Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how yoga can help us deal with feelings of anger, overwhelm and the challenging situations that life throws at us.
I have given you some anecdotal evidence to support how what we do on the mat can be applied off of the mat when we are confronted with feelings and situations that stimulate stress hormones, and trigger our fight or flight response - my trip to London, buying a house with the boyfriend, babysitting young children for the first time ever!!
As I have mentioned before, our yoga practice can teach us to take a step back and assess situations for what they really are – impermanent, fleeting, and ever-changing.
When life ebbs and flows, it can be challenging to stay connected to ourselves; particularly if we would rather ignore or escape the negative/intense feelings that arise in the face of challenging situations. Yet witnessing and understanding our thoughts and physical sensations during these times, enables us to use our own discernment to know what might be an appropriate reaction to the situation, and move with more equanimity through life’s ups and downs.
One thing that I have not talked about though, is that amidst all of these challenging situations that can give rise to feelings of anger and overwhelm, there is a less obvious but very present feeling of contentment.
In Sanskrit, the word for contentment is Santosha. Santosha is the second of the Niyamas (self-study and discipline) of Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga (remember that the Yamas and Niyamas come before Asana (postures) on this eight limbed path).
So on Friday, as I tucked in to my delicious Thai takeaway, sipped on a glass of chilled prosecco, and sat with a beautiful friend watching a film, I realised how sweet life really is; even when things do not quite turn out how we expected or wanted them to.
Thinking about these recent events from another perspective, made me realise just how fortunate I truly am, and how everything is always OK in the end!
Going to London is one of my favourite things to do, and I was extremely happy and excited to be there even if it was overwhelming and stressful at times – contentment.
Over the past 8 months or so (as most of you know), my heart was set on opening up my own yoga studio and therapy room. But now my energies are being spent focusing on house-buying with my boyfriend, and as deflating as it is that my business aspirations have not come to fruition at this moment in time, I also feel relieved that I will not have the added pressure and responsibility of taking on a commercial letting, and I am really looking forward to this new chapter in our lives together – contentment.
Babysitting was a brand new challenge for me. But the wave of panic that set in when my niece was screaming at me because she wanted chocolate and I had no idea how to deal with the situation, was soon replaced with the unconditional love I have for her, and the happiness she brings me. Whenever I think about my niece and nephew, I am filled with a sense of how lucky I am to have such wonderful, beautiful and entertaining children in my life, even when they are “kicking-off”!! – contentment. (I should probably give my Sister a shout out here too, and thank her for bringing two of the most precious things to me in to existence!!)
Contentment is not the easiest thing to practise, and even the most “yogic” among us think that they could be happier from time to time. Sometimes a feeling of content it is extremely difficult to find, especially when it seems as if the universe is out to get us and everything appears to be going wrong! We also still need to experience stressful situations that give rise to intense, negative feelings, because if we only ever felt contentment, there would be no impetus to grow or change. But what yoga can do is to help us cultivate a sense of contentment within ourselves, instead of attaching to and judging these situations - we will experience a lot more peace and gratitude even when things are not going our way if we understand Santosha.
Thus Santosha simply means accepting and appreciating what we have, and what we are already, so that we can move forwards from there. When we accept that we cannot always control external situations, it can be empowering and help us focus on what we can control: what goes on within us. Whatever we appear to be going through, we need to trust that we can ride the waves of life with a feeling of contentment; knowing that we have everything we need within us to move through changes and challenges with grace.
So make the intention to appreciate yourself for what you are, how far you have come, and all that you have to look forward to, rather than getting bogged down with feelings of stress, anxiety, worry and overwhelm!