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I’m not radiant. I’m not exhilarated. I’m not even uplifted.


I’m sitting on a daybed in Bali, contemplating the rice fields in front of me as I prepare for this year’s Adore Yoga Bali Paradise Retreat. My kids are off playing ‘stuck in the mud’ with the local children, the sound of a gamelan orchestra is drifting over the fields and the air temperature here in the shade of the coconut palms is just perfect. I am completely and utterly contented.


But the way I feel here in Bali is very different from the way I’m supposed to feel, if my emails are anything to go by. According to the yoga teachers, self-help gurus and purveyors of inspiration who find their way into my inbox, I should be feeing successful, blissful, energized, sexy, joyful and radiant.  I should be reaching for the stars and being my best self. But, from where I’m sitting, that looks a lot like striving. Can I just stick with contentment please? It’s like a nice, warm, chocolaty bath. Mmmmm.


Samtosha, contentment, is one of Patanjali’s 5 Niyamas, or guidelines for living a good life. It’s a recommendation that gets lost in the rush to ‘fulfill your potential’ and ‘follow your path’. Samtosha is the quiet pleasure of knowing that, right now, everything’s just fine. Right now, you don’t need anything else. Ironically, the only time I’ve lost that sense of present moment wellbeing since arriving in Bali has been in yoga classes. Minutely choreographed routines with teachers who tell you how to breathe, how to move, what to think and when to do it. Oh, and by the way, don’t strive as you try to follow quick-fire instructions that lurch from one ‘advanced’ pose to another. New to yoga? Got an injury? Who cares?


It’s made me take a long, hard look at my own teaching to see how and where I cross that fine line between challenging my students and sending them off on a frenzy of over-achievement. It’s easy to do – just transpose your every day FOMO neuroses onto your asana practice and bingo! You can apply the same counterproductive striving to your yoga as you do to everything else!

So I’m dropping the striving, just for a bit. I’m making Samtosha, contentment, the theme of our Bali Yoga retreat and hoping that I can offer my students respite from the voices in their heads telling them to do it better, get it right, conform, excel. I’m going to offer tools for contentment that will help them to find that sense of present moment wellbeing. Not bliss, happiness and certainly not perfection. Just contentment with the way things are right now. Warm and chocolaty.

Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She is a leading teacher trainer, running acclaimed Level 2 national trainings in Yoga Therapy and mentoring for yoga teachers.  



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