Sthira-sukham asanam

A posture should be not only steady, not only comfortable, but steady and comfortable.   When one becomes steady without feeling discomfort, then the asana is perfected.  The posture is made steady and comfortable through relaxing (not forcing) the effort.  One the one hand hatha is called force, but the sooner the force is abandoned and relaxation is used to perfect the asana, the better.  The effort and the movement should be natural.  The breath rhythm employed together with the relaxation of the body and of the mind will help in making the posture steady and comfortable.  The mind should be completely relaxed and the effort should be a relaxed effort with very natural rhythmical movement – with relaxed limbs and mind.

For this reason, one of the secrets of perfecting an asana is to do it over and over again mentally.  Go through each asana in your mind as if you were doing it, and observe the entire mental process.   The teacher describes and demonstrates the asana while the students relax their bodies and minds completely.  They first observe and then visualize themselves going through the movements from leading in gracefully to holding and from the held position.  Beginners should mentally experience the easy, natural, beautiful flow of movements that will lead them effectively and gracefully through the asana.  Let them do that mentally, meditatively and then tell them to do with the body what their minds already did.  Eventually, in the process of doing asana mentally, they will recognize the obstacles that are present and begin to soothe and smooth them out in the mental process.  Gradually the physical resistance, which is tension, will be removed and the asana will become steady, without discomfort.

Concentration on empty space perfects the asana.  If you send your mind out to the entire expanse of space, you can imagine and find that very space passing through you.  This will help you attain lightness of body without too much effort.  What are you?  Your whole framework is made up of perhaps 90% space from head to toe.  So what is it you are trying to twist when you do the asana?  Is it not empty space?  What is the problem when you are trying to twist space?

The perfection of the posture, remember, should not be perfection of the yoga postures at the time of doing hatha.  It is the perfection of a posture throughout life and that is an indication of where one’s mind is.  The more steadiness we have in our minds, the more grace we will derive from there, and the more controlled and graceful our movement will become.