“Sthira” and “Sukha”: Five ways I’m finding stability and ease during the Pandemic
“Sthira sukham asanam” Sutra 2:46, Patanjali
At the start of the year, I sat and asked myself what qualities I most needed to support me through the month (and lockdown three here in the UK). The answer was resoundingly clear: to reconnect with a sense of grounding in a world that feels so unsteady right now, along with a sense of ease of being. The quote above from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras immediately jumped into my mind.
Whilst these days yoga tends to be considered mainly in terms of the physical movement practice, there’s actually not so many references to asana in the Yoga Sutras with the emphasis more on awareness, the inner self and mastery of the mind. “Sthira sukham asanam” can be translated as “posture should be stable and comfortable”. Whilst it originally referred to our seat for meditation, nowadays it’s often used by teachers in the context of asana, but I really believe these concepts are equally relevant to our life off the mat too.
“Sthira” translates as steady, courageous, stable, or strong, whilst “sukha” translates as easy, easeful, comfortable or joyful. These are all subject to our own personal interpretation, but for me what resonates most strongly are the qualities of steadiness or stability and finding ease, not least as these feel like they are the first to go out of the window in the turbulence of a global pandemic! Here are 5 ways I have been inviting more steadiness and ease into my life this past month:
1. Establishing and keeping a regular routine
As a self-employed person I have been working at home for longer than most I guess, but I’ve still suffered from a poor working/daily routine since the pandemic. Working from home doesn’t mean you literally need to work 24-7; a lesson I learnt the hard way! Ways I have combatted this are to set myself a regular time to wake up/go to bed, and to schedule my working day hours in my diary. This helps ensure I get the opportunity to get enough sleep and work the number of hours I desire, without it suddenly overtaking my entire day and evening. It also helps ensure I make time for my yoga, swims and much needed chill time too!
2. Create a morning ritual
I always thought the phrase “morning ritual” sounded a bit woo woo and it put me right off. So, I re-framed it as the ‘thing(s) I can do first thing in the morning to make me feel good’, and now I feel more inclined to embrace it! My sister bought me a lovely journal for Christmas with guided journaling prompts for the morning and evening. Whilst I regularly journaled before bed, I had never done it first thing. My new routine is to wake up, make a strong cuppa and get back in bed to drink it whilst I write. I set three mindful intentions for my day, think about what my mind, body and soul need, and do a little free writing. It’s a good way to clear out any mental ‘gunk’ that might taint my day unnecessarily and also helps me to identify little things I can do to bring pockets of joy or ease into my day. Other morning feel good activities could be reading rather than looking at your phone, going for a walk or run, doing some yoga. The activity itself isn’t important, more that it feels enticing and workable for you.
I will confess I’ve had an on-off relationship with meditation over the years. Mainly off if I’m being entirely honest. I was always finding excuses to not do it, often falling onto that cliché of there wasn’t “enough time”. Then I caught a glimpse of my screen time stats on my I-phone and was quite frankly horrified. The “no time” excuse lost plausibility in a flash, and I realised that I probably wasn’t doing my anxiety levels any good looking at news so much either. It explained a lot! I pledged to meditate at least once a day. I stick a timer on for ten minutes, sometimes it’s just 7 and I sit and focus on my breath. It’s amazing the reboot this can give your mind, creativity levels and focus. It also gives an opportunity to re-learn the art of being, a crucial skill in a technological world that often has us multi-tasking like never before. You can find a ten minute on my IG TV here if you would like to sit with me.
4. Cold water dips
Anyone who follows me on socials will know that I decided to go for a cold dip every day in January. As I write this, I have made it through to day 26, which given my propensity to feel the cold even I am (pleasantly) surprised about! I had dipped sporadically since moving to Newquay, but it was on New Year’s Day that I realised what a mood shifter getting in cold water can be. I find that when my mind is whizzing with stuff, that the minute I get in the water all I can think about is the water temperature. It brings me back to the present moment in an instant! I think a big part of the draw is also just being outside, in the fresh air and paying attention to the nature around me. If dipping is not your thing (fair play!), a walk outside near where you live, being in your garden or even looking out of a window also all give the opportunity for a moment of appreciating the sights and sounds of nature available to you. (And probably require less effort to warm up afterwards!)
I love reading, I grew up literally devouring books to the point where the local librarian sent me off with her personal copy of Gone with the Wind when I was about 12 as I had out read the library! Then I became a yoga teacher and suddenly all my reading became educational. I’m not sure why. Whilst I love learning, it doesn’t have to mean I can’t also enjoy a novel just for the sake of it! Since the end of last year, I have been taking more time out to read for the sheer love of it. There’s nothing better than curling up under a blanket and getting lost in the threads of a story. Taking time to read in the evening also has the added benefit of keeping me off social media, lowering screen time which helps me wind down in preparation to sleep. Friends have been sharing good reads and it’s really fun to receive a book in the post, and to pass books on that you have enjoyed too.
These are just some of the ways I’ve been finding steadiness and ease this month. There are definitely things in there I will continue with as we move into February too!