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The Ethics Of Yoga – Santosha (Contentment)

Last time, we gave a general overview of the eight limbs of Yoga (Ashtanga), and the importance of two of those limbs – the Yamas & Niyamas. We also touched upon one of the Yamas, Ahimsa (Non-violence), one of the more straightforward of the eight. All of the limbs are considered equal, but some are more impactful and jarring to Western culture than others. With that said, introducing possibly the most rewarding Niyamas for us Westerners – Santosha. Santosha is all about being content. If you follow any Yoga focused pages, or any happiness-based books – you’ll be familiar with the concept of contentment. It’s said to be a great door to satisfaction in life. Sounds simple, right? Well, it seems especially in the last 100 years or so, Western society has pushed more towards discontent than ever. Strong marketing campaigns and constant messaging has made feeling “incomplete” the norm. Walk to a busy town and you’ll overhear “If only I had that new car…” or “Did you see that new dress she was wearing? I need it!” within minutes. We’ve been taught from the second we entered society that we are fundamentally incomplete – and need external objects, things, money & people to complete us, so that we can finally be content. Meanwhile, Santosha is completely the opposite. This Yama dictates that you are perfectly complete as you are right now, and being content is completely unrelated to your circumstances. Rich or poor, happy or unhappy – it’s about being content with your current situation. It comes from within, not from outside. You see, this is one of the hardest things to channel as we have been forced into the opposite for so many years – so how do you get into a habit of practicing Santosha? Well. It’s just – practice. If you read this for the first time at 20, you’ve had 20 years of learning the other way, you can’t expect yourself to “unlearn” straight away. Be patient, and consciously try to bring some Santosha into your life. What are some ways of bringing Santosha to your life? Great question. Your meditation practice is a great place to start, when you are fully centered and focused internally – that’s a great time to take stock and realize how wonderful it is the fact we are alive. That said – Santosha isn’t about ignoring suffering and ignoring pain. In Yoga, we don’t look the other way from suffering and grief, in fact we try to embrace it. We welcome our negative feelings into our mind, and greet them with just as much gratitude and contentment as our positive feelings. Gratitude is also a great doorway into Santosha. A place to practice gratitude is on the Yoga mat. Next time you practice, and you feel your body moving, supporting you without complaint – try and bring some gratitude towards the vessel the carries you. And don’t worry if you find it difficult – our ego definitely digs its heels in when we try something new. This is a very good sign. The more you practice, the more you’ll notice resistance growing smaller and smaller – and the rewards growing more and more plentiful. You’ll feel more at ease with life, less anxious about the outcomes of events – and more ready to take life on without fear of failure. Lastly, we’d like to note that practicing Santosha doesn’t have to mean giving up your dreams and aspirations. Yes, Monks in Nepal do give up everything – stating that their happiness doesn’t belong to anything, but Yoga preaches moderation. It’s not about forcing yourself to the extreme. Gentle steps. You can simultaneously be content with what you have and strive to meet your goals. In fact – a happy medium between both is the best place to be. Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best of luck as you try and bring some Santosha to your day today. Love.

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