One of the five disciplines (niyamas), as codified by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, is santosha which means contentment.
I have been doing my best to cultivate this lately; allowing myself, and encouraging my students, not to resist the urge to hibernate in these winter months. We need to heed our bodies’ requests to slow down and rest. That is the number one way to keep our immunities strong and to heal whatever ails us.
I recognize that sometimes what I call contentment can turn to complacency, which can then become laziness. As with all practices of yoga, we strive to find a balance. We can challenge ourselves while recognizing that we don’t have to go to our edge every time we step on the mat. We can strive for greater flexibility and increased strength without discounting a practice that consists of lying back on cushions in restorative fish pose for fifteen minutes. (I highly recommend this, by the way. See below for one delicious way to set it up.)
We must first take time to listen; to our bodies, our minds, and our moods. Then determine what could best bring us into balance. If we can do something about it, we should. If we cannot, perhaps the best we can do is change our perspective.
Try saying to yourself, “In this moment everything is perfect.” No grasping, no striving, no need to be, have, or do anything else. Simply find your breath, and find the truth in this statement… In this moment everything is perfect.
Supported Fish Pose
Roll up a blanket about 4 inches thick. Lie back with your shoulder blades on the blanket roll. With your knees bent, press the soles of your feet into the floor in order to slide your shoulders off the blanket until just the bottom tips of your shoulder blades are touching the top edge of the blanket roll. The roll should be right behind your heart, the tops of your shoulders on the floor. Press your feet into the floor to curl your tailbone up towards the sky, then return your lengthened low back onto the floor. Extend your legs long. Your arms can be extended in a T at shoulder height or stretch them up alongside your ears. Cactus arms is my personal favorite–extend your arms in a T at shoulder height, then bend your elbows, backs of your hands on the floor.
Remain in the pose for up to 15 minutes. Allow your breath to deepen into your expanding front body, while letting your back body drape over the blanket roll and drip towards the floor. If it does not feel easeful, change it so it does. It can be an intense backbend, but the benefit should come from lingering in the pose, not from enduring unnecessary intensity.