The 2nd Niyama: Santosha

Last night in class I put my students in a Restorative Yoga pose. I asked that the students let their mind stay in their body. One strategy to do so is to hang on to something you can hear or feel, such as the breath and sensations in the body.

It was especially noisy outside the Taj Yoga studio, with a party involving a couple hundred children under the age of 9 (I may be exaggerating on the number of children.) One strategy was to use the sounds themselves as the anchor to latch the mind on, without evaluating or reacting to them.

This is one way to practice Santosha, the 2nd Niyama. Niyama itself is the 2nd limb of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga, which consists of 5 observances, or attitudes towards our own selves. Santosha is often translated to contentment–being content with what’s happening right here right now.

The word “content” can give the impression that it’s about being indifferent, complacent, or submissive, but in fact it’s about a choice to be poised. It’s the idea of “staying cool under pressure”, to stick around with the present moment, to not think that you’ll only be happy if this and that happened, some day.

This morning I read this article from the Seattle Times about a recent incident in the Winter Olympics in the Women’s Alpine event. It’s a story involving two of the US best skiers and Something That Went Wrong, which created some bad blood and public display of discontentment.

As I read this quote from Lindsey Vonn about her competitor Julia Mancuso, I saw some glimpses of Santosha, which I emphasize here in bold:

“She was at a huge disadvantage to have to run again,” Vonn said. “That absolutely was not what I wanted but it happened, and that happens in ski racing and all you can do is deal with the hand you were dealt.

“It definitely has hurt me that she said some negative things about me, and all I can do is continue to support her like I always have been and hope that she reciprocates that.”

Here’s a short video I made last night in my kitchen about Santosha.