Joyful Contentment: Being in a Pose

If you practice yoga, you've heard it again and again. Focus on your breath, focus on your body, be in the pose. The physical aspect of yoga is what draws many to their mats. The asana (Sanskrit for pose/posture) practice makes up most yoga classes today. Asanas are given in a sequence and the instructor offers suggestions of how to get in and out of them. What is often said at the beginning of class but easily forgotten is that these suggestions are truly just that: suggestions. There are many different schools of thought in yoga's history, all teaching similar but different concepts: for example, some types of yoga encourage heel-to-heel alignment in Warrior II, others practice heel-to-arch. Regardless of what your favored style of yoga teaches OR what your yoga instructor teaches, what it is important to realize is that your body has it's own unique way of simply being in a pose. You should take the shape of the pose that feels right for your body, and your body only. Doing this ensures that you will avoid physical strain caused by pushing too hard, and also begins to train the ego to turn off comparisons (to other students or the instructor), increasing ease and confidence. 

Simply being in a pose is the perfect opportunity to practice being content with what is, rather than what was or what could be. 

In yoga, this concept is refered to as "santosa" (pronounced san-toe-sha), meaning "Contentment". QUICK history: Santosa is a Niyama, which is one of the Eight Limbs of yoga. The Eight Limbs are the structrual framework that make up what yoga is. Believe it or not, asana is one of eight important facets that "make up" yoga. Most people don't realize most "yoga" takes place off the mat. I digress.

Back to santosa. Whether you're on your mat and stuck in a pose, or you're 15 minutes late for a meeting and stuck in traffic, everyone can benefit from learning how to feel more content with what we have, the good and the bad. The great thing about yoga asana is that it's a personal practice, not a game of Simon Says. Listening to your body's cues will take you further into your practice in the long run, which ultimately means: 

  • Practicing plenty of contentment and patience with your physical abilities.
  • Finding gratitude for what you've got.
  • Setting realistic expectations for your body so you can meet your personal goals.
  • Finding your balance between effort and ease in everything.

So next time you're on your mat, try finding your joyful contentment in every pose. Be happy with what is. Instead of focusing on what isn't happening, focus on the breath and bring your awareness to the sensations and experiences that are happening. The contentment you feel will take you further on and off your mat.