Yoga - From discomfort to comfort
by Shameem Akthar
In order to reach a stage of comfort and stability on the mat, one must be willing to sacrifice one’s comfort zone.
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
If yoga is about breaking patterns you cannot be fussy and cringing about your sadhana or practice. I find that oftentimes some of us take the easy way out on the mat. This is a constant battle for me as a teacher, since some students, `enlightened' enough to throw Rishi Patanjali at me would say that he talks of sthira sukham asanam. They interpret that to mean being comfortable. But before you become comfortable, you must work towards that comfort zone. If a sports superstar can throw a ball with ease or break existing records with ease, it comes from having invested time and energy in a practice that makes him vault the limitations that hold others back. From my own experience on the mat, an asana is reached comfortably only after some effort has been invested in it. When I say investment, I mean physical effort. You cannot just lie back on the mat and expect patterns to break!
For instance, even in sere Buddhist meditation practices, the most important qualification to proceed further in higher meditation is to be able to sit still in a cross-legged position, initially at least for an hour continuously without moving a muscle. Fidgeting is being comfortable. Shutting down movements, initially difficult, is what teaches you joy and steadiness in the pose. Sitting still is initially a great muscular effort. It never comes easy. It comes from resolve. And it comes from a deep longing to break patterns.
First comes the resolve, then the effort and then, finally, the ease and joy in the steadiness of pose (what Patanjali surely spoke of). To keep crawling back to comfort zone on the mat is being churlish and childish. It is like interpreting the non-doership of Gita to mean being passive. The non-doing spoken of in Gita actually means being active in another dimension. It is clearly about not sitting back and talking about being comfortable!
If you want sthhira sukham asanam, surely it cannot come without being purified by the fire of the other yogic requisite – tapas (disciplined utilisation of energy), one of the most basic yogic rule or niyama. Can tapas be equated with being comfortable on the mat?
Utkatasana (Squat pose)
Stand with feet a foot apart. Feet should be pointed ahead. Inhale, going up on toes. Hold hands out in front, at shoulder level. Exhale, lower hips so they rest on the heels. You must remain on toes all the time. Bring knees together. Keep a point of focus or drishti, on some object in front. This helps you hold difficult balancing poses for long. Hold this pose for as long as is possible, breathing continuously. Inhale, rising back to standing position, remaining on your toes. Exhale, lower heels back to ground. Do a few times, holding longer each time.
Benefits: Builds stamina, both physical and mental. Tones body. Therapeutic in certain chronic conditions like blood pressure and diabetes. Helps with weight loss. Develops focus.
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