In past newsletters we looked at yoga beyond the Asana, or physical practice; noting that the Asana is only one element of the 8 limb path outlined in the yoga sutras; a path that has the potential to lead us to Samadhi - a state in which we uncover our true nature and discover our true self, beyond our ego; finding our true essence. So although the Asana practice is one limb of the path to Samadhi, it is not the first, or even the second. The first limb of our path is the Yamas, the foundation of our ethical behavior. The Yamas help bring us closer to truth by teaching us through our relationships with others. To learn more about the Yamas, visit the Blog on our website for past editions. In the coming months I will be exploring the Niyamas, the second limb, five internal practices or observances that help provide self-discipline and inner strength to further our journey on the yogic path on an individual level.
This newsletter focuses on the second Niyama, Santosa - Contentment.
1. a state of happiness and satisfaction
A short, succinct definition from the dictionary - a state of being; no long winded explanations given -- just six simple words. Yet for so many of us, Santosa, or contentment, feels so complicated and difficult to achieve! We find ourselves thinking "If only!" "If only I had... a bigger house," "...a different job," "...more time," "...a skinnier body," "...a smaller nose," "...fewer wrinkles," "...a more fulfilling life." The potential for the list is endless, and is different for each person. We all have things we love about our life, our self, our current situation, but we also all have that pesky ego! It is said that our true nature is one of contentment, peacefulness, perhaps even termed blissful and fulfilled.
In his book Teaching Yoga, Marc Stephens says, "Santosa opens us to happiness with who we are and what we presently have. When we recognize and accept life is an ongoing process for learning, growing, and evolving, we are more inclined to self-acceptance.” Complete self-acceptance - how beautiful would that be?! Is it possible to find peace within and become content with one's life, even while experiencing life’s difficulties? Life IS a process. Every day is going to be different. Some days we wake up feeling amazing, and other days not so much. Can we work to accept where we are here, now, in this moment?
Personally I struggle with Santosa. For me it is less about the material things, less about the person I am and more about my physical being. Having had rheumatoid arthritis for almost 30 years now, every day is very different for me. Working to heal myself in the most holistic way possible, I struggle to find the right diet, the time for self care, the discipline needed to stay on track. I judge my physical appearance, and question why my body is in the physical state it is in, when I am continually making efforts to change. At times there is little self-love, limited peacefulness, fleeting contentment, no Santosa! It's a struggle -- one I work through daily. And though I do not have answers, I do know this...when I commit myself to my yoga practice I feel so much better. If only for a few moments each day, I let go of judgement, I let go of ego, I let go of stress. I acknowledge the journey, I observe and accept the moment. I find that self-love, that compassion, that peace...and even a sparkle of contentment! There is so much beauty surrounding us, so much sweetness in life, so much love. If we can learn to live less in our head and more in our heart, reflect on something good when confronted with something bad, let go of our ego and embrace the bliss, perhaps Santosa will be that much closer...maybe even in reach! Both on and off the mat we can work to focus on gratitude, release judgement and expectations of ourselves and others, find happiness in what we have and be present. For in each moment, if you look around you, something will arrive for you; whether it is a smile, an embrace, a belly laugh, a blooming flower, a sunrise, the sound of birds chirping, contentment in the eyes of someone else... stepping out of our head, away from our ego, bliss and fulfillment surround us, opening us up to our natural state -- ego-less -- Santosa!