Archive for July, 2014

Now that we’ve explored Sukha (easing up, letting go) and Sthira (control, effort), let’s explore what being out of balance looks like and how to not live in extremes.

It is interesting to consider the imbalance created if one were to live life in full-on Sukha-mode. With only ease, relaxation and softening we may cease to accomplish much of value, atrophying while we sit on the couch, allowing Netflix to auto-play the next binge-watched episode into infinity.

In contrast, in full-on Sthira-mode: only effort, control, pushing and holding on, we may become tyrannical workaholics, dogged in our ambitions and achievement-orientedness. Relentless in pursuit of exact outcomes or expectations of self or others we stay busy but lose soul.  Exhaustion sets in but you don’t notice until you fall over because your body says “no” when you won’t.

Living in either extreme tends to become out-of-balance and feel unhealthy after a while. Eventually we notice and try to correct-course.  That being said, it isn’t easy to regain balance.

For example, someone seeking employment for months on end would understandably exercise Sthira a lot with efforts toward improving their station in life and generating income on which to live. Certainly a logical goal. Finding work does indeed require the effort of Sthira. But even in the context of job searching, one’s tireless efforts can become obsessive and cause suffering. Even the job seeker needs balance, I would argue, to be the most effective candidate. She or he needs to be well-rested, relaxed, pulling from her Sukha-side, yet confident and skilled and strengthened in their area of expertise, bringing her Sthira-best; balanced.

Another example might be someone doing online dating and hoping they will meet the partner of their dreams. They have put in the effort of creating a compelling profile, responding to inquiries over email, working on improving their appearance perhaps; putting forth effort to achieve the desired outcome (rocking the Sthira effort stuff). In this case, finding the partner of one’s dreams is not an especially controllable outcome (despite excellent efforts). Isn’t it funny how things happen when people stop looking? Maybe sometimes Sukha or letting go of control and expectation could be key to the goal itself in the end? Though, it is good to note that not putting a dating profile up at all would not necessarily help the goal (must have the Sthira effort along with the letting go of Sukha).

 Together, steady efforts of Sthira (in yoga or in life) along with the softening and allowing of Sukha creates balance.  Grace Duckworth beautifully states the need to balance both Sukha and Sthira:

In asana practice, when we push ourselves 100% we lose track of our breath because we can no longer control the pace – this is all sthira, only steadiness or effort. On the other end of the spectrum when we find something that is comfortable – like practicing the same posture the same way over and over without challenging a new approach – this is all ease or surrender. We have to find balance between the two. When something is challenging we cannot only push, we have to release somewhere; and when something is easy we search for a way to bring more to the posture or our practice.

“Just find balance” sounds cliche, I know.  But it’s kind of awesomely helpful putting it into practice.  Sukha/ Sthira offers a deeper way of looking at this truth, perhaps inviting it to take root more fully in your life. 

These new ideas can bring new awareness to when we might be pushing too hard or it may help you notice when you might not be pushing hard enough.  Balancing ourselves is hard but noticing when we’re out of balance and trying to do something about it is a great start.

For me, I struggle more with too much Sthira, too much doing and not enough easing up. I began to notice when I was overdoing it. I gave myself permission to ease up, let go, let myself not work so hard, and guess what?  I was okay! I didn’t even feel guilty, I felt an opening up of possibilities and confidence that things will be alright, even if I’m not putting forth effort all the time.  I learned that my working hard is great and all but there’s a limit at which it begins to backfire.  There’s a point at which ease, relaxation and letting go is MORE beneficial than working even harder.

By allowing ourselves to be more gentle, more relaxed, more open while putting forth effort and doing awesome stuff, that’s when true growth happens and we find balance.

current music faves:  brandi carlile, sia

current show faves:  extant, hollywood game night

Visit me at www.erynsmithmoeller.com

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Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring the theme of balance in a series I’m calling Hacking a Yoga Sutra:  Balance, When to Push Harder and When to Let Go.

We begin with defining balance and it’s components according to a yoga sutra.  Look for parts 2 and 3 (how not to live in extremes, regaining balance) in the coming weeks!

~Namaste!  Thanks for reading,




How do you know when you are out of balance?

Do you only notice when you start to snap at people, when you’re feeling sluggish at work, when you’re binging on ONE category of life (only working, only partying, only eating, only sleeping etc.)?  Or maybe when you find yourself compulsively trying to control things around you.

What is “balance”, anyway?

Balance is defined as the equilibrium of power between opposing forces or the point between two opposite forces that is desirable over purely one state or the other. Most of us try to return to a constant state of stability, to re-balance when thrown off (think homeostasis of a self-correcting system). Yet, how balance is created, regained or maintained over time is a bit more murky: often there’s a lot of new age talk about self-care and moderation in all things.

In whichever context, regaining balance is easier said (or cleverly placed in a meme) than actually done.  You know, lived out and achieved. Balance is the stuff of acrobats, yogi gurus and nutritionists.

How do everyday people find balance?

In a yoga class recently (where I have been learning physical balance on the mat), the instructor was talking about yoga sutras and the ideas therein about effort, ease and balancing the two.  Apparently, these sutras have long defined and suggested underpinnings of balance. It’s in the context of successful yoga poses, sure, but I detect usefulness on a universal level.



The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Chapter 2.46  contains the phrase “Sthira Sukham Asanam” which refers to a yoga posture “being firm yet happy, steady yet comfortable.”  T. K. V. Desikachar describes the state of satva (equilibrium or balance) as “attention without tension, loosening-up without slackness.”

Sukha is the ease and softness needed in a yoga pose while Sthira is the effort and steadiness required. Together they interplay to create a pleasantly balanced pose.  Sukha and Sthira are dialectical opposites, yet complimentary:

Sukha                                            Sthira
Ease                                         Steadiness
Relaxation                                  Alertness
Letting Go                               Holding On
Allowing                                Pushing Oneself
Release                                         Strength
Surrender                                       Effort
Softening                                      Firmness
Vulnerability                                In Control

The literal translation of Sukha is “having a good axle hole.”   Ha, ha, right, “if only my axle hole were better, I would feel more at ease.”  Seriously though, maybe my axle hole is kind of difficult at times…

Sukha is a unique way of envisioning being at ease, open, surrendering to what will come.  Many people resist “letting go”, assuming it may be followed by things falling apart!  We like to feel we are in control so, often, we cling to things in an effort to allay anxiety.  As Americans, our focus tends to be very do-do-achieve-think-make-it-happen Sthira-focused.  But what if letting go didn’t have to be synonymous with things falling apart? 

Perhaps letting go allows things to fall into place.


current music faves:  new tori amos, silversun pickups

current show faves:  breaking bad, revisiting the wonder years

breakfast today:  pineapple coconut greek yogurt with granola, everything bagel

Visit me at www.erynsmithmoeller.weebly.com

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