Grounding Into Gratitude: Practicing Santosha on and off the mat

Source: PSU Vanguard

Are we forever chasing rainbows?

Oftentimes, we think that if we get a promotion, get more money, lose weight, have better skin, get a bigger house, or get better with our asanas, we will be happier. We humans are in the constant chase for something that we don’t have, and once we do achieve what we wanted, we would aim for something else, something better. Psychologists call this the hedonic treadmill because we’re running after something only to end up in the same place- desiring more of what we don’t have. 

Santosha, the second of five niyamas, is the Sanskrit word for contentment, which, as stated in the Yoga Sūtra, “brings about unsurpassed joy.”  Niyamas are literally translated as positive duties or observances. Together with Yamas, these are recommended activities and habits to cultivate a healthy lifestyle, and spiritual enlightenment. Santosha tells us that we can only truly find happiness from within, and relying on external factors will never bring us peace. This niyama invites us to be content in the present, and know that we are complete and enough the way we are. This is not to say that we should never have desires or goals. The niyama is simply inviting us to stop wasting energy thinking about what we lack. Instead, we should enjoy the journey, live in the present, and be thankful for what we do have. Intrinsic happiness is unconditional. 

The secret to the law of attraction is to believe that we already have what we want. To manifest the best version of ourselves, we need to be grateful with ourselves and be happy where we are. Yoga is an amazing practice to work on changing our self-harming thought patterns for the better. 

 

How to practice santosha on the mat: 

  • Don’t compare yourself with other yogis. All of us have probably fallen prey to this: a difficult asana comes up in class which we’re not confident of doing; instead of practicing, we look around and compare ourselves with others. Or when we’re stuck in our phones, we tend to look at all these yogi Youtubers and sulk about not being as strong and flexible as them. Santosha tells us to shift the focus back to improving ourselves for the sake of personal growth instead of spending time wishing we had someone else’s physical abilities. Give yourself freedom to enjoy where you are in your practice.
  • Be compassionate to your body. We often forget how much our bodies provide for us: it gets us to walk, run, and perform our daily activities without much thinking. The fact that we can breathe, show up in our mat, and do asanas when we want to is amazing in itself. The least we can do is be thankful by not bringing physical harm to it and to stop saying hurtful words to it. 

Also understand that your body will be different each day depending on what you eat, how well you sleep, the quality of air you breathe, your mental state, etc. Some days you’re stronger, other days you’re very tight. Accept it for what it is at the present and know that your body will always evolve.  

  • Be present in your practice. What makes physical yoga distinct from other workouts is its mind-body-breath connection. It’s normal to get distracted with thoughts of the future or past when you’re practicing. When that happens, acknowledge the thought and try your best to bring yourself back to your movement through focusing on the breath. Being present makes your poses and breathwork more precise too. 
  • Always start and end your practice with namaste. Deciding to show up for yourself on the mat is an excellent practice of self-care. Acknowledge that you are alive, breathing, and your body can perform these asanas for you. That’s already a lot of things to be grateful for. 

 

How to practice santosha off the mat: 

 

  • Start and end your day with gratitude. In the morning, list three constant things in your life that you are grateful for. It could be the presence of your friends, family, a steady source of income, a roof on top of your head, a place to sleep, food to eat, a body that works hard for you, the fact that you’re still alive. When you start your day focusing on these things instead of what you don’t have, you will attract more things to be thankful for. At the end of the day, think about what happened in the day that you’re grateful for.

 

  • Let go of what you can’t control. Oftentimes, the source of discontentment is from things we can’t change or influence such as those that happened in the past or others’ opinions of us. Don’t sacrifice your bliss and headspace for these moments. Instead, focus on what you can directly control which ultimately is yourself- your breath, your attitude, your reaction to things. You can choose to be disappointed or accepting of events. 

 

  • Let go of expectations and perfection. Practice remaining calm in success or failure. Find ease in whatever you’re doing and completely enjoy the process. If you focus on the progress instead of the result, you are directed back to the present and appreciate how far you’ve come. Expectations often leave you frustrated with how far you need to go. Completely surrender to the moment and let life surprise you. 

