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Don't Worry, Be Santosha! Part Two
Yoga Says You Can Be Happy

What is Santosha's relationship to Yoga? It's a very major part of the picture. In fact you can't possibly practice an Asana properly without it. Santosha is one of the five Niyamas, or observances in Yoga. The other four are Saucha (purity), Tapas (self-discipline), Svadhyaya (sacred study, or study of the self), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (focus on the divine). Balancing these out are the five Yamas, or restraints: Ahisma (non-violence), Satya (non-lying), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (being chaste), and Aparigraha (non-greed). Patanjali, who is generally recognized as the father of Yoga (at least as we know it today), wrote about the Yamas and Niyamas in his Yoga Sutras, probably around the second century, A.D. These are not hard and fast rules; rather they're suggestions, a place to look for direction. You're not expected to practice these Niyamas and Yamas perfectly - an honest effort is fine. Yoga is very forgiving in that way.

(Article continued below.)

The Yamas and Niyamas make up the first two parts of Patanjali's Eightfold Path. After these come the Asanas - the postures that most of us know as Yoga (the other five parts are Pranayama - breath, Pratyahara - detachment, Dharana - concentration, Dhyana - meditation, and Samadhi - enlightenment). During the moments in which you achieve Santosha, you will find that the rest of the Yogic path falls into place. True contentment can only come when you are living in the moment. Combined with Ishvara-Pranidhana, you feel no need to be greedy, to cause harm or to lie. Santosha can help you progress in your postures - if you're having a full experience in the now, you are fully aware of what your body is capable of doing - and what it's not. You won't force. You'll be right there with the posture and you'll know where to go with it. And wherever that is, you'll be happy with the level you're at.

Santosha reminds us that it's really not the goal that's important, but the path. If we can't relish the journey, then how will we be able to enjoy ourselves when we reach our destination? You don't have to give up your ambitions. If your circumstances are not the best - if you are thousands of dollars in debt, or if you really don't want to see people starve - you are invited to do everything you can to change that. But that doesn't mean you have to forget today, this very moment. Why regret the past or worry about the future? They don't exist - right now is all you really have, so make the best of it. After all, there is beauty and joy in just being alive. That is the lesson that Santosha offers.

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