Home » Life is one big yoga pose: Equal parts effort and ease

Life is one big yoga pose: Equal parts effort and ease

    Many people take yoga classes to reduce stress, gain more flexibility and to build strength. But then when the hour is over, how much do you bring your yoga practice into your life? Our physical yoga practice is a great metaphor for how we show up in the world and how the world shows up in our lives.

    Effort without ease is rigidity.

    Ease without effort is recklessness.

    A guiding principle in yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras, is that each pose (or asana) has two important qualities: Sthira and Sukha. Sthira is the Sanskrit word for steadiness or effort. Sukha refers to ease, or the ability to remain comfortable in a position. Both qualities should be equally present when practicing any pose. Notice when there's too much strain or tension, and find more ease. Notice when there's a laziness or an inattentiveness (is that lint on my yoga pants?), and put in more effort or attention: how's my breath? Is my mind present? Strive for strength without tension, and ease without laziness.

    If we push ourselves to get into a pose for the wrong reasons, we are missing the opportunity to find harmony with our body as it is, not how we want it to be. Similarly, if we mindlessly move through a series of movements and get distracted, we miss the opportunity for self-study and transformation. How we react to the poses can tell us a lot about ourselves and how we react to things in life.

    Off the mat

    Now let's look at applying these two principles off the mat -- in our daily lives. Look at the balance between effort and ease in everything you do: running errands, doing your job, raising your kids, doing chores, and commuting, to name a few.

    Here are some examples:

    1. Doing your job. Is your job stressful? Do you race through your day looking forward to 5:00 pm when you can go home? Do you end the day with tight shoulders and a headache? What if you brought more ease into your day by appreciating what you have?

    A steady job with a good salary, or maybe an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and creativity? In the middle of your day, take a few breaths pause and imagine this is your first day on a job you have finally landed. Think of the excitement that brings.

    2. Washing the dishes. Most of the time we consider this a mundane task and wash dishes mindlessly, thinking about a million other things other than the task at hand, perhaps cursing our spouse or children for not helping out more.

    Try washing as if it's the most important job in the world - add more effort to notice smells, textures, sounds and notice your progress of cleaning the grime off the plate. You are training your brain to be more attentive and this training will serve you in other aspects of your life.

    The next time you are on your mat and are presented with challenges, look for that Sthira-Sukha balance. Meet the challenge with effort and ease. Off the mat, you can do the same. Balance your busyness with some ease - and in that you find more of a mindfulness which allows you to self-reflect and grow.

    I use this approach in all my classes. If this resonates with you, please check out my class schedule.

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