Always remember, all rules, disciplines, are average; and average is nonexistential. And don’t try to become the average; nobody can become. One has to find his own way. Learn the average, that will be helpful, but don’t make it a rule. Let it be just a tacit understanding. Just understand it, and forget about it. It will be helpful as a vague guide, not as an absolutely certain teacher. It will be just like a vague map, not perfect. That vague map will give you certain hints, but you have to find out your own inner comfort, steadiness. How you feel should be the determining factor. That’s why Patanjali gives this definition, so that you can find out your own feeling.
Sthir sukham asanam
There cannot be any better definition of posture:
Posture should be steady and comfortable.
In fact I would like to say it the other way, and the Sanskrit definition can be translated in the other way: Posture is that which is steady and comfortable. Sthir sukham asanam: “that which is steady and comfortable is posture.” And that will be a more accurate translation. The moment you bring “should,” things become difficult. In the Sanskrit definition there is no “should,” but in the English it enters. I have looked into many translations of Patanjali. They always say, “Posture should be steady and comfortable.” In the Sanskrit definition, sthir sukham asanam, there is no “should.” Sthir means steady, sukham means comfortable, asanam means posture – that’s all. “Steady, comfortable: that is the posture.”
Why does this “should” come in? Because we would like to make a rule out of it. It is a simple definition, an indicator, a pointer. It is not a rule. And remember it always: that people like Patanjali never give rules; they are not so foolish. They simply give pointers, hints. You have to decode the hint into your own being. You have to feel it, work it out; then you will come to the rule, but that rule will be only for you, for nobody else.
If people can stick to it, the world will be a very beautiful world – nobody trying to force anybody to do something, nobody trying to discipline anybody else. Because, your discipline may have proved good for you, it may be poisonous for somebody else. Your medicine is not necessarily a medicine for all. Don’t go on giving it to others.
But foolish people always live by rules.
I have heard that Mulla Nasruddin was learning medicine with a great physician. He watched his master to find out hints. When the master would go for his rounds to see the patients, Mulla would follow. One day Mulla was surprised. The master took the pulse of the patient, closed his eyes, meditated and said, “You have been eating too many mangoes.”
Mulla was surprised. How could he find out through the pulse? He never heard that anybody could find through the pulse beat: you have been eating mangoes. He was puzzled. On the way back home he asked, “Master, please give me a little hint. How could you…?”