Sunday, January 16, 2011
Santosha: Restorative-Yin Yoga As Pathway to Contentment
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Dark Radiance, 2011
RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.
AND YET, THIS DESCRIPTION is facile—too easy. Within the practice of restorative-yin yoga, there is the opportunity for more than its deep, wondrous relaxation and physical and mental restoration. In restorative-yin retreats where poses might be held for longer periods of time than is feasible in weekly practices, there is an opportunity for the deep moments of kevala kumbhaka or breathless “perfectly peaceful pause.” And there is even more. Going beyond body-mind to spirit, even in weekly practices, one offering of this practice is a direct body-mind experience of the second yogic Niyama codified by Patanjali long past:
SANTOSHA--Contentment, the ability to flow in life and not struggle,
to be content with where one is.
Santosha/santosa is a personal observance practice that can be experienced in the present moment rather than as a goal. As each practice session of restorative-yin yoga progresses, the deep relaxation and calmness/stillness of the session typically elicits reports from participants of experiences beyond relaxation, such as “tranquility” or “contentment.” And as the number of practice sessions build, this practice quality of contentment within life-as-it-is can extend beyond the session into everyday life rather than be only a special practice.
Restorative-yin practice is different from a quest for personal advancement/achievement or strength/flexibility. As a gentle, quiet practice, restorative-yin yoga offers the experience of an exquisite state of mind that is accessible to anyone in one’s life as it is. Pursuit of achievement dissolves into listening to the wisdom of the body, and there is time for a deep appreciation of life as it is to flower from routine to eloquence.
The deep heart of life as it is—spirit, being-ness—attends to internal awareness of that which is not constantly changing. Bringing mind to body for extraordinary fitness pales in comparison to touching spirit. Joy and sadness and anger and boredom may appear and disappear as well as fitness, but heart-mind remains the same. Restorative-yin yoga offers a place of centering that is so deep that it is out-reaching—inclusive and integrative rather than exclusive. And it is heartfelt and ordinary rather than intellectual and special.
The santosha that may be experienced in each session does not instantly make life thereafter content. Santosha is real work--internal reaction training—in attending to the heart of life. Santosha is not a passive bearing of whatever comes. Santosha is a vital, living, active personal observance of life that recognizes acceptance and contentment with our condition and our emotions. It also opens an intuitive recognition of our lives as harmonizing with universal process and strength. Restorative-yin yoga aspires to offer a direct, authentic experience of santosha that can then be a guide in the less quiet, distracting complexity of everyday life so that contentment with one’s larger life as-it-is can be experienced. Perhaps by coming to this quiet yet strong practice, the meaningfulness of a leaf falling or the smile of another can be given some of the time that it richly deserves.