The 1988 Bobby McFerrin song might as well have been about the niyama of santosha. Review: the niyamas are one of the eight limbs of yoga laid out in the yoga sutras. They are considered personal observances that relate to our inner world. In other words, they are things for us to do. Santosha, or contentment, is one of them. How do we “do” contentment?
First, let’s understand what it is. Santosha refers to an inner state that is unmoveable and unchanging. It’s independent of the external world. According to yoga philosophy, it’s innate to us, it’s part of our natural state of being.
Next, let’s be clear about what it’s not, for it’s here that we find a how-to map of “doing” santosha. It’s not getting what you want, when you want it. It’s not the shiny new car, the big house, or the fancy yoga pose you’ve been chasing for years. It’s the polar opposite. It’s finding that internal state of being ok simply because you exist.
Now, how do we find this state? It’s way, way easier said than done. As much as santosha is already within us, it is also our nature to grasp, to chase after our desires and avoid our aversions. Thus, the battleground. Ourselves. Turn away from attachments and aversions to find santosha. There’s a direct correlation here. The more you think your happiness depends on the external world, on getting what you want when you want it, the less santosha you will have. And vice versa.
I’d be lying if I claimed to have come anywhere near letting my inner contentment be un-messable with by the external world. This is true, I’d guess, of almost all of us. But we can consider the concept of santosha. And we can work towards it on our mats. Accepting where the body is, finding happiness simply by being on the mat and moving and breathing. It’s a great place to start working towards santosha.