 

  • Go outside and appreciate the world around you. If you’ve been taking the blue sky, tall trees, or building murals for granted, marvel at them today. Look at all their details and relish the fact that you get to live with all these beauty. Allow yourself to be moved by the wonder of nature. You can keep the state of Santosha by disconnecting from technology so you can really stay in the present.
  • Take yourself in on a date.  To find santosha, you must spend some time alone to truly rid yourself of external validation. You must be content and accept yourself for who you truly are. Yes, your relationships are important and without others, you probably won’t survive but you must be careful on making others the source of your happiness. Sustainable contentment only come from within.

Beyond Truthfulness: practicing Satya on and off the mat

Image Source: www.bindiyoga.ca

 

`Yamas` (moral discipline) are observances recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of the eight-limbed path of yoga, developed by Patanjali. Unlike a commandment that has to be strictly followed, the five yamas are established for enthusiasts to develop a mindful and healthy lifestyle.

The second yama is called Satya. The Sanskrit word literally translates to fact, reality, or true nature in English. In its simplest form, satya means upholding the truth. Although the yama certainly encompasses honesty, it also includes integrity to ourselves, our lives, and our inner divine. The practice invites us to be our truest, most authentic selves. More than simply telling your truth, you have to also practice and live it. 

For instance, you can’t keep saying that you want a break but also accept overtime work from your office; or know deep down that you want to commit into a serious relationship but go on casual, meaningless dates.  These small contradictions keep us from manifesting what it is we really want. Satya encourages us to align our thoughts, words, and actions with our desires, while keeping them pure and harmless. 

Reflection piece: In what situations do you notice that your actions are in conflict with what you feel? Why? Who or what are you protecting?

Note: truth shouldn’t cause harm

This yama doesn’t invite us to be frank and forward in telling negative observations, no matter how truthful they are. Our ethical code doesn’t live in a bubble. There’s a reason why ahimsa (non-violence) is the first yama. It tells us that whatever we do should not cause harm to others. Hence, if telling your version of the truth will hurt others, you have to think twice whether your opinion matters. Practicing satya isn’t simply about blindly telling the truth regardless of the consequence. It’s making sure that you speak and act with thought and intention instead of just saying whatever is on your mind. 

 

How to practice satya on the mat

  • Set an intention in your practice. Your intention is the truth as to why you are on the mat today. It will direct your reality. Is your intention to get stronger? To get better sleep? To feel less stressed? Whenever you feel like you don’t want to practice, remind yourself of your intention to get on the mat. 
  • Listen to your physical body. Pain, discomfort, and injury are different languages that your body uses to communicate its truth. Don’t ignore that. If you’re feeling tired, or healing from an injury, don’t force yourself into doing another Chaturanga Dandanasana. It’s a violation of both satya and ahimsa
  • Rather than believing that you are not strong, flexible, or good enough, honor the reality of your body: it just needs practice. Everybody can improve through practice, and no one is an exception. 

 

How to practice satya off the mat

  • Do you feel that you are striving for things that you don’t actually want, but are conditioned by society, family, friends, or loved ones as things you should aspire to have? Ask the hard questions and be completely honest with yourself on whether you are living the life that aligns with your truth.  
  • Make sure that you speak to yourself and others with kindness and intention. Before speaking, ask yourself: is what I’m saying good, true, and beneficial? 
  • Speak up for yourself when your voice needs to be heard.
  • Shift from judgment to observation. For instance, instead of saying “I am fat”, say “My body doesn’t meet yet my standards but it can always improve.” In the first sentence, you are imposing your standards on the world by labeling yourself fat and calling it your reality; in the second, you are simply and clearly expressing your need (to be less fat) in the moment.

