Sukham

This summer, I thought in the earlier months of the year, I will have the hours in the day to write. Writing is a process that, like yoga, requires both structure and creativity. I have indeed been writing, but the hours are not as unblemished as I anticipated. There is the lure of fun and games with the children, splashing in bodies of water, catching up with old friends, absolutely nothing to complain about! Meditating on the urgency of returning to my practice I wrote this piece which suddenly seemed useful to share. This summer period so mercurial is when we can finally allow structure to slip and new ideas to bubble up.

Practice benefits from structure, there are no two ways about it: To have a space set aside for your sadhana, to practice at a set time each day, to structure the sequence you practice with more or less precision, all of these are practicalities that aid progress.

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In the Yoga SÅ«tras the key qualities of asana are sthiram and sukham: steadiness and ease. Sthiram embodies the stability of structure and sukham the fluidity that can then be allowed to express itself.

The summer holidays are usually peak sukham time. If you are lucky enought to take this time out, it may be hard to keep to your yoga practice. Many people travel, are in unfamiliar surroundings, pass through different time zones... even the sheer excitement of breaking from our routine can make it impossible to stay focused on our sadhana.

Coming back to this balance of sthiram and sukham let us see where it is that we can cultivate stability. Where our usual routine provides us with structure, we need to find structure elsewhere. I would like to suggest looking to the practices themselves for stability. Practice a sequence you are familiar with, a few rounds of a familiar strengthening vinyasa perhaps. Surya namaskar or a sequence that befits your energy levels.

Take a piece of paper and jot down a practice that suits your setting. If your space is more restricted than usual perhaps it is a good opportunity to practice seated postures, or if there are features such as furniture that you can use as props, incorporate them. You can learn a lot from this exercise and become more involved in the architecture of your sadhana. Which asanas build stability? Tadasana (mountain pose), dandasana & urdhva dandasana (staff & inverted staff or plank pose), virabhadrasana I, II & III (warriors I, II & III), ardho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog)... are all postures that work on aligning and strengthening the legs, your body's powerful foundations.

If you do find yourself lazing on your sunbed, mildly disturbed by a missed yoga practice, rest your palms on your belly and connect to the source of your breath. Notice the gentle rise of the belly beneath the hands as you breathe in, the belly sinking as you exhale deeper into your sunbed.

Summer holidays are a time to unwind, break from the usual, notice where you become mechanical in your usual life. If you miss out on practice time remember that yoga keeps giving, come back, keep coming back and remember yoga is a place to which you can always return.