This week I focused my classes on the notion of sukham which is part of Yoga Sutra 2:46 - Sthirasukhamasanam. This sutra roughly translates to "steady and comfortable should be the posture". It is one of only two of the 196 sutras where asana is mentioned. To understand this in terms of our physical approach to yoga, we should be practicing physical postures with steadiness and comfort. In how many yoga classes can you say that happens?
But sukham is much more than an approach to asana. We can think about this concept as good-space. We use the techniques of yoga, including a balanced and intelligent approach to asana, to develop good-space.
So what exactly is good-space and how can yoga help us to achieve it? This is the question I posed to students this week. It was interesting to hear their responses. Good-space for some meant being calm, feeling present, having less fear or doubt, and creating a positive inner-space that rippled into our auric field affecting those around us.
When asked what bad-space (dukha) looks like, students indicated examples such as physical tension and tightness, and disease in the body; on a mental level they mentioned tension or stress, a scattered mind, preoccupation with external matters, and being caught up in emotions.
Creating good-space means consciously choosing to move away from some of the patterns, habits, and beliefs which don't serve our higher purpose. We must first of all recognize the inertia (tamas) that is keeping us in these patterns and then use the techniques of yoga to break through it and begin our personal growth. By getting clear in our mind, beyond mental dukha, we can see our true potential and begin to move towards its fulfillment.
Yoga is about creating good-space. The physical practice of yoga, when done in a balanced and intelligent way, breaks down tension in the body. It begins to purify the body of toxins. It makes us stronger. Strength is important because we want our bodies to be stable. The strength of yoga is not that of pumped-up muscles, but it is what I call inner-strength. We build our power and force from the inside out. Poses are only the beginning and the most gross of the techniques.
Once we integrate other techniques into our practice we expedite the process of building sukham. The dukha - which we are mostly unconscious of - begins to break down. This can be demonstrated on a very simple level: Students keep coming back to yoga class, regardless of the style or approach, because they feel better. On some level sukham is registering with them.
Yoga teachers know from personal experience, and that of their gurus, that daily practice is essential to move this process along. The path of yoga is one of individual transformation. Group classes will help us - hopefully - to understand yoga a bit more. The best thing for us on our journey is to engage in daily practice, including techniques that are shared with us by a qualified teacher. Poses, pranayama and meditation are all necessary. And other master techniques will be added when the student is ready.
Good-space is our birthright. The fact that we've become so lost in our externally-driven lives makes it hard for many to appreciate that we do have the capacity to change our destiny. We can be in this world with more joy, more love and more connection.
As yoga matures from its current yoga-as-exercise phenomena and returns to its roots as a science of transformation on all levels, not just the body, it will play a pivotal roll in an emergent new age. We will move beyond the current model which privileges greed, consumption with its selfish focus, to a more joyful and loving society with greater connections to our fellow human-beings, where selflessness prevails. We don't need to wait for the politicians, economists or greedy corporations to lead the way: take personal responsibility and change your self! It does necessarily start with you.
If you would like more information about personal practice, please feel free to contact me for a consultation. It may be the best investment you've made in your life.