This week, we continue a series on the niyamas of yoga, focusing on contentment, or santosha
Our focus this week is about contentment. Santosha is one of the niyamas, or practices of self-restraint in yoga.
As a reminder, niyamas are individual observances of self-restraint. In contrast to the yamas, which are concerned with social relationships and harmony with the world, niyamas are more of an internal journey. As described in the aphorisms by Pantajali, they serve as support for the path towards the part of Self that is all-knowing. Some may refer to that Self as the Ultimate Reality. These practices aid us in gaining harmony within as they aid in creating personal discipline.
There are five niyamas: saucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya and isvara pranidhana.
This week, we’ll continue a series that takes a closer look at yoga’s ethical guidelines for living. These are called yamas and niyamas, and they fall under Raja Yoga, the branch that governs the disciplines about controlling the mind and senses. The first two branches on Patanjali’s eightfold path are yamas and niyamas.
Simply put, yamas are things not to do, niyamas are things to do. Yamas can be thought of as practices of self-restraint, while niyamas are virtues to cultivate, or observances.)
A TRUE TEST OF SANTOSHA
Having a new puppy in my life for the last six weeks has truly tested my perspective of what contentment can or needs to be in my life.
Sage, my twelve-week-old goldendoodle is very charming and playful along with the capacity to destroy any soft object she locates in her path. Her needlelike, sharp teeth have a special affinity to finding my tender skin on my hand leaving me with tiny lacerations and even puncture wounds at times. Her barking can dominate the home before dawn. I have learned to start my morning before I wake her up.
My morning routine is slowly coming back to include my meditation and breathwork. I still need to re-establish yoga on a regular basis.
Finding a rhythm for both of us is all part of the journey. In the past few weeks, I have fewer wounds and my level of frustration or anger have been more measured.
I find it helps to have a sense of humor so I can be more present with my puppy and her behavior. She lightens my mood, and that lifts our interactions.
I decided to have her trained at home, so a trainer comes once or twice a week. My intention is to be able to have her off leash and demonstrate excellent behavior.
We still have a ways to go but I see that Sage is very intelligent and seeks to please…at times.
My practice of santosha, then, is to cultivate my awareness of how to work with her and be content about where she is in training.
I commit to enjoying those moments of success and learning to let go of the challenges.
ALL WE NEED OR WANT IS ALREADY WITHIN US
One of my favorite yoga teachers, Rama Jyoti Vernon, shared this about santosha:
Santosha “is a state of knowing that everything we thought we needed or wanted is already within us.”
Contentment is possible from a place of fullness and feeling fulfilled. Finding inner joy and happiness within, you can experience an inner sense of peace that radiates from your being. A knowingness inside guides us from this place of strength known as our higher Self.
My journey with my puppy is teaching me to be content about where we are today in our journey together. The more I bow into this, the less stress I am feeling as each moment passes. I welcome this experience into my life.
WINDS OF DESIRE
Another yoga teacher, Mr Iyengar, shares in The Illustrated Light on Yoga that santosha needs to be cultivated, nurtured with asanas, meditation and breathwork. He describes it as a state of mind: There is contentment and tranquility when the flame of the spirit does not waver in the wind of desire. These winds of desire differ for each of us yet the path to contentment is the same.
How am I cultivating contentment in my life today? What is the first step to walk in that direction?
When have I experienced contentment in my life? Even for a brief period of time?
What would it feel like to not feel the lack of_____ in my life?
Is there a sense of peace and joy that comes from this contentment?
What happens when you state out loud, “What I have is enough”? Rather than saying, “I will be happy when…”
The peace mantra is powerful here to practice.
OM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTI
Practice this mantra to support a sense of peace and equanimity within to allow your inner wisdom to emerge. This creates a state of balance to weather the perceived good and bad moments of our lives. Moving towards a state of nonattachment is now possible.
YOGA POSE: BRIDGE
Bridge pose supports this nurturing of santosha. This pose is a backbend that opens up the heart. Using a block under your sacrum makes it a gentler, supportive pose.