In yoga philosophy, there are two limbs of practice that come before asana. The yamas and niyamas are behavioral restraints and the internal restraints that are an essential part of practicing yoga. We've already learned about the yamas, and now it's on to the second niyama, santosha.
What Is Santosha?
Santosha means contentment. This one doesn't require much explanation–it requires you simply to be happy with what you have, where you are, and who you are. Typically, we think of contentment as being mindful of what you have and not taking anything for granted. Santosha means not looking outside for happiness–it is peace that comes from within.
What If My Life Sucks?
Sometimes we are in outright horrible situations–unemployed and unable to pay the bills, or we (or someone we love) are suffering from illness. If you're stuck in the hospital or about to be evicted from your home, it's hard to feel peace and contentment. There are definitely times in life when it is hard to feel content, but santosha is about not judging experiences. It's about finding calm inside yourself.
Next week, when we cover the third niyama, tapas, we'll see that sometimes the niyamas can seem a little contradictory. It's up to us to use our own discernment to know what's an appropriate reaction to any situation. If we only ever felt contentment, there would be no impetus to grow or change. It's just a matter of cultivating peace and gratitude within yourself, even when things aren't going your way.
It All Comes Together
Practicing santosha will help with your practice of the yamas, and vice versa. In this case, the clearest links are to aparigraha and asteya. If you're content, you won't have a tendency to take what isn't yours or cling on to things that you need to let go of. If you make a conscious effort to abstain from stealing or clinging, over time, you'll develop a greater sense of contentedness with the things you do have. If we can train ourselves to be content, we'll have peaceful, happier lives, and the freedom we need to keep doing the things we're truly called to do.