by Melody Abella
“By contentment, supreme joy is gained.” sutra 2.42
Santosha is the Sanskrit word for contentment. It’s first mentioned in The Yoga Sutras among the list of five niyamas.
· Side note: My take on the niyamas is they guide our internal compass. They’re ethical principles (or observances) that strengthen our character and guide us to live life in the best, most purest way possible. As a result, they help us shine in a way that inspires others to live richer lives. Richer meaning all the wealth we truly need is deep within, and not found held in a bank account.
Back to santosha/contentment:
In my yoga studies, I’ve seen many deep definitions on contentment. From a simple idea like contentment is being able to appreciate and live in the present moment to a more thought-provoking description of “Contentment is perfected in the absence of cravings. It is the experience that nothing is lacking, that everything happens is an integral part of a Divine Plan.” (Inside the Yoga Sutras by Jaganath Carrera)
It’s often said that we already have everything we need. Or as Sri Dharma Mittra says “all is within.”
Our culture wants us to believe we need “things” or other people to make us happy. The “things” list is long but a few examples: new toys (cars, bikes, clothes, accessories), fancy restaurants, botox, a different boyfriend/husband/family. You get the drift.
The path of yoga leads us in the opposite direction…let go of external desires and internal contentment will be discovered. The process of discovering contentment requires a huge mound of trust, courage and attention though.
It takes a lot of trust to follow a notion, such as the niyama contentment, when no one is there to hold your hand and lead you through the dark moments of life. It also takes a lot of courage to fully step in and feel life as it is happening – feeling the awesome, okay, bad, scary and all the sensations in between that show up. It takes a lot of paying attention to the present experience – being in it, as it is and not mentally jumping ahead to what’s happening 5 hours later the day.
Total confession here…I took a not so great yoga class recently in DC and it was there that I experienced santosha in a new way.
So I signed up for what was listed as a vinyasa yoga /intermediate level class. Let’s just say after starting in a restorative pose for ten plus minutes and not getting into my first Downward Facing Dog until twenty minutes into class, I was not content…
Thanks to my Grandmother’s constant words of wisdom, I reminded myself that there is always something new to learn in every situation in life. Though I continued to find myself way too often checking the clock, realizing I had no idea the end time for the class and feeling I was stuck there. Then I thought “I’m stuck here for a reason”. That’s when I settled in and tried to make the best of it.
I can’t say I learned anything “new” from the teacher but I had a total realization that my life could be way worse. Here I was on a Sunday morning surrounded by 40 or so others in a yoga class, bending and stretching in ways that many people aren’t able to do. I have a healthy body and a great life. The sun was coming out and I had a full day off ahead. Life could be so much worse. It was there and then I reminded myself of santosha.
Passionate about sharing the power of yoga & its transformational benefits, Melody Abella founded a mobile yoga business in 2006. abellaYoga travels to corporate and private clients in Washington, D.C., Alexandria and Arlington, VA to teach yoga in homes, offices, hotels, and conference centers. Grateful for experiences gained in the telecom/tech corporate world, this ex-marketing yoga-chick is happy to share all she knows about yoga. Believing through discipline and devotion we have the power within to make positive changes in our bodies, lives and this world, Melody teaches her students “anything is possible”. Or as Sri Dharma Mittra says you must have “angry determination.” Melody received her 500-hour Dharma Yoga Teacher certification in May 2012. She continues to hop the train from DC to NYC monthly to practice with Sri Dharma Mittra at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.