Santosha — acceptance, satisfaction, contentment.
Acceptance has great power. Accept the uncertainty and constant changes in life with the help of a yoga practice called Santosha.
Santosha is acceptance. For me, this is the Niyama (personal code of ethics) that I struggled with the most when I began my Yoga journey. It’s now the one I look to first. The ability to accept what is. How often do we find ourselves resisting? Pushing and fighting against what can’t be changed?
Ironically, as I write this, we are seven weeks into self-isolation from COVID-19. For a lot of us, acceptance through this period has been a challenge. The very things we’ve used and relied on for our physical and mental well-being are just not available to us right now. In the beginning, it brought a lot of anxiety and for some this shifted into depression.
Many have compared our emotional reactions to the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and, finally, acceptance. You see, at some point we need to come around to the space of acceptance in order to move on. At all other times we are resisting, trying to change what can’t be changed. In the process, our stress response is working up an inner tornado.
It’s easy to accept the things we like, such as not having to commute into work or not setting our alarm clock on Monday morning. It’s much more challenging to accept what we don’t like, such as not being able to see our friends or family or visit our favourite Yoga studio.
However, the challenge of santosha runs more deeply. The acceptance of a failed relationship or project, or the loss of a loved one or a job we loved forces us to go much deeper. We must process our emotions properly with much soul searching and self-care.
The other layers of santosha involve contentment and gratitude. We need to learn to find happiness in the mundane and gratitude under the most dire circumstances. Yet when we do, we also discover a sense of freedom. Gratitude draws us into the present moment, releasing shame, guilt and fear, for those experiences exist only in the past or future.
While finding gratitude when we are faced with life’s most difficult challenges can feel impossible, small shifts can impose great healing. Scientific studies abound on the positive impact of our physical health and overall wellbeing when we focus on what we are grateful for. It literally changes our brain, according to UCLA’s Mindfulness and Awareness Research Center, by calming our nervous system and promoting feelings of peace.
The simple task of listing what we are grateful for each night before going to sleep, or upon waking, keeps us focused on what’s good. We are happier, more present, more focused and less worried over what is beyond our control. We stop resisting.
I don’t mean we become complacent or stop standing up for what we believe in – not at all. However, the overall practice of Yoga continuously asks us to step back and view our situation with an objective eye. In applying santosha to this process, we ask ourselves: can this be changed? Or do I need to make the best out of this situation?
Over time, this gets easier. Note these practices to help us get there:
- Notice when and how often you complain – and then stop doing it. Just stop.
- Keep a gratitude journal and list five things each day (they can be the same things).
- Meditate on the silver lining. Focus on what is good.
- Work with the law of attraction.
More Insight: Check out Lisa’s other great article on the power of letting go!
Author: Lisa Greenbaum, E-RYT 500 and C-IAYT yoga therapist, has worked with countless individuals by using yoga to release trauma, find ease from chronic pain and tension and develop a deeper connection to Self: mind, body and spirit. She has over 750 hours of yoga education and logged 4,000+ teaching hours. She is also a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer with canfitpro, and a Women in Fitness Association (WIFA) Global Ambassador.