A few years ago, in one of my yoga classes, my teacher introduced to me the Sanskrit word Santosha, meaning contentment. At the time I didn't know much about yoga philosophy or Sanskrit, but that word Santosha and the idea of contentment stuck out to me so vividly that I remember focusing the whole time on memorizing SAND-TOES-SHA, thinking "sand between my toes... makes me feel content?" But it worked!
At first I wasn't sure what contentment meant or felt like to me. Was contentment the same as being comfortable? Not for me, because I associated being comfortable with settling. I believed then and know now that contentment is far, far more enlightened than feeling comfortable.
In a recent article I read on Santosha it states: "In nearly every translation of the Yoga Sutra [a book on the philosophy of yoga], Santosha is interpreted as the greatest happiness, the underlying joy that cannot be shaken by life's tough moments, by injustice, hardship, bad luck. 'Contentment is really about accepting life as it is.' It's not about creating perfection. Life will throw whatever it wants at you, and you ultimately have little control. Be welcoming of what you get."
Santosha in Yoga Asana:
The process of Santosha in yoga asana (movement) is noticing where you are in your pose right now and realizing that it is perfect. One of my teachers, Kay Kay Clivio, says to look at a pose and admire the beauty in it before trying to adjust it, see the perfection in each pose, just the way it is.
Santosha in Life:
Everyday we run around trying to get where we are headed as fast as possible, finding ourselves frustrated when we walk down the stairs and see that the train we needed is pulling out of the station or we've hit almost every red light in our car. However, instead of being frustrated, do you think you can allow what is, to be? Can you stop and see the beauty in your reality? Maybe this "delay" or "obstacle" will give you a few more seconds to read a book, smile at someone in the station or the car next to you who may be having a rough day, or possibly it will just allow you the time to listen to your favorite song on your iPod. We have the choice to define each situation we find ourselves in as either good or bad. Excitement and fear are physiologically the same experience; we get to choose how we define it. With contentment it is the same. As long as we are willing to create the space to experience it, without going to our default reaction or definition, we then can choose how we define any given experience. Maybe today, yoga isn't for you or a certain pose in your practice isn't working out. Instead of choosing to be frustrated, can you choose to be content with the fact that you get an extra few minutes to take a few deep breaths and honor your body for where it is today? Even more, choose to be grateful for the chance you get to experience contentment. If we can let go of our war with reality, each of us will be able to think more clearly and make a difference in our mental and physical body.
Take some time to think of something in your reality that you have been at war with. Choose to dedicate the rest of today to loving that aspect of your reality. Instead of using your energy to fight it, send your reality love and gratitude towards. Allow yourself the freedom to feel Santosha.
Happy National Month of Yoga!
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