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Why Sthira Sukham Asana
How we feel about ourselves is often apparent on the mat during difficult postures. Sthira sukham asana (with steadiness and ease) reminds us to allow the breath to be our guide. When the breath is steady and full we can begin to experience the benefits of the yoga practice. Postures like Ardha Matsyendrasana churn up our emotional centers. We build up toxins in our digestive system, especially our intestines, and emotional stress in our abdominal muscles and spine. By twisting our mid-section we open our backs and spread our kidneys while wringing out our abdominal muscles and massaging the internal organs. The breath enhances the cleansing process by drawing the navel in and up on every inhalation and twisting deeper on every exhalation. There is an added benefit when grounding the sit-bones down evenly, thus releasing the lower spine and softening the hips.
Sit comfortably. Bend the left knee and place it close to the right buttocks. Then bring the right foot outside the left knee. Take a deep inhale. Sitting tall during the exhale, take the left arm outside the right knee with fingers pointing up to the sky. Place the right hand on the floor. There is little weight in the right hand; it aids in keeping the spine long. Inhale again and sit taller. Exhale and take the twist deeper while taking the Dristi (gazing point) over the shoulder.
Gently press the elbow and knee together applying opposing forces to enhance the depth of the twist. Breathe deep from the lower abdominals all the way into the upper ribs. With each breathe, sit taller while lengthening the spine and allowing the energy to rise up and out of the crown of the head. Try not to collapse the chest but rather roll the shoulder down the back away from the ears. Draw the chin slightly in keeping the back of the neck long with the sternum lifting.
If both hips are grounded and the tailbone is lengthening down, you can weave the left arm between the legs and take a clasp or extend the arm along the outside of the right leg and take the outside of the right foot. To come out of the pose, take one final inhale and gaze to the front. A counter-twist is optional or repeat on the opposite side. The practice of this pose teaches us patience. By taking our time to experience the benefits of the pose, we are able to build a foundation for deeper postures to come.
How we behave to others and ourselves reflects the authenticity of our lives. When fear and jealousy are the masters of our minds, and thus our actions, the ensuing view of our lives as half-empty is what we reflect. Our dedication to the physical and spiritual practice of yoga begins the journey away from such thoughts toward loving-kindness, our true authentic state.
I find myself most authentic when giving back to the community. It is a tradition before every class I teach to ask everyone to say hello and welcome each other to the community. For some, this is the hardest part of the practice. By bursting our protective bubble and showing kindness to a complete stranger we actively practice the greatest gift of yoga. Teaching has never come easy for me; however it affords me the constant opportunity to practice humility and truthfulness while reserving judgment and the fear of not being good enough. I have been blessed with a supportive community that inspires me daily in this practice.