“… when confronted with unusual life situations… A warrior acts as if nothing had ever happened, because he doesn’t believe in anything, yet he accepts everything at its face value.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Yoga Sutra – Chapter 2 Sutra 46


Have you ever watched someone thread a needle using funny and useless facial expressions – as if that would help to get the thread into the small hole? In a way that’s what this sutra is about

sthira sukham asanam
“Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation”

Translation by TKV Desikachar

This sutra is a preamble to sutras which are dedicated to the topic of asana. It is what Patanajali chose to say first and foremost about all asana practices – and on the face of things it seems like a paradox.

  • “Sthira” comes from the root “stha” which can be translated as “fixed place”. “Sthira” can be translated as fixed, stable, changeless.
  • “Sukham” comes from the root “kha” which can be translated as space or ether. “Sukham” can be translated as soft, comfortable, happy.

TKV Desikachar explains:

“It is attention without tension, loosening up without slackness”

Examples in practice may shed some light on the duality of sthira-sukham:

  • For some people raising the arms straight up above the head  is not useful – for an effective practice they may need to bend the elbows and relax the shoulders. The correct position is personal and strikes a balance between active effort in the arms, neck & shoulders (sthira) and softness in the elbows & shoulders (sukham). Stubbornly pushing for straight arms is overdoing (excess sthira)  that compromises other physical aspects. Underperforming by releasing the elbows and shoulders too much (excess sukham) makes the posture much less effective.
  • For some people keeping the legs straight in forward bends severly limits bending in the spine. By slightly bending the knees (sukham)  they can gain access to bending the spine (sthira). Stubbornly keeping the legs straight actually defeates the purpose of forward bends – keeping the  legs straight becomes the focus and effort (wrong sthira) while the spine barely bends and remains largely inactive (wrong sukham).
  • Breathing to your full capacity is another delicate balance. Aspiring to long and steady breaths (sthira) requires delicate attention and adjutsments in breath and asana  (sukham). Over exertion of the breath (excess sthira) quickly breaks it and the flow of practice. Underperformance of the breath reduces the effect and intensity of the asana (excess sukham).
  • A present mind is key to achieving a balance between alertness and relaxation. A mind that wanders off can lead to both slackness (excess sukam – in postures where effort is required) and tension (excess sthira – in postures where forces such as habit or gravity take over). A mind that is anchored in past asana achievements can also lead to both slackness (excess sukham – when past experience indicates an asana is not accessible) and tension (excess sthira – when past experience is attached to successful practices in the past).

How can such a balance be achieved in practice?

Krishnamacharya mentioned two tools: Vinyasa and Pratikriyasana. Vinyasa is about gradually placing the body in a posture – the number and character of the steps required may differ for individual practitioners. Pratikriya-asana are counter postures that are used to counter excess effects of practice and to create smooth flow and transition in asana practice sequences.

Desikachar adds that this sutra is brief because asana practices should be learned directly from a competent teacher. A balanace of sthira-sukham is personal and ever-changing. There are no set rules or recipes for achieving such a balance. It is a pursuit that requires careful observation and attention. It is not so much a result of practice but rather an artful quality that can guide and shape it.

I would end this article with two additional interpretation that have crossed my mind for meditating on sthira-sukham:

  • Well (sukham)  – Being (sthira)
  • Correct (sukham) – Effort (sthira)

I invite you leave a comment sharing your experiences of sthira-sukham in practice.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

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Yoga & Design


The last chapter of my career was a 2 year period in which I specialized in software product design. When I started it I was convinced that it was the best possible line of work for me at the time. To this day I view it as my favorite. I left not because of the work, but because of people – namely customers.

I view design as an opportunity to go deeper – to revisit the purpose of a product, it’s alignment with the larger purpose of a business, it’s value to customers, who the customers are … many questions that come before screens are actually designed, even before user experience and way before usability is addressed. I believed (and still do believe) that having a clear purpose of where you want to go makes everything that comes after that (design, development, testing, sales, support … literally everything!) smoother, more efficient, more pleasant … better. Without it is too easy to drift off course without even knowing it … sometimes until the business itself fails (you can create a failed product with superb usability). All of this, I am happy to say is aligned with my personal beliefs and pursuits.

The problem was that customers did not share my views. Customers would usually reach design at the end of their development cycles – when there were very little time, resources or motivation to actually do design. There really was’t space for raising the kind of challenges design can bring to the surface – it would mostly introduce insecurity, aggrevation & frustration. So the alternative was a compromise. Sometimes the compromise would work OK – not necessarily in the sense that we would arrive at a good product – but a satisfied and paying customer – I never was at peace calling that “OK”. Sometimes it wouldn’t work and that would lead to friction and divert the project into harsh & unpleasant energies – I hated that but  I was OK with it – because I wasn’t expecting anything else. The odds were that “design” wasn’t going to work out well (with one outstanding exception which deserves a separate post).

I do believe that bridges between different views can be built – but that takes care, time, patience and requires that everyone involved want to pursue that. I also felt that there were some pretty long bridges to build. Design, if given a chance, inevitably introduces creativity and unknowns into any process. Most the organizational cultures I encountered were not mature enough or open to these qualities. This would start with top executives who felt it important that the fact “they don’t like yellow” be incoporated into the design process – through to programmers that would decide that some of the visual details were too much of a hassle to implement. Unfortunately the circumstances of little time, budget or patience in which most of the design projects took place – left little chance for any bridge-building.

