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SANTOSHA: Contentment – acceptance and appreciation for what is in the moment. Faith, joy, gratitude, acceptance. From the Niyamas, one of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.

Santosha invites us into contentment by opening our hearts in gratitude for what we do have.

Yoga is a wonderful teacher, both on and off the mat. What we learn on the mat transfers into all areas of our lives.

I’ve had chronic orthopedic pain since I was 16 - for nearly 4 decades. I’ve undergone 15 orthopedic surgeries and the sometimes long and grueling rehabilitation that follows. I will need more surgeries in the future.

Before I knew about yoga philosophy, about the Yamas and Niyamas, and the concept of Santosha in particular, my focus was on limitations, on what I could NOT do. I compared my abilities to those of “able bodied” people and felt like I was never enough. I was brilliant at playing the victim, with a constant loop in my mind of “This is not fair. Why me? I hate my body.” Needless to say, I excelled at making myself and those around me miserable.

Enter yoga, which has been transformative in my life. It began with physical changes, and then that spread into all areas of life. When first practicing yoga, I had several amazing teachers who gave options and alternatives for poses, and encouraged me to explore and figure out ways that I could enjoy the classes.

I began to realize that I COULD more than I COULD NOT. I began to feel empowered in a body that had only felt like a failure and a let-down previously. I learned what poses felt wonderful, which to avoid, and how to tailor movement to work in my body in a sustainable way.

I got curious. I learned to pause and breathe in poses and to tune in to sensations inside of my body. I allowed myself to move intuitively and by doing that, I figured out ways of adjusting poses as needed. The concept of Santosha became an important word for me. I realized that not being able to do certain poses was not a negative or a limitation, instead it was an opportunity to be okay with myself, and to figure out what alternatives DO work for me.

I finally accepted me as-is, with gratitude and a full heart.

Becoming more aware of my physical body, I noticed a mindset shift as well. I began focusing on the positives instead of the negatives beyond the yoga mat. I began exploring different styles of yoga and movement. I tried other forms of exercise which helped me feel more confident in all areas of daily life.

In my “before-yoga” self, a surgery with a long rehab would put me into a dark, ugly attitude for months. It would affect the people I love and who care for me during these times.

In my new and beautiful “with-yoga” self, I know that any upcoming surgeries will be challenging, but I now have the mental and physical tools needed to continue moving and practicing yoga safely while healing, with a Santosha attitude. There will be a shift in my yoga practice during those times, to Nidra, Yin, Restorative, and Chair Yoga. There will be a lot of Legs Up The Wall. There will be breath work and a lot of stretching in bed.

There will be gratitude and appreciation for what I can do.

Because my cup is full.

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