The Niyama’s, or observances, are the second of the 8 limbs of yoga. The niyama of Santosha, is a sanskrit term meaning, contentment or satisfaction.
New Year’s resolutions can leave me feeling anything but content. I analyze how my holiday shaped up compared to everyone else’s. I feel guilty if I don’t renew my gym membership. I even loathe going to the store, with all of the branding pressure to eat better and look more trendy. It’s easy for me to feel obligated to change my entire routine, or take on new challenges.
To cultivate contentment, Yoga Quota is starting off the new year by practicing Santosha; finding joy right where you are.
Contentment, afterall, is the root of happiness. It starts by accepting ourselves as we are, so that we might accept others in the fullness of who they are. Santosha asks us to be content with ourselves, acknowledging our bodies and minds as a work in progress.
How can we practice contentment in our daily life? While I am still learning how to practice Santosha on a daily basis, I think it starts with these three principles: Presence, Gratitude, and Goodness.
To enter into a life of contentment, we must be fully present. When we spend too much time re-hashing the past, or worrying about the future, we miss the opportunity to embrace what the present moment has to offer.
One of the most profound statements I took from my yoga teacher training, is written by Baron Baptiste in his book Journey into Power: “You are either now here, or nowhere.” Both words comprised of the same letters, mean two entirely different things. The past is a memory, and the future is a fantasy; neither of which are a place. We are either now here, fully engaged in the present moment, or we are no where at all.
Being present requires me to listen a bit more, and look at my phone less. A short meditation is a great tool to help practice presence and mindfulness. Whatever being present looks like for you, it is the first step towards contentment.
Once we are fully present, we can start to bend our heart towards gratitude. Practicing gratitude on a daily basis has allowed me to see everything in life as a gift, rather than a given.
Gratitude starts with being grateful for ourself; our body, our circumstances, and everything we inhabit. Gratitude for self means we do not compare ourselves to anyone else. The phrase “Comparison is the thief of joy” rings true when trying to practice contentment. Wherever we are in our own journey, is exactly where we are meant to be. Best of all, once we start to appreciate ourselves, we can foster a deeper appreciation for those around us.
An easy way to practice gratitude, is to write it down. I keep a notebook with a list of things I am thankful for. Every day (with a mug of coffee in hand) I make time to write down a few things. From eyes to see, to warm fuzzy sock; when we pause long enough to look around, gratitude can be found in simple things.
Once we are present and full of gratitude, it becomes easy to live a life of goodness. What I mean by this is, being good to ourselves and to others. If we are thankful for ourselves and others, our natural inclination will be to act out of goodness.
Being good to ourselves starts with checking our inner dialogue: Do we speak kindly to ourselves, or heap on shame and criticism? I am quick to criticize myself, and it leaves me with a spirit that is quick to look critically at others. When I practice speaking truth and love over myself, I find it overflowing into how I think and speak about those around me. Speaking more kindly to ourselves, and others, is a great way to bring goodness into the world.
Pursuing goodness must exist for the sake of goodness alone, without forcing the outcome. It is here, that we can apply the principle of Aparigraha, or non attachment. Being unattached to the outcome of our efforts, allows us to pursue goodness simply for the sake of bringing good unto ourselves, and into the world.
In The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says “Though the unwise cling to their actions, watching for results, the wise are free of attachments, and act for the well-being of the whole world.” When we act for the well-being of the whole world, we are free to enter into a more content state of mind.
Presence, Gratitude, Goodness. Practicing these three things can minimize feelings of discontent, opening up a life of joy and happiness, wherever you are.
May you find contentment, both on, and off your mat in 2017.
Originally published on YogaQuota’s Blog