Santosha: Cultivate Contentment for the Holidays

This entry was posted on Dec 12, 2018 by Charlotte Bell.

Santosha: Cultivate Contentment for the Holidays

When I was a child, Christmas morning was a well-orchestrated event. My parents loved to surprise us with special, unexpected gifts we hadn’t asked for, and loved to set a cozy and festive stage for the ultimate event, the opening of gifts. They got a huge kick out of seeing us enjoying ourselves, so they took great care to make things as magical for us as they could.

Now as an adult, I find myself wanting to recreate that cozy, festive atmosphere for my own holidays. Only since I’m no longer a kid, I have to create it myself—not as easy. So rather than stressing myself out trying to create magic (which doesn’t really work anyway), I’ve realized that I need to redefine my concept of magic.

In the frenzy of making plans, choosing gifts, travel and get-togethers, it’s easy to forget the simple blessings of friends and family. Practicing santosha (contentment) can help us remember to appreciate the magic that’s here and now, rather than wishing for a kind of magic we think should be present.


Santosha and Gratitude Go Hand in Hand

Santosha, the second niyama in the Eight Limbs of Yoga, is the practice of cultivating contentment. Practicing contentment means we appreciate the blessings we already enjoy rather than wishing for something we think we lack. Santosha helps us recognize our inherent completeness, just as we are. Contentment leads to a quiet, satisfied mind, a mind that celebrates the perfection of each moment.

Gratitude journaling is one way to help us cultivate santosha. It’s very simple and takes little time. Here are the basics:

  • Invest in a journal or notebook that you use specifically for this practice. Of course, you can theoretically use whatever you have on hand, but journals or notebooks are easily affordable. They’re an easy indulgence that will help inspire your practice.
  • Commit to write down 3 to 5 things each day that you feel grateful for.
  • It can be helpful to designate a time each day to write in your journal. It can be any time of day, but many people find just before bedtime to be an especially appropriate time. This gives you a chance to reflect on the blessings of the day. Even on a difficult day, if you look closely, you can find small blessings that may have softened the hard edges.
  • Be grateful for small blessings. Often, we fail to notice the small things that grace our daily lives. These include things that we take for granted: having a roof over our heads (not such a small thing if you think about it); friends, partners, family members, and animal companions; access to food and clean water; access to heat and electricity; the ability to work; and of course, our yoga practice. Acknowledging these “small” blessings is essential to cultivating santosha.

If yoga is truly a path of peace, gratitude for our lives as they are is one of the paving stones. I can’t manufacture magic during the holidays, but I can recognize the magic that’s already there.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *