You have probably heard of different varieties of yoga: power yoga, hot yoga, vinyasa yoga, prenatal yoga. You have probably also heard many Sanskrit words throughout the years in yoga classes or books, so here’s some Sanskrit: Santosha.
What is “santosha,” exactly? It is a Sanskrit word that translates to, “contentment or satisfaction.” When coupled with yoga—“santosha yoga,” one can only assume that it is a filling and enjoyable practice that leaves yogis feeling content and satisfied. Is that accurate to assume? Yes. Santosha yoga takes those who practice it to an enjoyable state when their inner-self and mind are at peace, hence bringing contentment and satisfaction. The only catch is that the practice itself cannot do anything, those who practice it have to clear space and open the energy within to allow the feelings of satisfaction and contentment. Can a car give you travel? Yes, but you have to drive it and use your mind. Santosha is no different, you have to put in the work to render the results.
Back to Basics: What is Yoga
Yoga means to unite. Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. You practice in a classroom and have this wonderful experience connecting with yourself and then you look around and are united will all the other students; yoga is a community experience that cannot be taught, but must be learned on an individual basis of an individual’s needs.
Place in Yoga
Santosha is one of the eight limbs of yoga and also one of the niyamas. Do not be intimidated by another Sanskrit word; learning is the basis of success and this is a learning experience! A niyama is Patanjali outline which provides concepts to consider when deciding on one’s attitude about life.
Santosha encourages those who practice it to not take for granted what is in the present, but to really cherish what they have; instead of seeking contentment through future goals, one must learn to be still. It praises satisfaction for what one has, versus the wishes of what one could have. It is believed that if one is satisfied in the moment and content in their life, that it is the only way to achieve the coveted supreme joy. Imagine living in a world of supreme joy; it is possible!
Where Can I Practice?
This is clear, you can practice in daily life. But, if you are wondering how to get started living mindfully and finding your community, it would be a great idea to look for yoga studios in your community and take different classes. You will find the place that feels good for your soul and a place that feels like you can thrive. Yoga is also something that can be done at home or anywhere you are, although it is nice to unite with other yogis, sometimes you need to practice solo to connect with yourself and learn how to listen to your body and what you need instead of following the motions of an instructor in a classroom setting. You will see physical and spiritual results when you make the commitment to implement this unique and rewarding lifestyle into your own. It is like anything, you must practice and be diligent if you want to see progress and feel the contentment you seek.
How to Do it?
Do you feel confused, were you expecting a list of positions to practice and achieve some relaxation and physical activity? Well, there is no need, because the point of santosha yoga is that it is a lifestyle which must be implemented. One cannot simply go to the yoga studio and practice for an hour of the day and then return to daily life and work with the expectation that supreme joy will be achieved. As yoga is an experience and santosha is a concept, having an openness to letting it be and thrive is integral.
How Can You Accomplish Santosha?
Make a daily decision to feel gratitude for the small moments that make life unique and lovely to you! Practice yoga (any style) and take from it a sense of satisfaction and content; do not worry or compare yourself to others or question your abilities: that is not the point! The point is to clear your mind and look within yourself to seek what makes your practice special and important in your life.
This probably sounds easier said than done, here are some ideas of what could help you get started:
- Keep a journal of gratitude, write something each day that you experienced having happiness or success with.
- Wake up and do a few sun salutations to get your blood flow pumping and creative juices flowing; this will open your soul to the world!
- Before you react, choose to be positive in your reaction—even if the situation is not ideal, find something that is good and focus on that.
- Live by mantras. There are various books, or even a simple internet search that provide so many inspirational mantras to live by. If you begin your day with a mantra in mind and reflect to it throughout the day, you will find purpose and focus that can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Purpose and focus relate strongly to satisfaction and contentment.
- Make your own list of ways to implement santosha that are tailored to who you are and how you think; no one knows you better than yourself and you are in control of your own personal success.
- Live simply. This is probably the most valuable bit of advice because it can be interpreted to fit whatever you feel is simply for you. The point is to find a way to live with a feeling that you have enough and are not seeking more.
Do Not Regret Your Past
Up to this point we have focused on santosha in terms of being content in the present and not thinking about what could be in the future. It is equally important to not waste your energy focusing on what has happened in the past, it is a waste of time and cannot be changed. Again, finding satisfaction is key. The past is an excellent place to visit for lessons and memories, but try and remain positive and if something stands out and is causing you to dwell on it, try journaling. The same as a daily gratitude journal, thinking about past lessons and writing them out can bring you satisfaction. Many yogis take a journal to their mat and as they move through their practice they have moments of mental breakthrough and clarity that must be written down. It is therapeutic and essential to understanding your life. Try it!
If you take anything away from this concept, it should be “mindfulness.” Just be yourself and practice yoga the way that you see fit—find what feels good to you individually and make mindful decisions daily. If you have the intention of positive energy and outlook for your life and remember that the past is a place for lessons and memories and the future is a vessel for you the thrive, your present with be in line with santosha practice. You are your strongest force, stronger than you can imagine.