Yoga Off The Mat: Practice Santosha and Change the Story

Posted December 23, 2014

by Judi Checo


“A Miracle is a shift in our perception from fear to love.” – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

I was falling down the hole again. Spiraling and incoherent. Alone. That’s how I felt. Very alone. The long list of all the things I desperately wanted, but still didn’t have played on repeat in my mind, like the credits at the beginning of the star wars movies- theatrically highlighted in bold, italic and complete with dramatic voiceover. We were nearing the end of another year, reminding me that time was of the essence and I was running out of it. The despair built. When? When would things fall into place? When would these hopes and dreams finally materialize?

My iPhone pinged. A text message from one of my childhood besties. We’ve known each other since we were six: my mother is her godmother and I’m her daughter’s godmother. We go back and deep. The message read: “You are my b’ sheret.” I had no idea what she meant and so I asked her to clarify. Apparently this means “the one” in yiddish. By the way, she’s Dominican. I felt laughter erupt from deep within and spill out from my lips at her newest way of telling me she loved me. At her sweet affirmation that I was not just her friend but her person. My heart immediately filled with joy, love and softness. The spiraling subsided, my vision clearing, literally and figuratively.

what I have is pretty remarkable

All those things I yearn for and want are wonderful and worthy, but when I get really caught up in the story of not having them and worrying obsessively over whether I ever will, I miss out on all the things I have right now. And what I have is pretty remarkable. Freedom and opportunity. Heatlh. Shelter. Food. A loving, supportive, family. The best life-long girlfriends a woman could ask for. Some pretty amazing guy-friends to go with them. Yoga- this path, calling, passion that keeps me grounded, sane and connected every single day. A family of fur-babies who remind me what unconditional love means every time I gaze in their eyes. Hope and faith in this great and holy universe we occupy, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And love. A wealth of it. In good times and bad. And I’m not even including in this list things like Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Ice-cream- another miraculously, simple source of ridiculous joy and pleasure. I have everything (and MORE) than what I need to be not just well, but happy in my life.

The holidays are literally upon us. What better time to cultivate joy? What better way to do it than by practicing Santosha.

Santosha is one of the Niyamas, which is the second limb of yoga (stay tuned for more on all the yamas and niyamas, in the next blog, my final one for B&Y this month) and it is sanskrit for “contentment”. Cultivating contentment as a practice. Simply stated: counting your blessings. Being aware of all the good things you have already before you get carried away by all the things you are so convinced you can’t live without. Santosha can be as simple as an inhale and exhale. Your breath reminding you that you are alive! Breathing, existing, and that while that is the case everything and anything is still possible. Appreciating all the privileges and simple joys and blessings life offers. Appreciating even the tough and painful times because it means you’re IN IT- in this thing called life, navigating all the ups and downs.

it can also be an intense time of reflection

Of course it’s a no-brainer. But we forget don’t we? Especially this time of year. It’s a magical time for sure, full of celebrations, music, glitter and shine. I absolutely love all of it. But it can also be an intense time of reflection. We can easily fall into melancholy states of angst and judgmental assessments of the accomplishments and failures of the year gone by. Which is why it is so important to change the story. You can choose to look back on 2014 with harshness and through the lens of comparing and despairing. Or you can choose to look back with gratitude, humility and kindness.

Like our asana practice on the mat, Santosha (along with all the niyamas) is a practice and practice makes perfect. You have to do it regularly before you feel the benefits. So commit. For every failure you can recall, bring up a success. For every mistake you made, remind yourself of all the times you got it right. For everything you still want think of everything you already have. Honor ALL of it. Those hopes, dreams and things you want and may even need- keep working towards them for sure!!! But explore shifting your perspective away from the fear of never getting or achieving them, to loving all that you already have and all that you aspire to. We have the choice, and the power to change the story and look at it all differently if we are willing. Try it and see if you don’t find yourself cultivating not just contentment, but joy. Try it and see what miracles manifest. Tis’ the season.

Happy holidays and Namaste!


Welcome to our Bread and Yoga Teacher’s Blog! Each month we’ll feature a new teacher on our staff, each one sharing their unique voice with the community. Check out Judi’s classes on Sundays at 10:30AM (Bilingual Hatha) and 11:30AM (Hatha Flow).


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