Finding Contentment and Legs up the Wall

6 April 2021|Niyamas, Philosophy

This week's class theme will give us a taste of how to begin to achieve that most elusive state; contentment. Not just sitting with a glass of wine and a bowl of crisps in front of your favourite film on a Saturday night - that's the easy way to instant gratification, which can bring fleeting contentment; but hey, I don't know about you, it doesn't take very long for me to hoover up a bowl of hoola hoops and a cheeky sauvignon! Here, we're talking about the state of calm and equanimity which you can reside in no matter what life chooses to throw at you. No matter how hard it gets, or how difficult you're finding it to move forward. In those sorts of circumstances, contentment would surely be a wonderous place to be. So how do we get to that? As we practice our poses this week, we're going to be looking at trying to create the same sort of release and surrender in all of the poses we practice, that's relatively easy to attain in just one of my very favourite poses: Viparita Karani, or legs up the wall pose.

Yoga teacher and studio owner Cyndi Lee describes our yoga asanas as containers. The poses we put ourselves in are impermanent containers that help us focus our awareness, she says. Once we get into Viparita Karani, using props if necessary, I'd say many of us are able to let go and surrender in both body and mind far more than we might in say, revolved triangle for example. The challenge then becomes: to treat each pose we are working in as if it were legs up the wall. To surrender in and learn to find contentment from each container, or pose, just as we do in that wonderful restorative pose.

Contentment, or Santosha, is one of the five Niyamas, or internal disciplines, as set down by Master Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Chapter 2 sutras 41-42 tell us: "Purification [or Saucha, the first Niyama] also brings about clarity, happiness, concentration, mastery of the senses, and capacity for self-awareness. Contentment brings unsurpassed joy." So first we cleanse, which can be done with Kriya (specific cleansing practices such as neti, nasal irrigation, or nauli, creating a churning motion via the muscles of the abdomen), but also with asana and pranayama; having cleansed, we are then in a better place to practice Santosha, being more free from attachment to the external world and not expecting external factors to be the source of our happiness, but looking for it from within.

And just to make sure we've got it right as we practice this week, we'll be sure to check against that wonderful legs up the well pose by doing it at the end of each class. Or you could check right now, by clicking on the short video I did on this pose, below.


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