In yoga, contentment is defined as Santosha. In nearly every translation of Yoga Sutra II.42, Santosha is interpreted as the greatest happiness, the underlying joy that cannot be eradicated despite life's challenges.
Cultivating gratitude for life, as it is exactly in this moment, is a true path to finding contentment. We cannot control the curveballs that life throws our way; we can only control our reaction to them. When life feels overwhelming, staying focused on the present and being grateful for what we have in this moment can seem out of reach. Often, we wish we were somewhere else, doing something else, instead of experiencing what is actually happening. Seeking comfort in the past, dreaming of the future: anywhere but present. How can we shift our perspective?
An easy way would be to step into paradise for a few days and literally turn off the buzz of Smart phones, television, computers, traffic and the rest of those modern conveniences that over stimulate us and keep us anticipating that next download. When I led my first international yoga retreat to Mexico three years ago, I confess that until the moment I set foot on the grounds, I was anxious about providing a sublime experience for my students.
Until I felt the whisper of the Pacific Ocean caressing my skin through the lush foliage, I wasn’t fully present. Upon arrival, a profound peace permeated my being as the external and internal noise was silenced. At last, I felt quiet enough that I heard my thoughts, experienced my feelings, savored delicious food so fresh that my palate sang, lost myself in panoramic views, and felt inspired for each yoga and meditation session that I led. Each of my students created their own Santosha: some spent hours basking on the white sand beach, some surfed and hiked, some simply meditated and slept. In this setting, finding true contentment and gratitude for the present moment was as natural as breathing.
Stepping away for a few days to several weeks is an effective way to remind yourself that you can be happy anywhere. The profound relaxation and joy established while disconnected from “real life” definitely embody the niyama of Santosha. Taking these lessons and applying them to the other 51 weeks of the year is possible. For me, the week served as a gentle reminder of how blessed I truly am. By creating an active practice of gratitude, rather than a reactive attitude to external events, you can find an enjoyment for what each day provides. Of course it is easy to feel gratitude in a setting like Napa Valley or Bali. But, if we can take the time to establish the mindset, we can learn to be content despite whatever is happening.
Take time to cultivate Santosha and join me at Mayacamas Ranch in Calistoga, California, March 3-6, 2016 for a long weekend of yoga, meditation, wine tasting, hiking and relaxing in nature. Or, if you’re craving the exotic, join me in Ubud, Bali May 29-June 4, 2016.
$50 off for YogaDownload members if you place your deposit by November 30, 2016. www.oceansoulyoga.com/retreats.html to sign up today!
Claire Petretti-Marti has been practicing, studying, and teaching yoga since 1999. Like many fitness enthusiasts, she was initially drawn to yoga for its physical benefits of strength, balance, and flexibility. Once Claire realized that serenity, peace of mind, and a general sense of happiness were predominant results of the practice, she was hooked.
A RYT-500 Yoga Alliance instructor, Claire teaches a dynamic vinyasa flow with the intention of creating a moving meditation. She encourages students to find the lightness and the joy in their own practice, both on and off the mat. She is a certified Pilates instructor, a Reiki Level 2 Practitioner and also holds a NASM-certification for personal training. She has significant experience with spinal injuries and frequently works with students recuperating from injuries. She leads international yoga retreats every year. Mind-body fitness is her passion.
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