Yoga could be thought of as the poses that we practice or it could be seen as a path to ending suffering — our own suffering and the suffering of others. I don’t know about you, but I think the latter is a much more valuable and meaningful practice to explore.
Yoga gives us 10 virtues or ethical guidelines (in the form of the yamas and niyamas) that we can use as tools or practices on our path to ending suffering. One of these is santosha, which translates to contentment.
It’s easy to be content when you’re in a peaceful setting (like the one above), when everything is going your way, when life is beautiful and simple. It’s a heck of a lot harder to be content when you’re struggling at work, when you’re behind on sleep, when you’re feeling overwhelmed or frazzled. But those are the times when we can benefit from santosha the most. Those are the times that we practice for.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring how to bring santosha into my daily activities. I realized that the key is simply finding ease in whatever I’m doing. Instead of hoping for things to go perfectly or trying to avoid certain things, I work on developing a feeling of ease in my body and mind. It’s almost like laying a silk scarf of santosha on top of my messy day. My messy day is still there but now it’s wrapped in ease.
Our physical yoga practice prepares us very well for this. Every time we hold a pose that is challenging and focus on breathing smoothly, every time we extend our exhales, and every time we lay in savasana and relax the body, we are training ourselves to bring ease and contentment into everything we do.
I love this description of santosha from Janet Stone’s blog (especially the quote at the end!):
We hear all of this talk about gratitude and how great it is and this I believe to be true through and through. However, she has a sister, who doesn’t crave or get much attention or require 30-day challenges. Her name is SANTOSHA and she rests in a subtle place that can’t be brought forth with challenge. She comes to us when we are not pulled by our preferences, by our likes and dislikes. She arrives when we rest instead in deep okayness with what is, exactly as it is. When we pause from giving the power of our emotional state to someone or something outside ourselves. When we stop trying to manipulate others and maneuver ourselves to get the things we “like” and to avoid the things we “don’t like.” When we stop seeking and looking over the fence at what someone else has that we don’t. When we cultivate a pathway to a center point within that does not waver, that is not based on condition. When we fall in love with our life exactly as it is. One of the oldest men alive was asked the secret to longevity. He replied, “When it rains, I let it.”
I’ll leave you with this mantra: “May I be content and at ease no matter where life takes me.”