“We require none else to make us happy for we are happiness itself.” (Vivekananda Patanjali Sutras 2:27)
Santosha means satisfaction and true happiness. It is not found in external objects but rather in our own state of internal peace. The satisfaction of Santosha supports a sense of peace, joy, and wellbeing in our lives. It means to accept life as it is and find joy in whatever conditions arise. Acceptance of life does not mean that you are the victim of circumstance and that’s you cannot do anything to transform negative experiences. It simply means that you are aware of where you are at in the here and now, physically and emotionally. If you notice that you are uncomfortable in the said moment, instead of resisting this discomfort, observe it, listen to it, accept it and in the acceptance of it a sense of peace will manifest. With this internal transformation towards peace, the inspiration that you need to change external circumstances will come to you without force. The acceptance of the present moment is the first necessary step to feel the peace that will off you the clarity and motivation to change your future with a sense of inspiration and adventure instead of pressure and stress. In this way you transform yourself into the hero of your life rather than the victim.
The Psychology of Santosha
In the western world of psychology the measurement of Locus of Control (LOC) is commonly used to measure levels of depression and wellbeing. This is because happiness is an abstract concept that is practically impossible to quantify. For this reason, researchers developed the LOC questionnaire. The results of this scale have been verified for over 40 years and are highly correlated with levels of depression and wellbeing.
Essentially the LOC scale is used to measure how much control one PERCEIVES they have over their life. Very simply put, the more control one perceives to have in their life, the greater their sense of wellbeing. The less control one PERCEIVES to have is correlated with lower levels of wellbeing and higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety. One could conceptualize this as the hero vs. victim mentality. The hero would have a high internal LOC score and low external LOC score. The victim would have the reverse with a high external LOC score and a low internal LOC score. The entire practice of Hatha Yoga spins around this psychological concept of LOC by increasing a student´s perception of of internal control.
The system of Yoga as a system of wellbeing
Yoga is a system of self-observation that demands that the Yoga student is an explorer and scientist with the compass and microscope turned inwards. Any Yogi must first test the knowledge offered to them to know if an action or claim is true. This is the necessity of a Yogi´s own personal practice. There is no blind faith in science, and there is no blind faith Yoga. A true Yoga teacher or student will never seek blind obedience. That would reduce self-responsibility, levels of internal LOC and break the limb of Santosha.
A teacher should always encourage self-exploration and self-verification of the practice of Yoga. Each observation of breath and movement in Yoga Asana is a practice step towards helping the student observe and internalize the knowledge that they are in control of their own life experience. We cannot always dictate what happens in our external world, but the experience of the internal world, the sensations within our own bodies, the movement of our breath and the thoughts within our own minds, are 100% under our control. In the system of Yoga this realization is accomplished through Pratyahara (turning the activity of the sense organs inwards) Svadhaya (Self-Study) and Tapas (Practice and Discipline).
In the system of Yoga there are 8 branches. 8 concepts and practices that help us to achieve this internal control. Achieving this sense of internal control level of internal LOC increases as we integrate the perception that we are the heroes, the composers of our life, instead of victims. It is in this way that we experience the satisfaction, contentment and joy of Santosha.
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