There are so many people who start yoga with the intention of gaining flexibility. While this is a huge benefit from keeping a consistent yoga practice, it’s not the only thing thing that your body will gain from learning asanas and yoga sequences.
Would you believe that, in terms of keeping a sustainable, healthy yoga practice, strength building is equally as important as gaining flexibility?
There is a saying from a book written more than 1,700 years ago in regards to physical yoga asanas. The saying goes, “Sthira Sukham Asanam.” Translated into English, this means that, “a yoga posture should be steady and grounded, but also light and comfortable.”
Sthira refers to stability, foundation, and strength, while Sukham refers to lightness, ease, and flexibility. In a physical yoga practice, the yogi should focus on both of these aspects equally.
You may be asking, “Well, what if I’m naturally flexible; or, what if I’m an athlete and have a lot of muscle?” To find the balance of Sthira and Sukham (strength and flexibility) we need to assess how we feel in each yoga pose.
If you find that flexibility is easy for you throughout your practice, you should incorporate more strengthening through muscle engagement so as to create stability in your joints. Flexibility is great, but muscles surrounding joints need to be strong.
On the other hand, if you find strength easy in your practice, you should focus more on flexibility to help lengthen muscles for increased ease and mobility.
As you tune in to the balance between strength and flexibility in your practice, you learn how to listen to your body. You learn how to practice with a strong foundation and ease of movement, and embody integrity in your awareness. Remember that yoga is not about pushing your limits, nor is it about falling asleep; it’s about the integrity of focused ease, attention, and a balance of strength and lightness.