Dip your toes into yoga philosophy

Yoga philosophy, specifically Patanjali’s yoga, consists of a set of guidelines for one to live a morally disciplined and purposeful life, in order to advance along a spiritual path towards enlightenment. Yoga poses, or asanas, are simply a part of these guidelines. The other parts include Yamas and Niyamas, roughly translating to moral codes/ right thinking and right living/ behavior respectively.
The underlying rule is that everything is interconnected. Strictly speaking, Yamas and Niyamas form the foundation of a yoga practice as opposed to asanas which serve more as a physical extension. One cannot truly improve on asanas without achieving an understanding and practice on the philosophical aspects.
I approach this topic today from a point of personal observation and takeaway. Today, many of us approach yoga seeking clarity and peace of mind. However, we are often less receptive to the philosophies and some even shun the guidelines as idealistic rules to achieve so-called enlightenment. This is understandable since we have lived decades by our own moral/ behavioral rules, set by schools, religion and family. Moreover, enlightenment is often thought of as fiction depicted in movies as a seated man with rays of light shining out of his bald head, or lady with 1000 hands holding a vase, depending on which movie you watched.
Yet can we question the legitimacy of seeking peace and clarity through physical activity alone? There are hundreds of other sports to do. Is it just because yoga is slower moving..?
Of course, I am only human who has also lived decades by the pre-dictated moral/ behavioral rules. Reading the Yamas and Niyamas, one guideline stood out to me and resonated with something deep within – Asteya.
Asteya means “non-stealing”. On the surface level, it literally means not stealing other people’s physical possession. On the next level, it also means not stealing resources, such as taking other people’s ideas and credit, or things that could be better used on others. Finally, It also refers to non-stealing of time.
Are you stealing other people’s time by being late for your appointments? Are you a no-show at your booked workout session? Are you stealing time from yourself by misappropriating your hours scrolling on social media? I am definitely guilty of these. When I am supposed to be working, I am procrastinating. When I am out with my friends, I think of the work left undone. These are time stolen from both myself and my friends, leaving me anxious and distracted all the time. How good do you think your asanas are when you are anxious and distracted? Remember, everything is interconnected.
For now, I set my intentions –
I will honor and respect my time, and that of others. By being present on the mat, at work, and in life. To start and complete what I set out to do.
At present, even though I have only just begun practicing this mindfully, I do observe some improvements. Every time I want to laze, I ask myself why I am disrespecting my time for the sake of some cat videos online! The results are more consistent asana practices, better work productivity, and less mentally distracted. I also practice ahimsa – kindness on myself when I do fall off the train sometimes (it happens!).
So if you are one of the aforementioned seeking peace/ clarity, do read through the Yamas and Niyamas and see what resonates to you. Then apply it on the mat and in your life. You can use my intentions as your own too, I will not consider it stealing😉 While cherry-picking is frowned upon in philosophical studies, I invite you to do so. This is because there could be many entry points in a single journey but the destination still remains the same. Remember, everything is interconnected. Even though we may never achieve enlightenment, I hope at the very least, we will lead a life in which we are present in every moment.

Sthira Sukham Asanam

Sthira Sukham Asanam

We have learnt that one of the 8 limbs of Yoga is Asanas. Most importantly, asanas should be steady, effortless, and at ease. In our first few lessons, Master Sree was always reminding us to do practise with a smile, and not a scrunched up face in pain. (I think I still do at times make a pained face unknowingly :p)

Well, one of the sutras that we are learnt too is Sthira Sukham Asanam.

Sthira means Steady, Firm, Strength and Sukham means At Ease, Joyful, Comfortable, Flexibility.

Applying Sthira and Sukha on our mats during yoga practice also means relaxation physically and mentally. When practicing asanas, it should be free of tension and strain, and engaging muscles evenly.  One should also ensure calm, rhythmic and conscious prana to maintain effortless-ness while breathing. These helps to balance flexibility and strength, achieving “Sthiram Sukham Asanam”.

One may wonder how to achieve both strength and ease at the same time. It is definitely not easy, but it is achievable with conscious intention and self-awareness of your body. Recognising the reactions of the body while in the asana, the areas where your muscles are feeling the tension, and observing your breath.

