Contentment

I confess that the scholarly part of my yoga training—reading and reflecting on yogic texts—didn’t resonate with me at the same depth as the physical practices of breathing, chanting, and moving or as the practice of satsang—discussing yogic philosophy in community—did. During my teacher training, I completed (and even sometimes enjoyed) the assigned readings and wrote reflections, and I am thankful for the intellectual base that I now have for cultivating my own practice and for the understanding of the context of the texts that I am sure makes me a better teacher. But I don’t really ever get the urge to just sit down for some study time with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

The beautiful thing about a yoga practice is that sometimes you have a need filled that you didn’t know you had. One of my favorite teachers has been leading us through part of the Yoga Sutras that refers to the yamas (good things we do for other people) and the niyamas (good things we do for ourselves). I always appreciate the teachings around these concepts in a sort of vague, the-class-starts-at-6-am way, but this past Tuesday, her words cut sharply through my early morning haze.

Santosha, one of the niyamas, means contentment. Contentment, my teacher said, can be described as “falling in love with your life,” but not the kind of honeymoon-ish love where all the ducks are in a row and everything seems perfect. Santosha is falling in love with your life in the way that you love a partner or a friend and, in doing so, accept what this person offers every day no matter how well it aligns with your idea of how his/her behavior should look. You commit to finding contentment there regardless. Contentment isn’t a perfect life that’s easy; it’s a commitment to a practice.

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