The meaning of Santosha, the practice of contentment
July 25, 2021
Santosha is one of the niyamas (conduct practices) described in the Patanjali Yoga sutras. Santosha means being satisfied with what we have, without experiencing desire for what others have. The term comes from sam (meaning completely) and tosha (meaning contentment or acceptance).
Put together, it could be translated as "complete acceptance."
Santosha is an attitude and also a state. Practicing santosha in our lives will bring us a sense of peace and inner well-being, in which we are free from cravings and desires. When these external influences dissipate, one can be on the true path or purest state of oneself, without fear or manipulation. This is considered an essential part of spiritual development.
Many yogic texts consider santosha as a practice done at different levels:
- Intention: putting the best of intentions and efforts into any action, and then accepting whatever the result may be.
- Inner state: an attitude of contentment opens the door to other virtues such as compassion, non-attachment and abundance.
- Expression: the external manifestation of santosha allows you to walk with serenity, without superficiality and with total satisfaction.
The meaning of Santosha is closely related to the concept of equanimity, defined as "a state of stability that is not disturbed by experience or exposure to emotions." In this sense, the yogi accepts any situation that arises, be it pleasure, pain, failure or success. The meaning of Santosha also implies accepting oneself and accepting the position one is in, without making happiness dependent on achieving goals or changing aspects of oneself. Everything we want, already exists in us.
Practicing Santosha on your yoga mat
In yoga practice, understanding what Santosha is is very beneficial. Wanting to do better is something natural, and sometimes it is difficult for us to accept that we cannot do what we want to do, but as a well-known proverb says, only from acceptance can change be born. Being satisfied with where we are and moving forward from there is the key to a healthy and transformative yoga practice.
When you are practicing yoga, set the intention to appreciate yourself for what you are and for what your body can do, feel grateful for the path and the point you have reached. As with the attachment to a feeling, when you let go of the need to be more flexible or stronger, then that power flows to you, fruit of the Santosha and from the foundation of abundance.