One of my favorite parts of yoga teacher training were our lessons in yogic philosophy. The nerd in me came out hard, and I was constantly scribbling down notes and having these *really* dorky lightbulb moments. It took a LOT of self-control to not burst out in a typical Julie, "Oh my GOSH you guys..." and go off in some tangent.
The lesson on Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 2.46 on sthira sukham asanam was one of those moments, and it has translated to my life off the mat in really meaningful ways.
Ok so what is sthira sukham asanam? Well in his Sutras, Patanjali is specifically speaking about seated meditation. He teaches that meditation should be both steady, firm, and effortful (sthira), and also sukham, which means comfortable and full of ease.
Effort and ease.
Yogis have sense adapted this concept and applied it in many ways beyond seated meditation, like to the physical postures. While many postures can be physically demanding and we have to put in a lot of effort (sthira), we simultaneously try to find ways to also experience comfort and ease in the same posture (sukham). This can be a very tricky pursuit.
Patanjali says that in order to find this balance of effort and ease, we must first be aware of our tendencies... what are our normal habits and behaviors are. We then can reflect on what works for us, and what we struggle with... and from there we can make a shift.
If my habit is to always put in tons of work and effort (it is), then my job is to really try and add in more ease, relaxation and comfort. And by noticing my habits, I can identify exactly how, when, and where I can sprinkle in ease.
Speak of the effort devil: that's exactly why I wanted to write this post. Because I've been working hard on this sutra lately.
If you know me, and may of you reading probably do, you know that I'm always on the go. I'm always doing a million things.
For instance, my typical day reads as follows:
- Wake up 4:22am, get to Mysore at Ashtanga Yoga Columbus by 4:45am
- Get home by 6:30am to leave for work by 7:15am
- Work my communications job at the health department from 730am - 4pm
- Get home, turn on Ellen (duh), make my Cycle614 workout/playlist, then head to the studio at 5pm to teach my 545pm class
- Get home from Cycle614 around 7pm
- Some nights I then teach yoga, other nights I'll have a yoga date (you know who you are), or another social engagement, or some responsibility, and some nights I just get to go home to eat din with my guy
I repeat this every day and of course switch things up on weekends.
Point being: I'm ALWAYS efforting. A lot. Constantly. Physically and mentally, I feel like I'm always on.
And I've always been this way. Since I was a kid waking up for swim practice and going to dance lessons, and meeting friends for study dates (remember, I'm a nerd), I've always thrived on being busy. I'm type-A to a T. And for the first 25 years of my life, all of the effort worked well for me. I mean, I got into my dream college, landed some cool internships, got a Master's degree... things have fallen into place because I've worked so. damn. hard. always.
Then 2016 happened and the first half of this year was more insane than usual. On top of all of the above weekday stuff, add in 200+ hours yoga teacher training and traveling almost every other weekend, and you have a recipe for one totally burned out Julie.
From Memorial Day through the end of June, I traveled every weekend except for one. Fun stuff, of course, but it's still a lot of energy and effort and work. And sometimes ya just need a weekend to sleep in and go to Fox in the Snow Cafe, ya feel me?
EFFORT. EFFORT. MORE EFFORT.
So in the midst of all of the crazy, I just needed to find time to give myself to just be still. I desperately was looking where I could sneak ease into all of the effort.
Unfortunately, that meant I didn't get to write on here for the past month.
Not writing was the only way I was able to find time a little time for complete relaxation.
Gotta say though, now that I have some time back in my life, damn, it feels good to sit down and write again. What a luxury! The thing is: it's about making the time. And sometimes making the time simply means not overbooking myself like I'm used to... which is hard, but important.
As I look ahead to the next half of 2016, I know it's still going to be a bit hectic. I'm currently training for Pelotonia, and then my bf Alex is running three marathons in Sept/Oct that I'll cheer like crazy for.
*Oh, I'm sorry, you thought I was the insane one of the two of us? HA! I think three marathons in four weeks qualifies him as higher on the crazy scale ;)
-- but that's life, right? Life will always be busy for me. It's just who I am. But in the midst of it all, if I'm focused, I can find ways where I can add in ease and relaxation. Which, you guys, is so super important to ENJOYING life (and maintaining sanity).
I can choose to not overbook myself socially. I can reserve week nights to just go home and sit on my butt and watch the Bachelorette and NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. I can realize that sometimes, doing less is more, and that it's not selfish to give myself a night/day/whatever to just chill out. This is hard for me, because I WANT to do everything. I really do! But then I have to remind myself that even though I REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY want to go to that yoga class after teaching cycle, I should probably let myself recover.
Effort and ease. Stiram sukham asanam. This week, think about your own tendencies. Maybe your tendencies are like mine, and you are constantly efforting, or maybe you're the opposite, and you're the king or queen of ease and need to find ways to add more effort in.
- Maybe it is something super specific. Maybe you know you never add enough resistance in your cycle class because you like maintaining a LITTLE bit of comfort during the ride... Or maybe you add too much resistance and kill yourself!
- Maybe you always really relax into your downward facing dog (that was me for YEARS), and you want to instead start adding more strength in it to prep for something like handstand.
- Maybe you're always so hard on yourself to only eat healthy foods, and so maybe adding ease in means enjoying something indulgent. Maybe, of course, it's the opposite.
- Maybe you're that person who NEVER takes vacation days from work.
- Maybe you know you could run or bike faster... but you're comfortable! Or maybe... you do too much and are overtraining and your body is BEGGING for recovery....
I could go ON AND ON AND ON.
Effort and ease, kids. I'm NOT saying it's easy. I'm just saying let's notice our habits, and let's try to make some shifts that will enable us to be happier, healthier people who get the most out of life that we can.