The Niyamas : Santosha

We don’t have to be “happy”

girl on a bridge with a red umbrella

Santosha means “contentment.”

“Contentment,” it seems to me, is not the same thing as “happiness.”

“Happiness” sometimes implies a kind of delusion.

To be “happy” all the time means to deny that struggles of daily life; to completely ignore that there is sadness, famine, war, disease. To be “happy” with how things are might be to deny how things are. I have a close family member who’s struggling with significant health issues. It’s very painful. I am sad a lot.

But I am also content most of the time.

Contentment means to recognize where you are in the present moment – this very instant. Fully recognize all that is there — including the crappy stuff — and be at peace with it. For most of us, these moments can be fleeting, but that’s okay. Find contentment now. Right now. And recognize that it might leave as soon as it came.

Then find contentment again.

Eventually, we hope, that we are able to string together these moments of Santosha to cultivate the ongoing state of Santosha.


For your contemplative practice this week, I’ve found a few images (on that I think might help ground and inspire moments where we can seek contentment.


In our meditation practice, we take time to reflect on how to be comfortable with discomfort. How to experience what is going on for you (including, perhaps, meditating “badly”) and fully accept that it is perfect.


I think asana (physical) yoga practice is a perfect place to practice contentment. So many of us are striving to do the “show-off” poses — holding our foot in our hand over our head then balancing on one foot while chanting soothing, flawless Sanskrit.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to do those things, but the only way to possibly get there is to fully accept – and find contentment in — where you are right now. To breathe and find comfort in the shapes that might challenge you where you are, not because it will “get you” somewhere else but because you’re choosing contentment with what is.

Nothing that appears in this blog or on this website is intended to treat or diagnose any disorder, physical or otherwise. Always consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.

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