Welcome to August. This month our study of yoga’s ethical principles --the Yamas and Niyamas -- brings us to Santosha --Sanskrit for contentment. Please see below after this month's News!
Several announcements for August!
This July I recorded a guided relaxation meditation- Yoga Nidra for Stress Reduction, which is available for free here. I hope that sharing this resource--which can be practiced seated or lying down--will help you find some ease and relaxation in your day.
This month I will be traveling back to Canada to continue my studies with Susi Hately in functional movement therapy as part of her yoga therapy certification program. It is going to be an enriching time and I can’t wait to share about my experiences when I return!
So upon my return, look for more announcements of classes in therapeutic yoga for shoulders and hips and other opportunities to find greater ease in body and mind through functional yoga. Stay tuned!
Finally, looking ahead, I’m so honored to share that Amy Weintraub has invited me again to assist her--this time in October when she returns to Yogaville to offer a weekend workshop: LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood: Depression and Anxiety. The workshop will take place from October 14-16 and will be held at the Yogaville Satchidananda Ashram in Buckingham, VA. To learn more, click here.
Ah, Santosha. The second niyama, or ethical observance of yoga. Contentment.
As I type this, I’m sitting in our traditional family vacationing spot, looking over the channel on Chincoteague Island. The birds fly above. Earlier today was spent on the beach, listening to the waves, watching my boys play in the surf and throw a football around. Contentment was definitely present.
And yet, deep down as I write this, I know this observance is meant to mean so much more than just being in a relaxed state in . . .well . . .a very relaxing place.
So what is Santosha really supposed to be about? Because we know that most of us are not spending the majority of our lives just sunning ourselves near the water. Instead we are in the midst of the bustle of daily demands and activities.
Once again we turn for guidance to Deborah Adele’s work The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice. Adele shows us that Santosha is “taking refuge in a calm center, opening our hearts in gratitude for what we do have, and practicing the paradox of ‘not seeking’.
The fact is, we can be fine and dandy when everything is going swimmingly. But it can take real presence to be able to sit - and sit contentedly - with a calm center when the whirlwind around us is not so serene. Particularly when things are not proceeding as we would wish or when we are resisting the ‘is’ of a particular moment.
The car breaks down. The kids are squabbling. The train is late. These problems bring up tensions in body and mind because we don’t want any of this to be happening. It was not in the plan for the day. Or, maybe our concerns are greater than mere life inconveniences.
Practicing Santosha, or contentment, in these cases poses a real challenge. Adele points out that when we are attached to our preferences we tend to tense and grip in our body in ways that can become “expensive uses of our energy.” She shares that “true freedom and contentment begin to find their way to us when we can see things as they are, neutral, and not spend so much energy manipulating things according to our preferences.” Further, she says, there can be a toll on our physical and emotional well-being when we cling to our preferences and resist and react when things do not proceed as we wish or people do not speak or behave the way we want.
How can we lead ourselves back onto the path towards contentment? Once again, Adele suggests we can turn our hearts and minds towards gratitude.
She states: “Practicing gratitude protects us from our own pettiness and smallness and keeps us centered in the joy and abundance of our own life. When stimulation pulls at us and disturbance beckons us, it is the gratitude uttered from our lips that keeps us strongly rooted in contentment.”
And this is what she says on this matter that I love most:
Like a tall tree so rooted in the earth that great winds cannot topple it. This for me is the image of contentment. It means not riding the waves of the ups and downs of life. It means that we not only agree to what is in the moment, but we actually welcome it. It means that in all the noise and demands of modernity, we stay in the abiding calm center.
And, it is important to acknowledge again the challenges presented when we are dealing with more than mere life inconveniences.
So, personal example. This past week I lost my beloved grandfather. It came more suddenly than our family expected. I felt true resistance in my heart, my mind and in my body. The tension seeped into me and grief gripped me. Opening up to Santosha - to contentment - was not my first reaction to be sure. And yet, the way forward was through acceptance, through letting go, and through gratitude. As it usually is. And it is a practice, as it usually is. Not just for one day, but for a lifetime.
Adele says that “contentment is falling in love with your life.”
As we all move forward, I wish you contentment and the gift of falling in love with your life. As a practice.
With light and love,
Blog Archives including Heart Tree Yoga's Yamas and Niyamas Study from January-December 2016 and seasonal newsletters.