Embracing Santosha ~ Cultivating Contentment

Kent St Weir Park, Wilson WA
Photo By Heather Robbins

Ever realised that after reaching some goal or managing to get something you’ve been working towards only to still feel empty or not quite satisfied?

In yoga the Sanskrit word Santosha is often translated as ‘contentment’. I think inner contentment is quite an overused concept and cliché now. But if it was easy to grasp, I wonder if it would seem less. elusive especially in a world where phrases like ‘I’ll be happy when…’ frequently cross our minds!

Even as a dedicated yoga teacher and therapist the persistent thought of ‘I’d be happier if…’ lingers. I’m sure you can relate, whether tied to weight loss, a new job, a new friendship, holiday plan, home renovation or purchase or mastering a challenging exercise move or yoga posture.

That being said, contentment also isn’t about idly sitting back. Not striving for anything! Instead it’s about accepting and appreciating our current state while moving forward with that at our foundation.

This may seem obvious but challenging initially, as our nature compels us to crave more. Identifying essential goals for our well-being becomes crucial. The pursuit of external factors—promotions, weight loss, material possessions, or love—offers us a sense of purpose, joy, leaving us in a cyclical dance of happiness, sadness, love, and fear. The path to Santosha lies in non-attachment (Vairagya) and recognising our true selves with and without it all.

Patanjali’s philosophy, the 8 limbs of yoga, emphasises that our bodies and minds are subject to change, much like nature. Beneath this constant flux lies an unchanging, deep sense of self, more than sufficient for genuine contentment.

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Discovering Happiness Within
The quest for happiness within ourselves rather than external pursuits aligns with the wisdom of The Bhagavad Gita, another ancient Sanskrit text. Seeking external sources binds us to discontentment. Recognising that true happiness resides within can liberate us from the endless pursuit of joy, pain, loss, desire, greed, and happiness experienced by the ego.

Accepting the impermanence of emotions and states of being allows us to appreciate the present moment. Santosha extends beyond the yoga mat, urging us to appreciate our growth, acknowledge our limitations, and look forward to the journey ahead.

On the Yoga Mat
Comparisons in a yoga class are commonplace, but true Santosha on the mat involves appreciating oneself without the need for external validation. Practicing from a place of acceptance, not force, leads to a sustainable and transformative experience. Embracing and meeting our body where it is now fosters a beautiful connection between body and mind.

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Off the Mat: Beyond Temporary Joy
Constantly chasing temporary joy through possessions, achievements, or relationships becomes exhausting. The promises we make to ourselves lead to a perpetual cycle of seeking and grasping. Santosha encourages us to recognise the ever-changing nature of experiences while embracing our unchanging true selves.

The Path to Authenticity
Waiting for a future version of ourselves perpetuates a cycle of unfulfillment. The truth is, you, I, we are already enough. Embrace ourselves and our uniqueness, love ourselves unconditionally, and be authentically us. Santosha is a consistent practice, allowing us to love, trust, give, and live FULLY.

Please don’t wait for happiness, it is deep within you. Everything you need to offer the world is already present. Step into your greatness, as uncomfortable as that may feel, appreciating the journey and acknowledging that you are, and always have been, enough.

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