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Yoga Article:

by Ron Reid

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali uses three to describe asana (posture or seat). In the first of these "Sthira sukham asanam" (2:46) he describes qualities to be found in a well performed asana: sthira (firmness, steadiness), and sukha (joy, ease).

We could say that one quality (sthira) is necessary to understand the other (sukha) like black gives meaning to white, darkness to light, or sound to silence and vice versa.

We could also say that one quality is actually indispensable to the other. Between black and white lie all the colors of the rainbow. Moving between light and darkness brings everything between day and night. A balance between sound and silence becomes music. Perhaps one way to describe meditation would be to call it a dynamic stillness somewhere between effort and non-effort. Patanjali ultimately suggests the integration of these qualities into a singular perception (sanyam).

In the Ashtanga practice two poses could be said to represent opposite ends of a spectrum. Samasthitihi and Savasana provide its beginning and ending.

"From humble beginnings great things can happen". There is no greater rest than after a job well done! Sama means "same, or even", also "whole". It is interesting to note that "sama" is also found in the Sanskrit word "samadhi" which represents an integration of consciousness ie. that of the absorption of the singular into the Whole or that of the individual into the Universal state of consciousness.

"Sthiti" means to be established in a state which is stable or firm. "Samasthitihi" then means to be "firmly established in a state of wholeness".

This pose is also called "Tadasana". Tada means mountain. When I was quite young I went on a long camping trip with my parents. We drove from Winnipeg to the Rocky mountains. Coming from the prairies the sight of these magnificent creations was overwhelming. I remember standing before them transfixed, completely absorbed by their presence. Little did I know that I had taken my first Samasthitihi. Now, whenever I assume this pose I have the opportunity to recreate that experience. What better way to begin my yoga practice than in awe and with reverence for that which I am about to undertake.

In Savasana, which means the pose of the corpse, the rest that we take is a symbolic death. By consciously releasing from the physical realm we enter the realm of the spirit. It is often observed at the moment of someone's passing that a profound sense of peace is present. Freed from the attachments and fears that often dominate our worldly existence, our soul becomes light as if a great weight has been lifted. If only we could carry this experience of levity into our daily lives.

Patanjali suggests that we can. In our practice as is our lives we can accomplish great things. Between sthira and sukha and samasthitihi and savasana a whole world exists. Asana practice can be a metaphor for our lives. The soul can play in the world of our existence and be free. We can stand as tall and strong as a mountain and look forward to savasana as our reward. We can enjoy the fruit of our efforts and thereby enjoy our practice and our life in each moment, every moment.

Samasthitihi and Savasana are the poses from which all others are drawn. They represent the balance between pose and repose, sthira and sukha and thereby become a reference point for all other poses.


Creating stability or "sthira" in the legs will allow our standing poses to become a harmony of of power and grace. Standing poses require us to integrate all the actions of the legs into a single action. Working from the ground up try these actions.

Bring the feet together and lift all five toes. Connect the ball joints of the big toes, the inner ankle bones and/or the heels. Now balance the weight across the ball joints of the toes starting from the big toe side and center the weight in the heels.

Keeping the other toes lifted, press the inner lines of the big toes together and firmly to the floor. Stretch the little toes away from center and then to the floor along with the outer edges of the feet. Continue to wrap the weight from the outer to the inner heel. Now soften just enough to let the other toes come down. This should accentuate the arches while broadening the weight bearing surface of the soles of the feet. Drawing from the energy of the feet the shin bones will lift in a slight upward outward spiral from the inner ankles around the outer calve before arriving at the inner knee. Allow this action to bring the shin bone forward toward the bend of the knee. Try to connect the knees. Try to straighten the knees while resisting to engage the hamstrings. By activating the hamstrings you have created a vital supporting action into which you can bring the work of the quadriceps to lift ,but not hyperextend the knees. This represents a co-contraction of two muscle groups that centre and stabilize the femur bones. The hamstrings also support the inner legs which connect us to mula bandha in the pelvic floor.

Visualize the dome-shape that the joined arches have created and try to unify the legs as if one. Picture the arches and knees as energy centers linking us to the energy of the earth. Find these actions first in Samasthitihi. Try these actions in adho mukha svanasana (downward dog pose) by bringing the feet and legs together. Then attempt to hop forward from downward dog (feet together)back to samasthitihi to create a softer landing. When you separate the feet and legs try and keep them unified energetically.

Hints: If the knees do not touch try placing something firm between them like a thin block. The inner leg reference is helpful. If you have fallen arches the shin bones will have a tendency to drop and spin inward. Try to exaggerate the lift and outward spin of the shins while keeping the big toes firmly grounded. With high arches you may need to soften these actions to spread the soles of the feet. Look to balance the weight in the feet to find balance in the legs.


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