A year and a half ago, I elected to teach yoga because the depth and breadth of yoga is truly extraordinary. Yoga guides us to new touchstones and holds us to a higher standard of living. For many, the result is a more fulfilled life, not because of what is attained physically or tangibly, but because of the lessons gleaned from the mat.
The asana, the physical practice, is one of eight limbs of yoga. Each limb is offers a different journey to a similar destination. However, for many, their practice of yoga expands, and multiple limbs intertwine.
In class last week, we explored another limb, the niyamas, also considered the tenants of how we should live in relationship with our selves. This particular class focused on the niyama, santosha: contentment. According to The Sutras of Patanjali, the overarching guide for all eight limbs, santosha is not about satisfaction: it is not about complacency. Rather, as one sutra states, “by contentment, supreme joy is gained.”
Who doesn’t want supreme joy? I’d venture that few would say, “Not I”! However, how we find pure contentment, and ultimately pure joy, is a little more illusive.
In her article published by Wanderlust.com, Helen Avery dives into santosha, explaining that it is an incredibly active pursuit. To achieve contentment, she suggests we must first acknowledge exactly where we are at, and what we are experiencing.
How do we feel in any given moment? Angry? Frustrated? Excited? Fearful? Determined? Happy?
Once we acknowledge, the next step is to accept.
How often do we accept our anger? Most often, we are just angry, fuming as to why we are angry. What would it be like to pause and FEEL the fury? Then, to accept the fury?
On the flip side, what would it be to pause and really feel excitement? To feel joy? Rarely do we fully engage and sit with any emotion.
Rather it inhabits the background. Negative emotions are repressed, often growing without our consent while positive ones are overlooked, for fear we are undeserving or for fear that IF we engage too much, they might slip away.
Finally, we get curious.
What does anger feel like in my body? Where does it reside and what is my reaction? Is there a struggle and what does that feel like? What information is there?
For me, when I am willing to look, and willing to get curious in the moment, the curiosity overrides the negative emotions and somehow solidifies the positive. What is left is just a "being" and what I learn actually enables contentment - in whatever is, in that moment.
I am not complacent and I continue to strive for more, AND contentment in the moment, in what is, allows for a certain level of peace and ease.
The physical practice provides a space and a means to explore santosha. As you step onto the mat, what is it that you are feeling in your body – at any given moment? Can you acknowledge? Can you accept – rather than resist? What can you glean from it? What can you learn?
You might be surprised that if you acknowledge, accept and get curious about both your moments of sweetness and your moments of struggle, you may discover something new.
And if the struggle as well as the sweetness can be OK, then perhaps you can find and experience true santosha.
With love and light,
Rachel (to receive these in your inbox, subscribe below!)
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda (2012) Book 2, Sutra 42, Page 137