When Ysabelle was about 8 years old I reacted impatiently about something and she looked at me with one raised eyebrow, a little smirk and her cute round face and with a disappointed tone said: Way to go Yoga Mom!
As soon as she said that, I smiled and felt release from the tension. For one, I thought what cute manipulation and two, the honesty of a child who is trying to find ways to tell us adults to breathe a little snapped me out of my drama. She had done nothing wrong, I was in an intense mode trying to keep everything in balance and in the process found myself wasting energy. Now, note that I am not trying to insinuate that this the only time I lost my cool, but in light of her response I remember this particular time.
To help us navigate through this common tension, yoga offers a variety of perceptive approaches. One of them is the observation of the interplay between stability and ease. In Sanskrit the words used for this are Sthiram which means to stand firm and to be steadfast and strong and Sukham which means easeful, a good space and even the representation of the joy and lightness that arises out of being rather than doing.
These two energies are meant to be present when we practice asanas(yoga postures) I.e. we want our yoga posture to be stable and easeful. If we get lost in the desire for stability, we become rigid and start taking our practice too seriously which creates an overall sense of tension and heaviness. If we ignore stability we lose our grounding which means we have nothing to push off from and this flexibility we're seeking eludes us which also creates tension.
As with all yoga, this interplay is meaningful in our everyday life. If we get attached to stability based on external factors of control we generate a dependent sense of heaviness which reduces our capacity to experience ease. This heaviness leads to a rigid approach which fuels tension. If we ignore stability or believe that we have no stability we tend to feel unsure even insecure as we have nothing to push off from. Or, the slightest change or possibility of change uproots our foundation which again creates tension and a reduction of ease.
The simple acknowledgment of the interplay between stability and ease of body, mind, relationships and life as a whole brings both these energies to life. The teachings of yoga tell us that the only constant is change and that we suffer because we forget to acknowledge that we are building our homes on quicksand which is a metaphor that represents our desire to have everything in perfect control while ignoring that everything in nature has a cycle of beginnings, middles and ends.
This stability and ease approach is a state of mind that is developed within the uncertainty of life. It is not about perfect external circumstances but rather about learning to ground and flow at the same time. Kind of like a bamboo.
I know that when I lost my cool that day, it was during a period in my life when the grounding energy was pulling me down. I was taking everything too seriously which was drying me out. Her comment, her gaze and her smile made me realize that my desire for stability was blinding my ability for ease.
Of course, like all things yoga, this is a humbling process with ups and downs, variations, subjectivity, and possibilities. But it’s worth exploring.
Ways to explore it includes:
Yoga asana practice and making space for the feeling of stability and yet ease in our body and in our approach to the practice. This means we learn to focus and stabilize with ease and curiosity which helps reduce expectations without losing our passion and interest;
At any point during the day stabilize your legs and lighten up through the upper body. This is important because we often do the opposite which means we dump in our legs and tense our upper body. Practicing stable strong legs, light and expansive upper body reminds us that there is nothing rigid about stability and nothing flimsy, flaky or irresponsible about ease; and
Reflect on the subject and notice how it manifests in different areas of your life.
Remember that from the perspective of yoga the ultimate feeling of being grounded and easeful is not lost when we fall and is not experienced when all is in perfect balance. It is rather experienced in the reality of the uncertainty we all experience.