The breath is an indication for sthira and sukha. If you are panting, or holding your breath, it may be a sign that you are struggling in the pose or trying to push over your limits. Inhale, and Exhale to find stability in your poses and ease. Allow your breath to guide your practice.

Besides breathing and intended pauses to enjoy the stretch, to achieve a balanced asana practice, it is also important to include counterposes in your yoga sequence.

Have you ever wondered why counterposes are incorporated in your practice? I did.

Counterposes allow one to “catch your breath”, and feel the stretch in the other direction. Counterposes help in resetting of your spine, pelvis or muscles, making sure that no remaining tensions or strains are felt in your body after your practice, preventing injuries. It also allows the mind to reset, back to a state of equilibrium, before moving on.

What is a Counterpose?

Counterpose or Pratikriya is a posture that helps to neutralize the body after performing a particular asana. Its purpose is to restore balance in the body, ensuring safe and effective practice. It helps to integrate the action of the preceding posture, through neutralizing or sometimes opposing actions.

This means whenever one stretches in one direction, one should also balance the posture out with a stretch in the opposite direction.

Noting that your muscles are also aligned differently in different directions, you can also include twisting poses in your sequence as counterposes e.g. Seated Half spinal twist post(Vakrasana), Revolved side angle (Parvritta Parsvokonasana)

What kind of counterposes for which asanas?

Well, there are no set rules for types of counterposes for which asanas. It is more important to be aware of your own body, and feel where the tension is when performing the asana. Whenever you perform a strong asana, do a simple, gentle pose/asana to relieve the tension. Choose a pose that you a breathe in. If you move back and forth too quickly between two extremes, it may even cause injuries.

Here are some suggested counterposes for certain asanas:

  • Chest-openers (Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana), Camel (Ustrasana), Bow Pose(Dhanurasana))
    If the chest-opener is too deep, you may do a Knees-to-chest (Pawan Muktasana), which helps to stretch and neutralize spine, or a supine one leg to chest pose.You may also want to do a Supine twist to stretch out your lower and mid-back muscles. Gentle forward bends like Baddha Konasanaalso works.
  • Forward fold (Paschimottanasana)

In forward fold, you are stretching your back of the body e.g. spine, hamstrings, and your quadriceps and hip flexors will shorten.

A gentle backbend counterpose would be Upward plank (Purvottanasana), or gentle bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana) to help lengthen your quads and hip flexors, as well as open front side of body and stretch shoulders and chest.

  • Headstand (Srirasana)
    After completing headstand, or handstand, do a gentle child’s pose (Balansana) for a few moments after inversion to relieve pressure on head and arms.
  • Shoulder stand/Plough (Sarvangasana/Halansana)
    A common counterpose for shoulder stand or plough pose would be to do a gentle bridge pose or Fish pose (Matsyasana) as it helps to counter stretch the neck. You may also want to do Reclined hero pose (Supta Vajrasana), or Camel pose (Ushtrasana).
  • Universal Counter pose– Child’s pose (Balansana)
    Balansana is the universal counterpose as it allows for rest between poses, and allows breath to regain a steady rhythm.

With the right awareness of our breath and what our bodies need, let us work towards the same goal of achieving Sthira Sukham Asanam in our yoga practice, and practice with a smile 🙂

<3,
Veronica

Actions and Karma (4.7 – 4.8)

Ever since “Karma” was taught to us in philosophy classes, I’ve been intrigued and I tried to research on this concept. Eventually google turned out a million results with no definite answers.. So I turned to the Yoga Sutras.

In 4.7, the Yoga Sutra states: The actions of yogis are neither white nor black, while they are threefold for others.
(karma ashukla akrisnam yoginah trividham itaresam)

  • karma = actions stemming from the deep impressions of samskaras
  • ashukla = not white
  • akrisnam = nor black
  • yoginah = of a yogi
  • trividham = threefold
  • itaresam = of the others

The threefold actions of others refer to 3 colored actions or kinds: white = good, black = bad, grey = mixed. These actions leave deep impressions in the depth of our minds, and will arise later to cause actions that further align with these impressions. For yogis who have mastered all the modifications of the mind (stated in 1.2), they will not identify with thought patterns and are in the true nature of their Self, so the colored actions does not apply.

