Santosha – Contentment
“SANTOSÁD ANUTTAMAH SUKHA LÁBHAH”
“From contentment, unsurpassed happiness is attained.”
Santosha is the second Niyama and it means contentment or satisfaction. The sanskrit word Santosha can be broken up into two words – San meaning completely or entirely and Tosha meaning acceptance, satisfaction or contentment, therefore the word santosha means complete acceptance or contentment.
Santosha is closely linked to Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha (non-hoarding), meaning that everything we need is already inside of ourselves and apart from having food, shelter and friendship, we don’t need anything else from the outside world. Stephanie Snyder says Santosha is a deep sense of okayness… “I’m OK, no matter what.”
Contentment is easy to attain when everything is going well and everything is in order and you’ve got nothing to be worried or concerned about. We’ve all experienced that at some stage, it might be when you’ve been on holiday or started a new job and it feels like everything is falling into place. Contentment however is not so easy to attain when it feels like things are falling apart and everything seems to be going against you… you’re body might be sore, you’re late and the car breaks down, you lose a job, a friend or family member gets sick, at these times it can be hard to feel content.
Santosha is not asking us to be happy all of the time because that’s not truly possible, what it does ask us to do, is to be ok with whatever situation we’re facing, to allow whatever emotion arises to be present not to push it away, to not wish things were different but to accept it, to see it, to experience it. When sadness arises Santosha does not ask us to push it away but to sit with it and let it be present.
“Santosha is not asking us to be happy all of the time… what it is asking us to do, is to be ok with whatever situation that we’re facing.”
For us to experience Santosha we need to become aware of our inner voice. Is your inner voice cheering you on or beating you down? If your inner voice is feeding you more negative thoughts over and over again, experiencing Santosha will be very difficult. What thoughts and ideas continually show up for you? Is it “I’m no good at…..”, “I’m not creative enough”, “I fail at relationships” etc. It’s these thought patterns that shape how we see the world. We will see things that confirm our beliefs.
If negative thoughts are more common than positive ones and especially if they’re recurring, then its time to change the story. We can only change the story by noticing what thoughts go through our head when we’re stuck in traffic, when life gets tough or in a difficult challenging pose in our yoga practice. Is your initial reaction “This is hard. I can’t do this.” or is it “This is hard, lets see how I can handle this today.”?
Santosha or contentment doesn’t mean that we sit back and become passive, it means we’re happy and content with where we are and what we have, of being willing to step outside our comfort zone knowing that things will become difficult and instead of wishing it were different we say, “This is/will be tough, lets see how I can handle this.” And perhaps even wonder how stronger will I be at the other end. It’s this type of attitude that achieves contentment therefore unsurpassed happiness can be attained. We don’t blame the world around us for our misfortune but we take responsibility for our own happiness.
Its important to maintain a a sense of gratitude of being thankful for all of our blessings big and small. It’s the practice of Gratitude that helps us to achieve santosha. It takes practice and consistency because the moment that we move away from being thankful we more easily slip towards the feeling of lacking and jealousy.
SANTOSHA IN ASANA
Utkata Konasana Garudasana – Goddess Pose with Eagle Arms
Utkata – Powerful or Fierce
Kona – Angle
Asana – Pose
Garuda – Eagle
Level: Beginners to Intermediate
Goddess Pose is a powerful pose that helps you to harness your inner strength, with the added benefit of eagle arms, the whole body comes alive. It builds strength in the legs and strength of mind to keep the body relaxed. It provides a nice opportunity to seek contentment in challenging pose. What’s your mantra going to be… “This is hard. I can’t do it.” or “This is hard, lets see what I can do.”?
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS
Improves focus and concentration
Encourages downward energy (apana) which helps us feel rooted and grounded
Activates root and sacral chakras
Strengthens the lower body including: Glutes, hips, thighs, calves and ankles
Opens and releases the hips and upper back
Stretches the inner thighs
Elongates the spine
Improves the respiratory and cardiovascular system
Relaxes muscles in pelvic floor
CAN BE HELPFUL FOR
CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
Serious or recent injury in hips, legs or shoulders
HINTS AND TIPS
Step your feet wide enough apart so your heels can rest on the floor.
Be mindful of your knees. Avoid letting them go past your toes. Notice if the knees fall in, if they do externally rotate your thighs apart or shorten your stance.
Keep the breath smooth and even so you can settle in and find contentment