Yoga and the Art of the Peaceful Warrior (sthira and sukha)

By Kelly Glendinning.

The Sanskrit meaning of stira and sukka is strength and stability versus softness and ease. In our asanas, we are aiming for the perfect mixture of these two qualities. I often think of the warrior postures with these two terms and they are also a fantastic metaphor for life. The warrior postures are strong, they are there to ground you and help you develop strength in the arms and legs. They help you develop focus i.e. your eye gaze or drishti is fixed. Warrior postures cultivate the qualities of endurance and determination. This is the stira – the active masculine. It is the part of our being that stands tall and proud, ready for a challenge and meeting it head on. The warrior. Let’s face it life is challenging, many of us must take charge and be that warrior in life standing tall to meet those challenges and placing armour on if necessary. Life requires strength from us.

Sukka. After we have embraced the strength of our asana and the posture is at its full extension and embodiment (which will be different for everyone in each new moment) one may begin to soften the muscles, let tension melt, sink deeper and feel lighter all at the same time as maintaining strength. The peaceful warrior. This is surrender, this is acceptance, equanimity, letting go, withdrawing within and seeing what is beyond the surface. This is grace. The feminine.

There is a beautiful phrase in the serenity prayer “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (grace), the courage to change the things I can (strength) and the wisdom to know the difference (higher consciousness.)

In stira it is all about our will in sukka we are learning to embrace divine will. We let go, we let god. We begin through our higher consciousness to hand over all that we have been unable to manage. It is the subtle meeting point when the two qualities of stira and sukka meet that allow us to come to a place of divine union (Yoga.)