In 4.8: Those threefold actions result in latent impressions (vasanas) that will later arise to fruition only corresponding to those impressions.

(tatah tad vipaka anugunanam eva abhivyaktih vasananam)

  • tatah = from that, thence
  • tad = that, their
  • vipaka = fruition
  • anugunanam = following, corresponding to, accordingly
  • eva = only
  • abhivyaktih = manifest
  • vasananam = latent potencies, potentials, subliminal imprints

Whether your actions are black, white or grey, they leave the corresponding colored impression. These impressions then later surface in the corresponding colored actions, thoughts and speech.

When I read and interpreted these 2 sutras, it became obvious to me how “karma” and actions are actually a perpetuating cycle.

What about Karma yoga?

In the Bhagavad Gita, it is also said that performing karma yoga helps to end the cause and effect cycle of karma.

It’s one also of the 4 types of primary yoga: Raja Yoga (royal/ashtanga), Karma Yoga, Bhakti (devotion) yoga, Jnana (knowledge/self-study) yoga.

Karma yoga is acting selflessly, without intentions of any results or outcomes whether positive/negative (no asanas, haha). In Karma yoga, there is no attachment to any outcomes when we perform actions. There’s no sense that you are the doer of the action. Not having expectations on how things “should/shouldn’t be” and only accepting it as they are.

To perform this, we can start small like doing something kind for a someone without anticipating anything in return, like holding the lift doors open for a stranger!

Reflections on Yoga Sutras 1.1-1.2

I always knew yoga was more than what I’ve been doing in physical classes, but the philosophy side of it was a whole new world and it wasn’t necessarily shining or shimmering to me at first. I didn’t know what all the Sanskrit names meant and there were so many of them in the teachings.

Physical practice was still more interesting. In it, I break a sweat, do interesting poses, focus on my breath. It takes my mind off stress, worries and makes me be more present in the moment by instilling mindfulness. But after being assigned my project topic and doing more research on it, learning more about chakras, 8 limbs of ashtanga in classes, I found all the teachings revolving around yoga to very interesting and intriguing.

In one of the first few YTT classes, Patanjali, the Father of Yoga was quoted. To be frank, I didn’t know who’s Patanjali at that point in time (I just pretended to nod and know, haha).

Who is Patanjali?

From my brief google search though, there’s not much known to modern people about him. There are legends about his birth and how his teachings has spread[1]. But people most famously know him as the author of the Yoga Sutras which is the guide book of classical yoga.

But first, what are Sutras?

The word, Sūtra, means “string, thread” and it comes from the root word, siv – that which sews and holds things together. Thus Sūtra can be defined as any short rule, or a string of words woven together to form an aphorism (an observation which contains a general truth).

The very first sutra of Patanjali’s yoga sutras reads: atha yoga anushasanam.

Interpreted as: Now, after having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study and practice of Yoga begins.

The interpretation of each word as follows (Because sutras are a string of words, it’s important to know what each word means):

atha = now, at this auspicious moment; implying the transition to this practice and pursuit, after prior preparation; implying a blessing at this moment of transition

yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join or to integrate; same as the absorption in samadhi

anu = within, or following tradition; implies being subsequent to something else, in this case, the prior preparation,

shasanam = instruction, discipline, training, teaching, exposition, explanation; Shas implies the imparting of teaching that happens along with discipline

My interpretation of this sutra, is that it is a warm blessed welcome and beginning to this practice. Once you have picked up the Yoga sutra book, or started to read it even, the practice has begun. “Atha” interpreted as “now”, where we are encouraged to be in the present. And in this present moment, we are going to unite all our prior experiences that has brought us to this point in our lives, with the methodical teachings of Yoga. 

The next sutra that follows is Yogash citta vrtti nirodha.

This sutra can be interpreted as: Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.

