patanjali the great mind behind organization of yoga discipline has shed light on a yoga asana (yoga posture). His views on yoga asana are more than enough to understand the psychology of a yoga posture. However revered sage patanjali is an utterly laconic man, we would have to really contemplate on his words and we would have to read between the lines. A master like patanjali is simplicity personified yet he is very profound. In patanjali yoga sutras (aphorisms of patanjali) the master has given a very beautiful definition of what a yoga asanas is. Chapter 2 nd – 46 Th Aphorism says “sthiram sukham asanam”. Merely 3 words and definition of asana has been completed by the master. According to the master, for yoga asana to be done 2 prerequisites would have to be met and these prerequisites are STABILITY (sthiram) and COMFORT (sukham). So mathematically if we were to describe a yoga asana that would be Stability + Comfort = asana
When we talk of a yoga asana we normally assume that it is static yoga posture. However the movement that we do to be in an asana also has to be seen as a part of a yoga posture. So it means asana is a combination of movement and stillness. Concept of “sthiram “would have to be applied to both these phenomenon of movement and stillness. How to apply concept of stability is something to be thought of carefully. Stability has to be understood from the points of contact of the body with the ground. Let’s take an example of tadasana (mountain posture), in tadasana the points of contact would be feet of course however feet are a complex structure with over 50 bones. Placement of equal weight on inner and outer feet and making heels feel the gravity is essential when it comes to understand the concept of stability otherwise weight tends to lean on one side and that is going to impact the stability in the posture. Next prerequisite master talks about is comfort (sukham) i.e. being in the posture with stability in ease. Where there is no resistance to stability. Overcoming this resistance to stability is the conditioning one has to go through that resultantly brings comfort (sukham) in the posture. Bringing together both sthiram and sukham is inculcating an intelligent and observant action which completes the idea of yoga asana given by master patanjali. As discussed earlier yoga asana is movement and stillness combined and principle of stability as I said has to be included not just in the static part of the posture but even in the movement (transition) part of the posture. This is an advanced concept and intermediate and advanced practitioners have to pay attention to this idea to really understand the message master wants to convey. Sun salutations B of Ashtanga yoga Mysore style can be studied to have a better understanding of this idea. Transition from downward dog to veerbhadrasana 1 requires us to move our right leg forward first with left leg still stationed back. Most of the times, practitioners would end up making this transition with the left leg becoming completely loose and left foot dropping to the inner side of the left foot resultantly weight of leg left drops forward. We have to consider transition is the initiation of veerabhara 1 and thus a part of veerabhadrasana and not something separate from it hence we must think of stability principle right from the point when we initiate the transition. That means left leg has to be stabilized first by pressing the left outer heel and by making a nice contact of mounts of the toes with the floor before stepping the right leg forward. This would definitely be a challenging part and continuous intelligent and observant practice will condition the muscles over a period of time making us able to feel sukham (comfort) in the posture. Try it yourself next time you hit your mat and remember what master said about the yoga practice. Words are mere words and they come nowhere near the anubhuti (experience) without abhayasa (practice). At salamba yoga we make a conscious effort to discuss and experience the essence of yoga practice so as to be able to impart a meaningful and productive teacher training.