Santosha – Being content on your yoga mat
By Joanne Bredin, Durga yoga teacher
Santosha translates as contentment, and is the ability to live in the present moment, completely fulfilled, without craving what you don’t have. So how do you bring the practice of Santosha onto your yoga mat? Joanne Bredin is here to explain.
When I started yoga, I loved the physical movement and the calm relaxed feeling it gave me. I loved how it helped me to escape from life’s stresses. The poses gave me freedom in my physical body, stretching my muscles while building strength.
Not being able to attain a pose was, at times, distracting as I tried to get the “picture perfect” pose. These challenges align to our western world culture, a competitive desire to beat the challenge. Our cultural conditioning does not lead to contentment, we believe that to obtain the result we must ‘push’ or ‘force’ our body. In the modern world we are surrounded by ‘what is perfect’, driving a competitiveness, seeking status … ‘Do more, know more’.
As I progressed in my practice of yoga I began to notice that some poses were a challenge to me but were not challenging to other students, and vice versa. The poses that felt easy and natural to me did not feel the same to many students.
By bringing awareness to the present moment, practicing each step of each pose in ‘the moment’, connecting the breath to each step and combining the breath with the movement my practice became a moving meditation
In this way, I could truly be aware of how my physical body was coping with each movement.
As my experience of yoga has grown, I realize that the mind and spirit develop with the asana practice. It’s not just the physical body that changes, but the whole being. The asana practice eventually leads to contentment and acceptance of where the physical body is in each moment. We can disconnect from the end result (the final look of a pose), and take a mindful journey on the mat instead.
It is through contentment in our journey’s path, that we truly practice yoga with ‘effortless effort’, taking care of ourselves as we practice and recognizing the wonderful gift of our physical body. In this place we practice yoga with acceptance, gentleness, and love.
This is expressed so well in this beautiful poem by a Tibetan teacher Tsongkhapa from the 1400’s:
The human body at peace with itself,
Is more precious than the rarest gem,
Cherish your body, it is yours this one time only,
The human form is won with difficulty,
It is easy to lose.
All worldly things are brief,
Like lightening in the sky,
This life you must know
As the tiny splash of a raindrop,
A thing of beauty that disappears
Even as it comes into being.
Reference: ‘Brightening our inner skies’ by Norman Blair.
To book a class check out www.durga.ie where Joanne teaches ever Wednesday and alternate Sundays.