What does strength with ease mean?

podcast yoga Jun 12, 2023

"What does strength with ease mean?" It's a fairly broad question which myself, Leah Barnett and Leonie Taylor have been discussing.

We have been considering this question within the yoga philosophy, coming from this yoga sutra Sthira Sukham Asanam (meaning “postures should be steady, stable, and comfortable”) as a guidance to this idea of ease or comfort and steadiness in terms of practise. The scope of answers to this question are extensive, especially considering that we all have different experiences in many different practices, whether they are still or more fluid, internal or external. This question is very contextual and open to interpretation. It can be considered in terms of where we are in the physical strength of a pose, or where we are emotionally in our lives.

Strength with ease can be looked at in terms of finding our own boundaries, both internally and in the way we meet the world around us. We can look at this idea of ease in terms of approach and withdrawal, where we find ourselves in any given moment and being able to find the strength to really understand what that means to us. We can look at strength from a physical standpoint, but also strength of our current state. We may wake up in the morning with a 'strength of practice' because we feel rested and grounded and mentally equipped to tackle the day ahead. We all practise strength in different ways, we have our own internal struggles and some days are better able to face them than others. 

In terms of physical strength, it could be a strong yoga practice with lots of fast postures, it could mean sitting with strength and being aware of each muscle, each breath and the connection to the ground, it could even be translated to a holding position and of course fluid motions - any kind of movement or position that meets you where you are. The idea of strength encompasses a physicality as well as where we are energetically and having the ability to respond with clarity. Again this looks at the idea of boundaries, externally and emotionally and what that means to the individual.

Humans have a naturally inquisitive nature, we can think about what we have and what we need at any given moment, this is completely subjective and influenced by where we are in the present as well as our past experiences. We will all have a different understanding of what 'ease' means to us, depending on our personal life style. 

As a society we foster a culture of comfort, we seek it out and it is presented to us through media, adverts and even the things available to us in the shops. In some ways we have access to too much comfort and convenience and so are not exposed to daily discomforts. Food is at our fingertips, we have central heating and running water, we are exposed to luxuries. 'Ease with comfort' is not about 'checking out' physically, it could be looked at 'energetically' - it might even relate to the space around a difficult feeling, or the practice of mindfulness that does not jump immediately to dislike but is able to stand back and realise what discomfort can look like. Finding a middle ground can provide contentment. We need to understand both the highest level of comfort and what that means to us as well as what discomfort looks like to find that happy path in between.

We have discussed the benefits of barefoot walking and running in the past, (see my blog, The Benefits of Barefoot Running) being connected to the ground and walking on uneven surfaces as our ancestors did. Today, our flat roads and comfortable shoes can cause joint pain and muscle injuries as our bodies our no longer able to absorb impact or change from one surface to another easily. The idea of inviting discomfort by choosing to walk on pebbles or rough grass can provide balance. One way to consciously and willingly meet discomfort is to first choose the less easy path and then to invite and bring in kindness to the practice. Our breath is always there to assist and help us, by breathing through the feelings of discomfort, we can meet the feelings head-on without recoiling and turning away. This will help us to find our happy medium, again with this idea that we must experience both the comfort and the discomfort to find out where we choose to sit in that spectrum; where strength with ease is an individual choice and an individual place.

Although our society cultivates comfort, each of us will have struggles and situations in our own lives where we feel uncomfortable. By meeting these feelings with kindness we can stay in the present moment and overcome the feelings of discomfort. The more we can practise strength and finding that gentleness within strong sensations, for instance, with our breathe, the more we can overcome discomfort. It allows us to build up a sense of resilience, in whatever way is of benefit to you.

When we meet feelings of discomfort, our bodies have stress patterns. We might be inclined to hold our breath and carry tension in the neck and jaws. We need to soften around our jaws and our tongues, our lips, we need to let go of this tension and keep steadiness on our lower platform in order to support ease above. Meeting these feelings and sensations as they arise and being able to notice them, process and even invite them means we can learn how to cope with discomfort more readily.

To listen to the podcast on What does strength with ease mean? via Soundcloud, click here.

To listen to the podcast on What does strength with ease mean? via Apple Podcasts, click here.

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