Sukhasana or ‘easy pose’ may not be one of those aspirational Instagram-worthy asanas, or one that we actively practice daily. But maybe it should. Tune into yourself for a moment – is your breathing short and shallow? Is your jaw clenched? Is your mind racing? If the answer to any of these is a yes, this is an example of ‘speed getting trapped in the body’, something inspiring teacher Tias Little has been exploring for years, and something we can remind ourselves of if we feel anxious, stressed or without enough time.
In a fast-paced modern world where ‘busy’ means ‘good’ and ‘stressed’ means ‘productive’, we seem to have lost the ability to simply sit and be. Along with a high-intensity work and social a schedule, many of us practice high-intensity workouts or fast flowing, strong yoga classes – finding relief from one stress by inviting another type in. Sitting has been demonised as a killer, and if we’re sitting anyway, we’re probably working at a computer or driving in busy traffic. Indeed, the amount of pressure on our bodies and minds is mounting, but thankfully so too is the awareness of how much we really need to slow down and experience being once again. We’ve made things hard for ourselves and felt guilty about taking the easy option for too long. It’s time to find balance. It’s time to find ease.
Quiet The Mind
A traditional asana for meditation, Sukhasana is listed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika along with other postures like Padmasana (lotus), Virasana (hero pose), and Siddhasana. The name Sukhasana combines the Sanskrit word sukha, meaning ‘ease’, ‘pleasant’, or more literally ‘good space’, and asana, meaning ‘posture’ or ‘seat’. In texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha, is it said to promote mental and physical balance. Ever since the research on yoga history has grown, the purpose of postures has been a topic of debate, but a popular thought is that Sukhasana and the other meditation positions were actually the end goal of a physical practice – everything else was intended to prepare the body to sit in silence and quiet the mind. Not so easy after all….
Whilst the physical postures of course help to focus the mind, aid in a healthier body and provide an essence of tapas or discipline, (thought of as the burning off of impurities, old habits and past karmas) it’s the happenings of the mind that ancient yogis were more interested in. You’ve probably heard the famous line from the Buddha – “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think”. Well, the yogis were intent on exploring the realms of the mind and the shape of their thoughts, finding its edges and pushing the boundaries of consciousness, usually via pranayama techniques, mantra, visualisation and even the ritual drink Soma.
Today, we have so many ways to distract ourselves from the mind – from social media to Netflix, to food, fitness and substances. Its easy for our senses to be pulled in all directions, craving yet more material objects whilst at the same time feeling suffocated by the weight of it all, and always in a rush to keep up with deadlines and goals set not just by others, but by ourselves too. If the ‘goal’ of yoga as Patanjali says is “yoga chitta vritti nirodaha” – ‘calming the fluctuations of the mind’ then we can start by finding stillness in the body. If you feel the speed of your life really has become ‘stuck’ in your body, evident in racing thoughts, physical and emotional tension, stress, shallow breathing and gut issues, then Sukhasana may be one of the most important postures you practice on a daily basis.
The ability to sit and simply be – to observe the room around you, to look up from the phone screen and open your eyes to the present moment – is something we can all do in order to literally slow down the racing mind, and allow the feeling of speed to dissipate and release from our limbs and tissues. If we can actively practice finding ease and stillness, we have the opportunity to engage fully with the moment at hand, to allow time to slow down ever so slightly, and rebalance ourselves before heading back out into the world again. The more we do this, perhaps the more we’ll be able to bring a little of that stillness and ease with us wherever we go.
Read more: yogamatters.com