As human beings, many of us seem to be hard-wired to notice how life fails to meet our ideas of how things should be. And when things don’t go as we would like, this leads to feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, or an overall feeling of dissatisfaction. Fortunately, we can change these unpleasant feelings by mindfully shifting our attention. We begin this by starting to paying attention to what you do have and to the reality of what is rather than what should have been or the desires you cling to.
In yoga the practice of Santosha helps cultivate this shift. Santosha, one of the Niyamas of the eight-limbed path, translates as contentment or appreciation of what you have and what is. In your asana practice there is opportunity to learn Santosha. For instance when you find yourself getting frustrated when you can’t obtain a final variation of a pose or match abilities of another student in a class, it is helpful to check in and remind yourself that you are grasping for some mental construct of how you would like to be or how you think things should be. Reality is that at this present moment your body is telling you what it can and can’t do and forcing or straining it outside these limits is not only unhealthy but untruthful. Sometimes you will have breakthroughs in your practice where dedication and perseverance pay off; however, it is just as likely that your physical anatomy may never be able to perform a certain asana, or perhaps you get an injury, and what you could do yesterday, you can no longer do today. This is reality of what is, and “what is” will continually change. There is wisdom in recognizing this constant change, or impermanence, in your practice, and contentment comes from being present and learning how to accept and appreciate what shows up moment to moment, day by day.
Reflect on what you do have
Each time you step onto your mat, realize that because you have the health, resources, and freedom available to you to practice yoga, then you are truly fortunate. To know that all the resources you require to practice yoga, e.g. your mat, your car, your clothes, your nourishment, etc. were all made possible by the energy and efforts of other people, animals, plants, the sun, and minerals of the earth. And the highest wisdom in yoga is to realize the truth of our interconnectedness and interdependence. When you start to look at all the abundance around you and your reliance on other beings for this abundance, you have much to be grateful for.