The Niyamas: Santosha

By Sydney Humphrey

Niyamas are the yogic observances from traditional yogic philosophy that are meant to help guide our lives. Santohsa is the second niyama, and can be translated from sanskrit to mean “peace” or “contentment”.

Santosha focuses on the internal over the external– meaning finding peace and contentment within yourself, regardless of the outside circumstances. This encourages us to focus on what we can control, rather than being at the mercy of circumstances that we have no say in. Like any skill this takes practice, but the payoff is incredibly impactful. When you embody santosha, rather than clutching onto control desperately afraid to lose it, you feel quietly confident in your ability to withstand challenges that are outside of your hands.

*We already did a run down of all the yamas, or yogic restraints– Read about them all here.

How you may see this on your mat:

Practicing finding contentment on your mat can be a key first step to embodying santosha.

You can practice santosha on your mat by:

Releasing expectations prior to class.

Coming into a yoga class you may find yourself placing expectations on that class unintentionally. You may think to yourself “I am ready to crush a really intense flow– give me all the challenging poses!” or “I need a really grounding flow.” However, as a student in the class, you have control over what you do on your mat, but you don’t have control over the sequence or theme that the instructor has prepared. Notice when these expectations pop up as you head into class, thank yourself for noticing and acknowledging what you are craving, then set the intention that you will get exactly what you need from that class– whatever that may be.

Trusting your body.

Building off of the previous tip: while you can’t control the class that someone else plans, you can control what you do on your mat. Remind yourself that the teacher’s cues are guidelines, and you have full autonomy to listen to your body and do what serves you best throughout the practice. Encourage yourself to listen to your intuition and the little nudges from your body without judgment; be content with what your body is telling you– whether that is leaning into rest or challenge or anywhere in between.

Keeping your focus inward.

It can be incredibly tempting to focus on others during a yoga class. Notice that tendency and bring your focus back to you. A physical way to encourage your focus to stay inward is to close or soften your eyes when it feels safe to do so throughout your practice. Similarly, you can focus on following each inhale and exhale as it travels into and out of your body.

How you may see this off your mat:

Extending your practice of santosha beyond your mat is a crucial step to full embracing contentment. Opportunities to bring in santosha throughout your day will pop up frequently, and you can use those small opportunities to strengthen your contentment practice over time.

You practice santosha off your mat and in the world by:

Focusing on progress over outcomes.

This can feel like a pretty tall order into today’s goal-oriented world. Having goals that you are working towards is absolutely not a bad thing! But, focus your energy on the work you are putting in towards those goals. Be proud of the work that you do and trust that the outcomes and results that are meant for you will come. Each action that you take to improve yourself and the world around you has an immense ripple effect– trust the timing and the process as you release your attachment to a certain outcome or timeline.

Incorporating a daily gratitude practice.

Regularly create a time to list out a few things you are grateful for each day. Reminding yourself of these aspects of your life regularly begins to shift your mindset away from comparison and into appreciation. Comparison is a thief of contentment, and gratitude for what you have is a key to settling into inner-peace and contentment.

Giving yourself time away from comparison.

It is all too easy to fall into comparison in today’s day and age. Notice when you start to fall into a pattern of comparison or unhealthy competition and work to break that pattern. This may look like a digital detox. Social media can be an intense comparison trap. Likewise, this may look like setting healthy boundaries for yourself in regards to people in your life that you have a tendency to compete with. Focus on you.

Engaging in activities you enjoy.

Allow yourself to have fun! Explore different hobbies. Spend time with people that bring you joy. Find little ways each day to make yourself smile. This practice can be fun and you deserve to find enjoyment!


Affirmations connected to santosha:

Along with your physical yoga asana practice, affirmations are another effective way to start intentionally bringing santosha into your life. Affirmations are statements that you think, say, or write to yourself to embody what you desire. As you use these phrases, even if they don’t feel true yet, imagine what it will feel like when these statements are completely true. Harness that feeling and come back to these affirmations often, as time goes on and your work with santosha deepens the statements become more and more true for you.

Here are a few santosha-focused affirmations you can incorporate into your self-talk:

  • I am content.
  • I find peace in the present moment.
  • I am enough.
  • I release the need for perfection and trust the process.
  • My happiness comes from within.

Use these affirmations just as they are or adjust them to resonate more with you.

Food for thought:

Use the following journal prompts to help you reflect on santosha in your life. Allow yourself to respond honestly and without judgment. These writing exercises are a tool for mindfulness and reflection– do your best to release any pressure to be perfect.

  • List 3 gratitudes in your life right now that you are genuinely grateful for. Why are you grateful for these things or people? How do these things or people make you feel?
  • Describe a recent moment where you felt completely content and at peace. Can you identify any factors that contributed to that feeling?
  • How can you incorporate more of those elements into your daily life?
  • Consider your typical self-talk and inner dialogue. How do you speak to yourself in moments of ease and how do you speak to yourself in moments of stress? How can you reframe these thoughts in a more peaceful light?
  • Write a letter to your future self expressing gratitude for the experiences and growth that are yet to come. Perhaps calling on current challenges that you are facing or worries that may pop up for the future. Imagine the lessons that are yet to come and how that growth will make you feel.

Resources to look into further:

f you are interested in delving into this topic a little deeper, you can check out these resources:

AND we would love to see you in class on Sunday, February 4th at 10 am!  Sydney will be leading a Soul Flow focused on Santosha.

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