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Good Space
by Jeff Martens


Editor's Note: In the chaos of our lives, it can be all too easy to lose our centers, to find ourselves living in a space that takes us away from a state of being in which we are at ease, content, and happy. Jeff Martens writes about the meaning of sukha, or, "good space," and reminds us of our ability to cultivate this in our daily lives in our Yoga practices.

Sukha: To Be at Ease

The Sanskrit Sukha is a somewhat common term in the Yoga Sutras, appearing in five separate verses including the first verse on asana or physical posture.  Usually defined as happiness, pleasure, ease, joy or agreeableness, much can be learned about sukha by taking a brief look at its roots and history.

The Sanskrit root Su = “good, fine”.  Kha = “state”.  So a more literal translation of sukha might be “Good State”.  But kha can also mean space, so su-kha can signify “happy space” or “good space”.  This last definition begins to approach a more original meaning of sukha, which, when understood can help to illuminate its use related to personal practice within two popular verses in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.


The Center of the Wheel

One popular ancient use of sukha in everyday language referred to the center of a wagon wheel.  As goods and people were often transported by hand-drawn or animal-led carts, the axel space at the center of the wagon wheel became very important.  If the center axis of the wheel was made with care and precision, the wheel’s spokes would radiate outward evenly and turn the circumference in a balanced manner, making for an easy and comfortable trip.  If, however, the space at the center of the wheel was not constructed with care, a “bad” space was the result.  Unevenness, jarring and swaying made for a tumultuous and unhappy journey requiring much extra effort and unnecessary struggle.

Philosophically, the archetype of the wheel can be a Vedantic or Buddhist ideal reaching far beyond its physical origins.  However the physical aspect of sukha as the “good” center space of a wheel is an invaluable touchstone for our daily practice.  With this more original meaning in mind, Patanjali’s use of the term sukha takes on a deeper and richer context in the following sutras:


santoshad annutamaha sukha labahaha
With contentment comes ultimate joy.   –YS 2.42

Just the reading of this sutra referring to the Niyama of contentment or fulfillment seems to bring a feeling of peaceful joy…  Santosha is a powerful practice which takes the mind away from past or future-oriented actions, bringing our full attention and appreciation into this moment.  When we practice the art of contentment or finding fulfillment wherever we are in life, things begin to “roll” much more smoothly.  The resulting thoughts and actions become very graceful and efficient, requiring much less effort to put into play.  Residing in the present moment we find clarity and peace.  Because we see things clearer, the resulting journey is experienced with maximum wisdom and insight, making for a joyful, balanced ride.  If we do encounter bumps along the way, these disturbances are not nearly so jarring as they would have been if the space at the center of our wheel was not true and harmonious.


sthira-sukham asanam
Yoga pose is steady and pleasant.  –YS 2.46

Patanjali’s first of three verses on asana in the Yoga Sutra is very practical and concise, yet at its heart there is untold wisdom.  As Patanjali earlier references both abhyasa and vairagya as absolutely necessary to realize stillness (YS 1.12), here too he gives us another pair to be practiced simultaneously.  In fact, without sukha or the “good space” at the center of the wheel, no yoga pose could possibly be steady (sthira) and grounded.  Practicing meditation or asana wiith this intention has the potential to totally realign our practice, shifting our focus away from struggle and possible attachment to results and more in the direction ease and joy.  This does not necessarily mean that our yoga postures or meditation will be void of challenge or become ultra-easy.  What it does mean is that we have the power to shift our attitude — and therefore our posture — in life at any given moment, and in so doing we experience a whole new set of possibilities and circumstances formerly unavailable to the one with a “bad” center wobbling and grinding along the road of life.

Craft Your Wheel

Like an ancient wheel-maker, it is up to us to hone our own personal revolutions and take the time necessary to discover a beautiful and harmonious center from which to expand and travel through life.  This sukha or “good space” is an emptiness beyond form; indeed this empty space is what makes the wheel useful; not only does it help create a path of joyful contentment, it also helps us to reside in a world beyond form where harmony becomes a matter of our perspective and is no longer dependent on outer circumstances alone.



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About the Author

Jeff Martens has been teaching yoga and holistic principles principles since 1989. His understanding flows from diverse sources including a Psychology and MFA degree, a deep love of sacred stories, and a three
year study of the world’s sacred texts. His classes combine timeless wisdom, internal adjustment, practical philosphy and inspiring affirmation in a dynamic flow unifying the teachings of Classical and Tantra Yoga. Jeff is a writer, teacher trainer, co-founder of the Yoga-Vision Yoga Conference, founder of the Student Yoga Program at Arizona State University and co-owner of Inner Vision Yoga in Chandler, Arizona. Check out his DVDs YogaFlow and YogaPower.

For more information visit, www.InnerVisionYoga.com.




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