“There is no end of craving. Hence, contentment alone is the best way to happiness.” ~~ Swami Sivananda
Lately, I’ve been noticing that many of my yoga students are gearing up for some challenging tasks. Some of you are training for physical things like doing a triathlon for the first time, or preparing for the next big distance in your running events. Some of you are getting ready for some big life changes, like going back to school, getting married, having a baby. These are BIG things, and as such, we need to be ready for whatever may come up as we dive in.
This week, we’ll be focusing on the second of the niyamas, which is called Samtosha. Samtosha means contentment, and if we can be content with our lives just as they are in the present moment, happiness is attainable.
For those of you who are currently in the midst of something challenging, it can be stressful. Personally, I am just getting back into my running routine and am still on the fence about whether to register for my 5th half-marathon in October. When I trained for my 3rd half-marathon, it was SO stressful for me, and I don’t want to do that to myself again. If I do another, I want it to be fun. I don’t want to constantly be beating myself up because I’m not as fast as everyone else. My last half-marathon was great because though I started off my training with a particular time goal, I eventually just resigned myself to do the best I could. I ended up getting my worst time ever, but it was the best race ever for me. And I think it’s because I reached a point where I was just content with the fact that I was doing something good for me. Running makes me feel happy and has helped me with some health issues, and so that’s what I focused on as I completed the last half of my training. And so, as I ran the race, I stopped focusing on the clock. Instead, I focused on the sights around me and it was awesome.
And in my yoga practice, I am finally OK with the fact that my body will never be able to achieve Lotus pose. My hips just aren’t structurally made for that pose, and that’s cool. I used to get so frustrated that everyone else seemed to be able to get there and I couldn’t. But now, I know that as long as I can do things to open up my tight hips, I’m good. There are tons of hip openers to choose from, so there’s no need for me to hurt myself by choosing one that isn’t right for me.
As you practice your yoga this week, make sure you are not pushing yourself too hard. Remember that it’s OK if you can’t get into the deepest version of a pose…whatever variation you’re in is perfect, as long as you are relaxed and calm. Checking in with your breath, your body and your mind throughout class is a great way to ensure that you’re working in variations that are safe for you. For example, if your face is contorting, if your breath is choppy, or if your mind is all over the place, you’re most likely in a variation that just isn’t right for you at that moment. When you notice these types of things within, simply stop and find a variation that returns you to a calm breath and mind. That’s samtosha.
Then start to explore how you can apply this to the other things in your life where you may be overdoing it. No matter what it is, just take a moment to reset. Close your eyes, relax, and take a deep breath. Remind yourself that where you are right now is the perfect place. Don’t focus on what’s wrong…focus on what’s right. If you can do this, for even just a few of the things that may be causing you stress, you will be amazed at the difference. This is the path to happiness.