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Harvesting Contentment with Santosha

practice gratitude

Take a moment and think about your life as it is right now. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Picture your home, job, family, friends, and hobbies. Are you happy? Are there things you would like to change about your life? Are there things you would like to alter about yourself or those around you?

Exhale and let it go

The second niyama santosha challenges us to be entirely content with our lives as they are and to be happy with ourselves. When we practice santosha, we do not look to the external as a necessary condition for our own happiness and contentment—much like the yama of aparigraha, or non-greed.

Naturally, santosha is easier to practice when things are going well, like most of the yamas and niyamas. But it’s not until we can find stillness and contentment in the midst of a storm that we truly find santosha. To tackle this niyama, start small.

On the mat

A regular yoga practice is an excellent place to kick start your santosha practice.

1. When you’re on the mat, pay attention to the thoughts running through your head as you move through your poses. How do they make you feel? Do the poses bring you joy or frustration? Are you being competitive with yourself or those around you? Are there moments of stillness?

2. Once you have brought awareness to each posture, identify the poses that make you feel frustrated or competitive. Then breathe into them, start to let go of those negative emotions, and be content.

3. Your practice is unique to you but can change from day to day. Can you accept where you are right now? Once you can learn to be content in your yoga practice, you can start to practice santosha off the mat.

Off the mat

Practicing santosha out in the real world will allow you to practice your breath. When you feel yourself tense up, pause, and breathe in through your nose. Slowly exhale and let the frustration go. Smile.

Identify your stressors and pick one pain point to work on per week.

1. Sitting in traffic. Instead of getting frustrated, can you smile? It’s amazing how the simple act of smiling can alter your mood. You may find that you are more content sitting in your car than previously.

2. Waiting in a long line. Perhaps you’re at the airport or grocery store. You may be in a rush to get somewhere, but there isn’t a lot you can do about the line. Take a look around. Everyone’s in the same boat. Pick someone, smile at them, and let go.

3. Dealing with a difficult coworker. How’s that for a daily stressor? Remember, you are the only one who can let others affect how you feel. Work on not letting them get to you. Smile and breathe through your frustration.

Santosha is a key element to finding lasting happiness, and it all starts with being content with yourself. Stress and dissatisfaction are only going to hurt you and may lead you to a downward spiral. That’s not a place anyone wants to end up, and certainly not one that will lead to peace.

Start today, start small, and be happy.

Jennifer Minchin
Jennifer Minchin is a lover of yoga, words, and a good challenge. After 13 years of a dedicated yoga practice, she continued her journey with a 200-hour teacher training. She has always been drawn to more challenging classes, believing that you can find tremendous personal insight and courage when working at your edge. She believes that yoga is a path to transformation and a great healer. She hopes to share her love of yoga, and what she has learned in her studies, through her writing. Jennifer resides in Hoboken, New Jersey.