Updated: Feb 21, 2022
This week we continue our exploration of the Niyamas, the second limb of yoga. The second niyama is santosha or contentment.
We can think of this as the great happiness that comes from being comfortable (or content) with who and where we are in life. If we do not start each day with a “must do” list or set of goals and expectations for living our lives that must be always adhered to, we free ourselves to enjoy the smallest things that can create joy. Contentment helps us receive life’s curve balls with greater equanimity, knowing that we have little control over much of what happens and accepting that can be freeing
During the pandemic I learned some interesting things about myself and what brings me joy. I have let go (ok – partially let go) of my rigid schedule, waking a little later than I used to. My cup of tea in bed, relaxing before leaping up, gives me time to scroll through social media, see my friends’ faces and smile. I take a few minutes on my walk each morning to observe nature and my surroundings (wow, when did that house go up and how did I miss that?). I get immense pleasure watching the birds in my feeders or gazing at the first spring flowers that I plant. For me, the contentment that I have in these moments is my way of practicing santosha.
In our asana practice we can achieve santosha by relaxing into a pose rather than straining or forcing ourselves into it. We can accept where our body is now and let go of images of how we think it “should” be. If, for example, you are practicing seated forward fold (paschimottanasana), do you think spiritual enlightenment comes only to those who can reach their feet? Instead, feel comfortable in the pose, in your body and enjoy where you are.
I liked this article on the topic.
Our Practice – Paschimottanasana/Seated Forward Fold:
So speaking of paschimottanasana and santosha, let’s focus on the pose, and how to practice it and santosha.
Start in dandasana, staff pose - legs extended, spine tall and feet flexed. (putting a folded blanket under your buttocks/hips can help). Legs are parallel, knees up towards ceiling.
Inhale raising arms overhead, exhaling, hinge at the hips, reaching out over your legs, keeping spine straight reaching chin towards toes not down to knees.
Drop your hands onto your legs, wherever they reach, without straining or forcing. If you reach your feet, you can hold your toes to pull forward.
Inhale lift a bit and exhale lengthen spine. Do this several times and then relax into the pose with head dropped down.
Enjoy where you are, be content where you are, practicing santosha……
Meditation – Santosha
Some people thrive on drama, and if not drama, a frenetic pace. They may confuse contentment, santosha, with boredom or passivity. A life filled with drama may seem exciting, fiery; when every day is less aflame, some may equate that with a life lacking in passion, engagement or fullness. Boredom. By practicing santosha we can find that we can still love deeply, have goals, and live a varied life, without burning down the house or stirring the embers every time the fire dies down.
One way to practice santosha is to cultivate gratitude. As many of you know, I take time each time I practice yoga, to remind myself (and my students) to think of one thing that they are grateful for. I work hard to not pay lip service to my answer each time, reflecting on my day or recent days when considering this. Sometimes it is as simple as my family, other days it might be the cardinal I just saw in my bird feeder or that all of the socks matched up when I folded the laundry….Many people find keeping a gratitude journal helpful. I will admit I do not keep one, but I think it is a beautiful habit.
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you”. – Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher about 500 BC who was the founder of Taoism. This philosophy and religion instructs believers on how to exist in harmony with the universe. I found the below article in National Geographic to be a good overview of Taoism.
Nurturing with Food – Kamut Kushari
So, Peter is gone to Florida, and I was
ransacking the cabinets for stuff to “use up” while he was gone. I found a bag of kamut, a grain I like but do not cook with often. Shockingly, I had everything I needed for a recipe on the back of the bag, however, of course I tweaked it up a bit. Kushari, an Egyptian dish is naturally vegan, meaning we don’t have to remove or substitute, the dish is as it was invented. Well almost. This version of Kushari uses wheat berries (kamut) instead of the rice found the traditional Egyptian recipe. I used red lentils because that is what I had. I suggest you use the brown ones and cook them until almost done so that after you drain them, and they keep cooking, they hold their shape. The red ones got too soft. Taste good but not as attractive. Stay tuned as I experiment in the future with additional versions of the recipe.
See you on the mat!