We are creatures of habit. We don't like it when our routines are disrupted.
It's the same when our preconception of how things "should be" is challenged…say, when it comes to our yoga class. When this happens, it can throw off even our favourite activities and what used to always bring us contentment is suddenly a source of stress.
For example - during one of my Dosha Vinyasa Yoga© classes, I threw such a wrench in the gears, so to speak, intentionally.
Ah…I can hear you asking: “Why would you do that?”
The answer is this - the practice of yoga isn't just for the body.
But, isn't that what meditation is for, you ask.
Very briefly - yes.
But yoga-asana, the moving, physical class, should also cater to all our being – body, emotions, mind. Ironically, this holistic approach in yoga-asana (aka, yoga classes) gets easily lost in the flow, especially when the delivery is so body-oriented.
The “wrench” I threw, in this particular case, with the aim to incorporate the other “bodies” into a holistic yoga-asana practice is music; 80’s pop, no less!
So yes, I had reactions ranging from trepidation that the flow (on that day) would be fast, to one of my tribe singing along before the class. Thankfully he stopped as soon as we started moving.
To say that what I did was non-traditional is an understatement, but it did its job of introducing this very non-traditional, even confronting, element to disrupt a routine.
To exaggerate, it created chaos. But it also created an opportunity to invite my tribe to draw their attention to the question WHY?
Why is it creating stress and chaos in the mind and emotions?
Is it because what I used is not “yoga music”? Is it not a favourite song? Are there memories attached to the song? Is it the preconception that it’s “not yoga”?
One could go on and on.
When faced with situations like this, there are 3 foreseeable outcomes:
You'll decide that this isn't so bad after all and swing wholeheartedly to its side;
You don't like it, and your senses are strongly rebelling against it; or
It doesn't bother you. You're happy with the old but will also try the new. It's not that you don't care, but you are content either way.
This is very much translatable off the mat.
When things we value are disrupted, our emotional responses can go through all of the above, which can generate strong and wild emotional swings - from anger, because your “normal” has been disrupted to drastically changing things by dropping the old completely because you’re so high on the new.
This "Emotional Pendulum", the swinging of the emotions wildly from one end to the other, without our conscious discernment, can push us out of balance and pile up the stress.
The third outcome is where Santosha or contentment lives. Don't get me wrong. It's not that we should stop deciding on whether something is good or bad for us, right or wrong, beneficial or not.
It is about choosing what kind of emotional aftermath we will be left with.
Every-day contentment lives in that place where our emotional responses to stressors or stimulators is mindful. It isn’t about being unfeeling and cold, but rather, being objective.
Santosha gives us the emotional buffer we need to choose our response; even a heightened one.
Believe me, there are times I choose the extreme of a cathartic release – quick, sharp and unequivocal. After, I feel content; not just because it's cathartic, but I know what kind of response I want, how I want to express it and importantly, this "controlled explosion" ensures that no one is in the line of fire! That's also a conscious decision.
The second part after choosing our response is not letting the emotional weight linger in the psyche.
The knowledge that our emotional responses, and the aftermath, can come from conscious decision making is strongly liberating – we are in control and free to choose.
When we understand that, that is when we truly practise Santosha.
We can draw upon that contentment even in situations that would normally drive us crazy.