Samtosha: a Sensory Approach

Contentment – samtosha in Sanskrit – is one of a set of prescribed actions – or niyamas – according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This is all about letting go of wanting, craving, yearning, desiring what you lack, to be grateful for what you have. This is a self-discipline practice of the mind and heart that also benefits our body.

Let’s take this concept to a multisensory level.

In a recent yoga class, I guided the students into a variation of parivrtta parsvakonasana, revolved side angle pose. This pose challenges our mind’s perception of our body in space. If we are not focused on the physical sensations, including our breath, we wobble and fall.

Pariv Parsvakon lil omm 12S13“If you get wobbly, turn your gaze to the floor.”

Then I realized that was not an available option for one of the students.

“Feel where your body is grounding. Lengthen upwards from there as you breathe in the twist.”

The blind student stabilized her body. Eyesight is frequently the first sense used to orient our body in space. For balance, blind yoga practitioners resort directly to the tactile senses: touch and vibration. We work with what we have. Whether you look to the floor or turn your awareness to your body’s grounding to steady yourself, this becomes part of your experience in practicing the standing twist, which improves your proprioception – your unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from within your own body.

You have more than you think you do.

Here’s your homework assignment: practice paschimottanasana, with a focus on the top of the pelvis tipping forward towards your upper thighs, twice daily. Do it first thing in the morning and before you go to bed. Notice the difference in the physical body. Observe what thoughts and emotions arise. Identify any desires, cravings, wishes, and yearnings. Can you refocus your heart and mind on what you have: the sensations that arise within the body as you breathe slowly and deeply, and also when you come out of this challenging seated forward-bending pose?

Practicing contentment contributes to a more compassionate yoga practice. You will also begin to notice that counting your blessings take longer, because they are closer to infinity than you originally perceived.


© 2013 Amy Dara Hochberg. Photographer: Shoshana Rosenbaum. All rights reserved.
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