Sthira sukham asanam
Photo Credit: Dragon Kite by duff_sf
Recently, I found myself in a position where I needed to make a choice that I knew was the right one for myself but would disappoint somebody else.
You would think these situations, when they arise, would be straightforward and simple. After all, if someone asks something of you that you don't really want to do, you simply say no and move on with your day. But I have to wonder if it actually works that way for anyone in real life? I find it hard to imagine that others may not struggle as much as I do sometimes simply to say "no thank you".
Speaking for myself, I really am a people-pleaser. Since I do have that sort of personality, it's much, much easier for me to say YES than it is for me to say no. But problems arise when I don't pay very careful attention to balancing this, and then end up giving way more of myself than is healthy, and getting way less than is appropriate in return. This leads to sticky situations and uncomfortable relationships that only increase imbalance in my life.
But how do you balance it?
The most important thing to do is be aware that your tendency is to say "yes" much quicker than you say "no". By being aware of this, you can implement strategies that make it easier to honour yourself. For example, when you are faced with a situation that you're not 100% sure of, give yourself some breathing room to really think about it. If after doing that, you feel like you'd rather not do whatever it is you are being asked to do, then give yourself permission to say "No thank you".
I know, easier said than done, right?
At it's root I think a lot of my people-pleaser tendencies, and my discomfort with saying no comes back to my own sense of self-worth - something I'm always working on. But I've learned that when I establish and hold healthy boundaries, not only do I feel better about myself but I find that what I choose to bring inside that boundary is more authentic and meaningful. When I say yes to everything, my "yes" loses it's value. But when I say yes carefully and thoughtfully and say no when it is appropriate, my relationships and all areas of my life are healthier and I am happier.
I bet you're wondering what any of this has to do with Yoga?
It's in Yoga that I've learned why balance is so important. I didn't learn this from standing on one leg in tree pose. I learned this by discovering that if I neglected or avoided an area of my body in my practice, that things would feel "off" and my whole practice would feel like a struggle and not be effective, let alone blissful! Imagine if you were to only practice backbending and never forward bending. Eventually you would find that the front of your body is stretched and open, but weakened, while the back of your body is very strong, but also very tight and restricted.
I also learned that there is balance of give and take in every single pose. No matter what I'm doing on my mat, it is necessary that I balance effort and ease. If I max out effort, my body gets uncomfortable and tightens more instead of opening, strengthening and expanding. If I allow too much ease, the pose is sloppy and I'm likely to miss out on any potential benefit. If, however, I adjust to the right amount of effort, energy, and containment in the pose, I have a stable support for the places in my body that can soften and be easeful in the pose.
One of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras states: Sthira sukham asanam
Sthira, in Sanskrit, translates to something like steady or stable, sukham translates to ease filled or comfortable, and asanam refers to the yoga posture
So from this we can take a translation that yoga postures (asanas) should be steady and stable but also comfortable and full of ease. Too much ease and you lose stability. Too much stability and ease suffers. The balance of these two is where all the wonderful benefits of the pose happen.
As the picture in this post shows, the kite needs a certain amount of resistance to really fly. Without the balance of these energies, it would never lift off the ground. Remember that even in (or maybe especially in) the "no"'s, there is expansion.
This week I challenge you to give yourself permission to balance what you give with what you receive, effort with ease, and containment with expansion - and see what happens.
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