Simply put, Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind. 

yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join; same as the absorption in samadhi

chitta = of the consciousness of the mind-field

vritti = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications, changes, or various forms of the mind field

nirodhah = control, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, understanding, stilling, quieting, setting aside of

The sutra briefly explains what Yoga is all about.

To me, it also very nicely sums up the reason why I practice yoga at all. Like I mentioned on top, practicing yoga helps me to be present in the moment, and not be distracted by all the thoughts in my head. I focus on my breath, how my body is moving and how it feels like, instead of living in my head and what I perceive. However, something I can further work on here is to to actively make my mind be still, work on being conscious and present, rather than let it happen passively in physical practice.

I think it’s quite amazing how these texts were written maybe thousands of years ago. Now we are here, learning and practicing these teachings to continually discover and improve ourselves. It makes me feel grateful to be able practice and learn the art of yoga that was passed down from many years before. 

[1] https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/who-was-patanjali

Realising own ignorance in Satya

Satya is defined as truthfulness without any hidden agendas or motives. As part of the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga, it forms the social practices in managing the senses of oneself. Aligned with Satya, I have always pride myself in being an honest person. I used to think of that as a quality of being “real” as opposed to being “fake” in today’s society. However, I realised that I haven’t adhered to Satya.

This is because I have only seen things from the lenses of my life. Be it in the social construct of Singapore, my personality or the experiences that I have gone through. Satya is only fulfilled when we remove the illusion of what we see from our perspective and see something as it simply is. However, I used to have fixed assumptions about people I am close as I was unable to shift it out of my experiences. I now realised that my perceived certainty has been misleading to what is actually truth; because I can never know everything about another person’s experiences, thoughts, intentions and actions. I have came to understand that this certainty has been the basis of conflict between opposing people sticking to their version of “truth”.

Satya also requires truthfulness that is in harmony with the other Yamas as well. For instance, this can refer to Yamas such as Ahimsa (non-violence) where one should show compassion and kindness while speaking the truth. Although I always speak about my truth, I am usually too blunt and don’t think about how my choice of words can cause hurt to someone else. It usually also comes with the intention of asserting my opinions onto others. In the past, I usually justify hurting someone’s feelings with the impression that I am right and they should the one that should change themselves. I realised that I should be more aware to express empathy to others even though I am speaking my truth.

Through this topic, I have realised my personal shortcomings in certain areas of my personality and will continue to reflect and work on them in terms of Satya and the other Yamas. I hope that this ignorance of mine would turn to knowledge for me to be a better version of myself starting today.

Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah

In the western world, most of the people perceive yoga as another form of physical workout with relaxing benefits. Some people treat it next to veganism as another trend. Yoga studios are usually full but at the end when some of the teachers start chanting most of the practitioners leave the room- they typically say that they aren’t interested in this ‘spiritual stuff’ they just want to do yoga-for them yoga is the name of the workout, the same as kickboxing, pilates, fitness etc. It might be because lots of gym places offer yoga class next to physical workouts, so its mixed, contaminated and there is no so many real yoga teachers out there. 

When I first started, I didn’t really understand what yoga is about. I felt that it’s something more than physical practise. I started doing it to help me with some emotional problems, I needed it not for my body but for my mind. At that time, it was a form of support to help me deal with stressful situations at work etc. Now I know its not about that but without this, without me feeling this stress  I wouldn’t start it. If I was completely happy in my material life I wouldn’t be looking for something more. Actually, when I think about it I was never fully satisfied in my material life.  There was always something missing.

My approach to life was so emotional. If someone said something or did something I didn’t agree with I had this strong need to defend myself, to explain that it’s not true, I was so attached. I’m not saying that you should agree with everything that someone is saying about you, but being emotionally attached to every judgment takes you further away from understanding yourself. 

Yoga in its ancient traditional development its not primarily about the body, about making you relaxed or distracted form your hectic life style. Yoga is connected to mind.

The three Sanskrit words Chitta Vritti Nirodhah hide the answer to what yoga is really about.

