The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney

NIYAMAS - SANTOSHA

This month we’ll discuss an element of yoga that I believe to be the most important, the concept of Santosha. 

Santosha, the second Niyama, translates as contentment and when practiced daily can have such a profound effect on your quality of life. It wasn’t until I delved deeper into the philosophy of yoga and discovered Santosha that I began to feel a true transformation from within. It sometimes feels like we live in a society where the grass is always greener on the other side. If we aren’t comparing our successes and failures to that of our closest friends and family, then it’s usually because we are too busy asking ourselves the dreaded “what if” questions. “What if my job was different?” “What if my house was bigger?” and so on and so on. 

Santosha is that gentle reminder to be present and to be accepting of where you are in that moment. Comparing yourself to others, or even comparing yourself to the person you once were or the person you hoped you’d become is simply the minds way of robbing you of the wonderful joys you have right in front of you. However, contentment is not to be confused with complacency. No matter your religious beliefs, I believe the Serenity Prayer clearly explains the beauty of contentment:

“God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Now if we look at Santosha as it relates to our physical yoga practice (asanas) we will see a crossover with many of the Yamas mentioned in previous months. In practicing contentment of where our bodies are at and not forcing certain positions (ahimsa) and by acknowledging that we are never the same person each time we arrive on the mat (aparigraha) then we start to create a yoga journey that has a foundation rooted in truth (satya). 

Santosha, as it relates to our daily lives, is where I truly began to experience transformation. Slowing down enough to genuinely appreciate what your life has given you opens so much space for more positivity to enter your life. For those of you who have taken my class you will know that I finish both my personal yoga practices as well as my teachings with an element of gratitude. I find that taking a moment to allow yourself to recall at least one thing in this life that you are grateful for is a perfect way to close out your practice. Some days you may struggle to think of one, and some days you may be flooded with beautiful thoughts. It’s the ebb and flow of life. We are all on one big journey and allowing ourselves to be content with the way things are will make this journey much more enjoyable. 

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

-Guillaume Apollinaire