Many times I felt that the place to start was to take the leading executive aside for two years of Yoga – and then, when the foundations were in place, to resume design. Customers didn’t want that, it wasn’t part of the contract … but it came to a point where I felt that was the only way to move forward. I felt that people needed Yoga but didn’t want it. Add to that the fact that I like teaching Yoga waaaay more then I like design – and you may be able to see why I chose to leave my career behind.

Recently I had another “business-related” incident – which prompted this collection of thoughts. I was participating in a high-friction business-related conversation (there is no customer this time – it is a project I initiated) – and it reached an  impasse that had a deja-vu feeling from my design days. But this time the other side wanted and insisted on understanding. So we got into a conversation about communicating, the limits of understanding and it’s friction with the need to understand … and finally I tabled my theory and said “But this isn’t about me being your Yoga teacher – you don’t really want that!”. Before I finished saying those words I intuited what the response would be – and it was “Yes I do”. Woah!

This stayed with me for a few days – and I began to wonder … is it possible that people I met in business were actually looking (consciously or unconsciously?) for a more spiritual significant context in their lives that I overlooked? Is it possible that many of the frictions I experienced (and sometimes still do) are actually an expression of unspoken words? It is possible that people need Yoga and (consciously or unconsciously) do want it?

Knowing this doesn’t make building bridges any easier. A “mind & control” dominated business relatioship does not resonate well with a “heart & surrender” teacher-student relationship. Reasoning can lead the way in business, but it takes faith to let a spiritual teacher into your life. I have no doubt that qualities that can be acquired in Yoga can be beneficial in business – but they can’t be acquired using the way things are acquired in business.

Things keep going round and round 🙂

Posted in AltEco, Business, outside, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Quality in Family


My choice to create a life with Andreea in Israel was a revolt – we went up against powerful cultural norms. We were aided by “NewFamily” – an Israeli non-profit organization that is fighting to advance relevant family-status legislation (family status in Israel is subordinate to religious norms instead of legal norms). NewFamily is currently in the news representing a single gay man who has officially and legally born two children with a surrogate in India (because there is no legal framework for it in Israel). The babies are now two months old and the Israeli government is refusing to let them into the country. I am very familiar with the kind of blind bureaucracy he is facing.

But, I believe that if you peal away the emotional layers, this is a wonderful example of intellect attacking social norms and a social system (in this case mainstream Israeli society) struggling to advance. A single homosexual father to surrogate-born twins is more then the current social system can accommodate. You can tell by the government officials’ lame responses – they are not really stupid people, they are facing a frightening change of social values – and their fear blinds them and … well makes them sound stupid. The problem is that the legal system has not yet matured enough and is not yet equipped to process this situation and as a result one man’s struggle is actually shouldering an entire society and its stagnant social values.

My family values are not typical family values – to be honest I don’t know yet know quite what they are. This current event together with my recent immersion in Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality got me thinking about family.

On one hand family is the most fundemental building block in the social structure that is society. Family regulates the biological conditions for bringing new people into society. Family is the first and most dominant environment for transmission of social values to new members of society. Family embodies the most intense emotionally committing relationships. Family often represents a mechanism for acquiring social and economic status through marriage. Family often stretches out into adult life through family-businesses (Dad & Sons Inc.). While there are various social definitions of family, I am guessing that most (if not all) societies have some kind of construct that represent a basic social building block.

On the other hand family is the most exposed social building block to intellect-rooted change. Family is almost exlusively free (even in the most tightly controlled societies) to form it’s own mix of social & intellectual values. In the privacy of a home parents can choose to introduce intellectual values that are not aligned with the social norms of the world outside the home (or even the extended family). Almost all social structures outside the family are by definition larger and therefor more socially dominant – they are often charged with promoting and enforcing social values (especially education systems which are supposedly dedicated to intellectual values). Family is probably the only social structure where intellectual rebellion can find support – a father can choose to support a rebellious teen even though there may be a conflict in values – because family trumps!

Seen from the outside, family is a building block cemented into the foundations of society. Seen from the inside family is an incubator for change. Society is built upon family while family incubates dynamic change that will attack society and force it to change. In the war of social-vs.-intellect, family-bonding is poised (like carbon did for biology?) to tip the scales in favor of intellect.

Marriages (two people choosing to spend life together) that challenge religious and social boundaries, homosexuals, single-parents, surrogates … these are all expressions of change, of personal pursuit for fullfillment and expression, of intellectual liberation struggling against static social patterns … all taking place within family. For me that sheds new and important light on family!

It amuses and placates me to know that people like Andreea & I and this proud gay father are the ones carrying the torch of change on behalf of a unknowing and ignorant society who treats us like enemies.

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Reading Lila PDF


I thought I was finished with Reading Lila – but it resurfaced in my consciousness. This time around the content became associated with my images. So after a week of random & associative browsing through my image archives I have put together a PDF version of the excerpt with a more personal touch and a more pleasant finish.

Click here to download “Reading Lila” in PDF format

As I was working on this PDF, I visited my photography website StillCreation. I wasn’t happy with it at all and so decided to bring it down. I created StillCreation with the intent of sharing some of the inspiration I was experiencing at the time. My experiences took place in unique and intimate settings. I was hoping that my images would extend the reach of those experiences and that the inspiration would travel further. I feel I failed at doing that. If I one day encounter new inspiration and actionable ideas how to do this better – I may try again. For now I prefer silence.

Posted in Lila | You are welcome to read 14 comments and to add yours