Yoga sutras(basic principles, manual for yoga practitioner ) written over two thousand years ago by Patanjali are the traditional foundation of the inner journey through the spiritual practice of yoga -and its physical part -asanas-practised by most of the people in the west is only one part of 8 limbs of yoga.

The yoga sutras explain what happens to our mind, emotions when you practice yoga- In second sutra Patanjali says ‘Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah– yoga controls, quiets waves(thoughts) of mind, consciousness. You don’t compulsively( obsessively) control the mind but you allow the mind to rest, to switch off by itself. Patanjali further explains that through committed practice and detachment we ll be coming closer to not identifying ourselves with the thoughts, emotions that are the reasons of internal pain, that take us away from our true selves.

Santosha – Contentment

In a blink of an eye, we are at the end of the course. I remember whining about having to wake up way before my usual routine, to make it for daily 8am classes. My course mates and I would joke about how dreadful mornings are, and seek solace in one another sharing the same struggles to this new routine.

Fast forward to the second last day of the course, thinking about how our YTT journey is coming to a close and the possibility that our paths may not cross again leaves me feeling bittersweet. Overheard in class today, “I am going to feel so lost. No need to wake up early and come here?” Funny how when YTT is ending, we are actually going to miss waking up at 630am!??

It also reminded me of Santosha, the second Niyamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga –  contentment.

Demand is high only and especially when supply is low, vice versa. We whined when we had to wake up early, and then start missing this routine when it is coming to an end. In a nonexistent perfect world, if Santosha was in practice, we would be appreciative of every new day we have from waking up from our sleep, our able bodies, the opportunity have a class to attend and the luxury of time to be able to attend this course. We would be in the present and enjoy every moment, without complaints. But of course, this is highly unrealistic. We know this in theory, but practicing it is a different ball game. All we can do in our best ability is to be mindful. Accept and appreciate what we are, what we have and make the best out of it.

I believe showing gratitude to the luxuries of time, health, money we currently have will fill our hearts. More often than not, complacency takes over and we tend to forget that life is unpredictable. A twist of fate can happen any moment, and everyone would go “THAT’S SO SHOCKING” … as if we never knew how life works.

In light of Thanksgiving today, I am thankful to share the last 19 days with my course mates, and an impish buddy who cracks me up every day. Thank you Sree for sharing your stories and wisdom with us.

Namaste

Santosha sutra

Santosha anuttamah sukha labhah – an attitude of contentment

Santosha is the practice of enjoying each moment as it is, being content with who you are and what you have at this current moment. Right now. No matter what has happened yesterday or what will happen, you are content. The practice of this mindset will allow you to lose greed and you do not need anything more. We do not seek contentment or happiness from external sources, only from within.

This practice of contentment has fallen in and out of my life many times. In great times of my life, where I am alone and in tuned with myself, I am able to appreciate every bit that I am, and every bit around me. However, as soon as life moves a little more fast-paced, I forget to be content. Although I chase dreams fast and hard on one hand, one the other, I tend to let anxiety back into my life, self-doubt and comparisons. It is definitely always hard to be content, being raised in a society that is academically-oriented and filled with a large talent pool. We tend to start comparing ourselves to others in terms of many aspects, be it academics, money, status, social status, fitness, talents, love, friendship, etc. The list never ends. I have seen far too many peers of my age constantly worry about something in their lives, and do not focus on the bigger picture – to realize that they can hardly ever be content without understanding this sutra. Human nature introduces greed to us, and we need to understand that for most, enough is never actually enough.

In yoga, some days our bodies do not perform as well as we want it to. Maybe, we feel a little weak in our Chaturanga, a little unstable in our downward dog. Maybe our regular beautiful postures are not turning out right, or maybe lifting ourselves to stay in crow or headstand isn’t happening. But it is what it is. We aren’t perfect bodies and we have up and down days, just like in our lives. So I constantly try my best to keep reminding myself   – do what your body feels good in. Don’t hurt yourself to force for a backbend, because then you will be discontent with the fact that you have injured yourself. Take what you have and make the best of it. Still on my way to practicing contentment, but as all practices require – time!

JT