Bring Joy to Your Yoga Practice

5772570836_45a517b1e1_zWe all come to yoga for different reasons. It could be to heal an injury, to relieve stress or to get in shape. Maybe you love the way your body feels afterwards or you find a certain peace in the spiritual aspects. And as you go, your reasons may change.

There may be times when your practice feels burdensome or like an obligation. This can show up as “I really should practice today” or “I haven’t done any yoga in so long.” It comes with a twinge of guilt. Maybe your yoga practice is starting to feel like a bit of a drag.

So how can you bring some joy and happiness back to yoga?

One of the guiding principles of yoga, Santosha, means “a peaceful kind of happiness in which one rests without desires.” It encompasses the idea of unconditional happiness. This means that your state of contentment does not depend on external circumstances. You can choose to find contentment in all kinds of situations. And it is a practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. This is good news! It means happiness is always within your grasp.

In my practice (especially at home) I gravitate towards the poses that I love. I find it easy to be happy in Pigeon, in fact I wrote an article called “Why Pigeon Makes me Smile.” Camel on the other hand does not do it for me!

But practicing sequences that include a variety of poses, even those that you don’t like, gets you used to sitting with uncomfortable feelings and sensations. You begin to become ok with discomfort. You gain perspective and become grounded rather than shaken by uncomfortable situations. It’s easy to feel content when life is easy but what if you could find that some of that in the dips as well as the peaks?

Author Helen Palmer describes contentment as “being able to stabilize attention in the present and feeling the satisfaction of having enough.” This inner feeling of satisfaction allows you to experience happiness independent of external circumstances.

Life is meant to be enjoyed and so is yoga!

Here is a series that you can use to practice santosha. While you practice think about what happiness is. What does it mean to you? What makes you happy? How can you find contentment even in frustrating situations?

I love this mantra that I came across on Daily Downward Dog. Repeat it once at the beginning of your practice. Carry the intention with you throughout by repeating one line as you hold each pose. Then repeat the whole thing again at the end of your practice. Embody the meaning bring it out into the world.

Santosha Mantra
I am content.
I am grateful for what I have and for what I do not have.
I learn from the joys and disappointments life brings me.
I honor the good in myself and others.
I refrain from criticism and fault finding.
I accept life just the way it is.
I enjoy life!

Santosha Sequence

Hold each pose for about 5 breaths on each side.

  1. Vrksasana (Tree)
    I am content.

  2. Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)
    I am grateful for what I have and for what I do not have.

  3. Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)
    I learn from the joys and disappointments life brings me.

  4. Trikonasana (Triangle)
    I honor the good in myself and others.

  5. Prasarita Padottanasana (Standing Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)
    I refrain from criticism and fault finding.

  6. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon)
    I accept life just the way it is.

  7. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly)
    I enjoy life!

  8. Savasana (Corpse)

Image courtesy of Victor Keegan

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