Last week, I wandered over to my ever-growing bookshelf for my next fiction read. Are you more of a hardcover in your hands and smell the paper kind of reader, too? That’s me. Real books are soothing in that way. My fingers were drawn to an old favorite without even thinking. Its worn and reddish book jacket was beckoning...
What’s this book? Oh, you know....Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, of course. I’ll admit it, you guys. I have a major soft spot, perhaps slight obsession, with Harry Potter. And, not the movies. It has to be the books. They get me every time. There’s always a new gem to be found. It’s almost like Ron, Hermione, Harry, Hagrid, even Hedwig are old friends. Do you have books like that?
I most often start to reread old favorites when I’m craving comfort and ease in some way. Some people have a favorite t-shirt, maybe a favorite meal, or a favorite album to go to. For me, it's often books. Seeking this comfort, steadiness, and ease in life reminded me of a passage from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:
"Sthira sukham asanam."
What?? Let’s translate Sanskrit to English. This sutra mainly pertains to our asana (physical) practice, meaning we should find strength, steadiness, comfort, and ease in each yoga pose. Yep, each pose (here’s looking at you, side crow). I love this, because I think we so often forget it. How often are you going after the strength of a pose, really working it until your face is beet red, because you’ve been holding your breath? Or, on the flip side, do you really push your limits when you stretch - squeezing and folding that much deeper and tighter until your hamstrings wince?
And, is that really the point of yoga? The end pose? Not at all. We practice poses to find comfort in the body in order to fully rest in meditation. We practice yoga to become aware of our routines, thought patterns, and innermost desires. It’s all about awareness and self-inquiry. And, certainly yoga should be fun, rather than grueling day in and day out.
While Patanjali reflects on the asana here, finding steadiness and ease is a lesson we take off of our mats, too, inviting balance into our lives. Now that you know each posture should be stable, yet delightful, how do you find that outside of your mat practice? What are those relationships that restore you, those projects that challenge, but excite you? Or maybe it’s books you return to, getting your hands dirty in the garden, or a meal you like to prepare? All of these require effort, and they also give support.
Just like our yoga practice, life should be full of the sthira and the sukha. The steadiness and the ease. Using this sutra, what does your physical practice look like? What about off of your mat? How are you welcoming both in? Oh, and what house would you be in at Hogwarts? If you write to me, I’ll share where I think the Sorting Hat might put me. Wink wink.