Balance Effort & Ease: Sthira Sukham Asanam / Right Effort


  • Sutra 2.46 defines asana as a posture or seat having the qualities of sthira and sukha, steady and comfortable.
  • Other translations of sthira and sukha include “alertness and relaxation” and “strength and a relaxed manner.”
  • Since only three sutras mention asana and only 2.46 gives a clue as to its practice, the teaching of “steady and comfortable” is considered quite important.
  • The idea of combining effort and ease may be unusual for students, whose experience may be that effort and surrender are two distinct practices not done at the same time.

Teaching Points

This principle involves “right effort,” or that which is not too much or too little. The practice is to apply focus and effort while maintaining a sense of ease. Some considerations for encouraging this in students include:

  • Consider what is typical for you. If you have a habit of pushing overly hard and overriding messages from your body, then to find balance, your task is likely to experiment with backing off to find more ease. If you rarely go out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, this may be a good time to practice applying more effort. The objective is to find your own personal balance point of Right Effort.
  • Avoid strain.
  • Use the breath as a guide to find your “edge.”
  • Allow stimulating sensations to be present without feeling overwhelmed.
  • “Steady practice at an appropriate level enables us to build that stability and ease—ultimately an interior strength combined with a soft exterior.” (Tias Little)
  • One teaching for longer-hold poses is to ask “What would you do differently in this pose if you thought that you would be here for 50 breaths, or 500 breaths? Where can you release unnecessary struggle while still honoring the integrity of the pose?”
  • Stand easy in all postures of your life, firm but relaxed.
  • Challenging our preconceptions about our abilities helps us move beyond the limitations imposed by the mind.

Yoga Sutra 2.46

Verse 2.46 of Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutra, sthira sukham asanam, is translated as follows:

  • Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.  – Sri Swami Satchidananda
  • Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation. – T.K.V. Desikachar
  • Steady and comfortable should be the posture. – Swami Satyananda Saraswati
  • The natural comfort and joy of our being is expressed when the body becomes steady (asana). – Nischala Joy Devi
  • Practicing yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner gives rise to harmony with the physical body (asana). –
  • Posture (asana) is to be seated in a position which is firm but relaxed.– Swami Prabhavananda (
  • Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit. – BKS Iyengar
  • Posture is to be seated in a position which is firm but relaxed. – Swami Prabhavanada, Christopher Isherwood
  • The posture for yoga meditation should be steady, stable, and motionless, as well as comfortable, and this is the third of the eight rungs of yoga. – Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati


How Students May Perceive the Idea

When I first started yoga, combining effort and surrender seemed laughable. Having been an ice hockey player for many years, I could not comprehend—in my body or mind—how they could coexist. Like waking and sleeping, they seemed like two distinct states, done in relationship to each other, but never at the same time—I mean, how could you? But I was eventually willing to entertain the concept even though, in reality, my Sun Salutations and standing poses were all effort. And when it was time for Savasana—thank God—I was all about relaxation… It wasn’t until I was taught Supta Padangusthasana that I learned to embody relaxed effort. – Jason Crandell

Letting Go of Tension While Maintaining Engagement

In the context of the asana practice, relaxation means letting go of nervous tension while maintaining the active engagement of whatever muscular and energetic action is required in maintaining the integrity of alignment. In releasing nervous tension, students can work strongly with willful determination while integrating effort and ease in a manner that allows the body to open in a stable way during asanas. – Mark Stephens

Take Care of Yourself in the Practice

A student once asked: “How do you know if you are an advanced practitioner?” And Rodney Yee answered: “When you are able to take care of yourself in the practice.” – Jodie Rufty

Tune In

Beginning yogis often shake quite a lot. As muscles get stronger from regular practice, the fibers learn to tradeoff between firing and resting with smoother coordination. To calm the body, try to hug the quivering (contracting) muscle against its underlying bone and press the bone into the muscle being stretched. Quivering is not necessarily bad, but it may be a sign that the body is overworked. Tune into the brain, the eyes, the root of the tongue, and, most of all, the breath. – Richard Rosen

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