Discipline, known as “tapas” in the yogic tradition, means being diligent and committed to yoga and self-work. Tapas is also described as the fire in our bellies that keeps us motivated. There are so many distractions in our lives that it can be a challenge to stay on track to reach our goals and maintain our health and spiritual growth.  The key to tapas is daily practice.  We must do the work to reap the benefits of a healthy and happy life.  Practice, practice, practice.

How to keep the fire in our bellies

How do we stay committed to a daily practice?  Recently, I learned that if you can make it about something bigger, not just about you, it can help you stay on track.  I strongly believe your own self-improvement is very important and it is a keystone of the philosophy of yoga.  When we are happy and healthy, we can have a positive impact on those around us.  When we are not happy, we don’t have much to give to others.  But when you tie your practice to someone or something else it gives you a sense of purpose and accountability.  Oddly, it’s easier to let ourselves down, but more difficult to let others down. 

I just completed a physical challenge that a friend proposed via Facebook: do 51 push-ups for 51 days to honor those people who had lost their lives in Orlando.  Like all of us, the senseless violence affecting our world is so heartbreaking to me.  This particular incident hit me harder.  Maybe because these horrible acts are becoming so common place and I am starting to get numb to it all.  I felt compelled to not let these 51 people be forgotten in just a couple of days.  Each of us who accepted the challenge posted daily updates to share with others about our 51 day commitment to honor those who lost their lives.

I was motivated by something bigger, the push-ups were not significant to me at the time, but my commitment was strong---I had the fire in my belly.  One surprising lesson I learned was how quickly my body got strong.  Day 1 of 51 was so hard!  I could barely do 10 push-ups in a row---I certainly did not share that on my daily Facebook post!  So I did 5 sets of 10 + 1.  By Day 3 I could do 30 push-ups in a row and by Day 6 I could do all 51!  I was really amazed how quickly I improved.  I only missed one day.  The next day I made it up by doing 102---needless to say I never missed a day after that!  While the real motivation was honoring the 51 people who died, I really felt my mind and body get stronger from staying disciplined and committed to something as small as doing 51 push-ups a day.  Now I’m motivated to apply this discipline to other areas of my life. 

Be patience with yourself

Yoga asks us to show up on the mat and practice.  We may not feel great and motivated every time we get on the mat, but we show up.  Being disciplined is a key trait to being successful---however you define success.  But we need to remember to do it in a non-harming way.  This can be tough on us type-A personalities because we seem to think we must push ourselves so hard before we can reap the benefits.  Yoga is not promoting the “no pain, no gain” philosophy.  It encourages “compassionate discipline” (yes, I just made that up).  Progress, not perfection!

What area of your life needs more discipline?

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