This morning, for a bit of fun at our live online class, we used this well loved story, 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears', to think again of Sthira Sukha ( #sthirasukha ), translating the Sanskrit words today as Stability and Flexibility.
So, Baby Bear stands on the mat with his feet, knees and thighs tight together and performs a few upper body movements - sweeping arms above the head in axial spinal extension, backbend, side-bends, forward fold and twists. Unfortunately, Baby Bear is too flexible, so the feet together stance proves to be unstable.....! Daddy Bear then comes along and stands with legs as wide apart as he can ,very manly and strong ( sorry about the gender thing, but remember, it's just a fairy tale!), Daddy then performs the same arms above head movements. Unfortunately, he is so stable on the stance that the movements are curtailed through lack of space and mobility - no flexibility! Mummy Bear then gives it a go. She stands with feet shoulder width apart, directly under the hips and knees. She rolls around the feet to find the most comfortable position, using the tripod support on the sole of the feet ( Big Toe knuckle and little toe knuckle on the pad, centred heel) to feel "grounded". Mummy then performs all the upper body movements with ease and balance, light and flexible on the top and stable, but with some mobility allowed to travel right down through to her feet .....as always Mummy Bear is proved 'Just right' !
We did then do some more 'Yoga' based Yoga! For me though, these lessons are timeless, simple and memorable. What we learn as children is soaked up and retained. This is where our stability starts to form and as a parent, it is an incredibly important job to get this grounding right. Children are thankfully very flexible however, so mistakes can be made and corrected. As we get towards the other end of our lives it is difficult sometimes not to be 'too' stable! We watch the world changing rapidly around us and long for things to be as they were in the 'good old days'. Flexibility by this time can be a challenge!
Let's go back to our Yoga on the mat and a great example of stability and flexibility, Eagle or Garudasana. Everyone can give this fun pose a go - young and old, Yogi or not! Firstly, work on the base, your stability, without any arm involvement....
...The standing leg and foot should feel grounded and strong. The sit bones sink down and back, so that the knee softens, but remains above the ankle. The other leg is wrapped tightly around it, thighs squeezed together. Its foot can be tucked behind the calf, at the side of it or with the tip of the big toe on the floor to help any wobbles!. The standing leg glute is squeezed strongly towards the centre line. The leg should feel 'rooted'!...
Now look to the upper body, reaching out both arms to shoulder height, then gracefully and lightly (!) folding, here above, the right arm under the left arm, elbow to elbow crease. Now rotate the upper forearm only as much as is comfortable and try to catch the mound of the left thumb with the right fingers. Slowly, lift the elbows up, if you can, to in line with your shoulder joints.
A fabulous pose, where Stability and flexibility are personified! Both are needed to maintain the equilibrium in our world on and off the mat. Which one do you think you lean more towards? This may, of course, vary from day to day and throughout life. Some of us are more stable than others, some of us are more flexible. Ultimately though, these apparent opposite physical abilities and traits of character compliment each other and work wonderfully together to help us perform at our best level.
P.S. Don't forget to do the other side in Eagle pose or you might feel lopsided !