woman doing yoga flow with effort and ease

Finding The Perfect Blend of Effort and Ease

Every time I walk into yoga class with my favorite teacher, I know I’m gonna learn something good.

She’s in her early forties and has been practicing since her teen years, and I sit there on my yoga block at the start of class and soak in all the juicy goodness that comes out before we head into our flow for the evening.

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you probably know how I feel about hustle culture. I’m not a fan of hustling and willpowering our way through to get the results we want. But at the same time, I recognize that a lot of the results we want in life require focus and discipline.

Then she said a Sanskrit phrase for the in-between of effort and ease:

sthira-sukham asanam

“That’s it,” I thought.

That’s the feeling I’ve been trying to figure out how to put into words. There’s no perfect word for this in the English language.

It’s that feeling of pushing yourself enough to feel a challenge, while still feeling some ease, like it’s the thing you’re meant to be doing.

It’s what I want from my life. I don’t want everything to feel easy. Because it’s not fulfilling. It’s a powerful practice: working on something, seeing the progress, and knowing it’s because you’ve put in effort to improve.

This is a silly analogy but stick with me here:

I have to walk in the pouring rain to get to my yoga practice, even when I don’t feel like it. I don’t have a car, and my studio is a 25 min walk. It’s not ease, it also requires effort. It feels good to make that effort.

But what if I was walking in the rain with a rock in my shoe and refused to remove it?

It sounds silly, because who wouldn’t remove the rock…?

A lot of us think that we win brownie points for getting through the pain of something in our lives, when we can make it easier on ourselves by removing the thing causing us suffering.

You don’t earn points for struggling for the sake of it.

There’s a difference between a worthwhile pursuit and putting yourself through struggle, when it doesn’t have to be like that. A lot of us were taught that all good things have to be hard work. But I’ve learned that it’s not true.

Not all good things in life need to be earned with struggle.

But I think the truth lies within sthira-sukham asanam. Putting in effort makes something more worthwhile when it’s something that adds meaning and value to our life. When it feels inwardly like it’s meant to be.

It’s also why we’re scared to go after our dreams, because it’s the most worthwhile pursuit, and it requires us to give our full effort.

And we’re so scared that if we give something our full effort, what if it fails?

But sthira-sukham asanam to me means that the most meaningful things in our lives will be a a blend of effort and ease.

It won’t feel like an uphill battle. It’s the right amount of giving our best, feeling rewarded, and feeling like we’re moving in our lives with purpose and meaning.

A lot of us know that feeling. We can’t explain it but something is calling us to this thing – whether it’s as simple as a yoga practice or a career change or a person we’re drawn to.

And it feels good to give effort to that thing, because it almost feels magnetic, like it loves us back. It’s not ease-filled, but it’s worth the energy we’re giving it.

If only we could all put effort into what loves us back – and leave the rest behind us.

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