Cultivating Self-Discipline


Some yoga postures like headstand can take years of practicing with the aid of tapas and patience.

February can be a good time to check in with your self-discipline.  New Year resolutions are hard to stick with when life continues with its ebbs and flows. The snow seems to be endless and maybe you’ve taken some steps back in your progress towards a goal. If you can learn to appreciate even those extra challenges, you can come back to your intention for the day or month or year. Tapas, or self-discipline, is the third niyama, or moral observance, outlined in yogic philosophy. Tapas is the fire that burns within us that is needed as fuel to achieve difficult goals. To cultivate tapas, you must foster self-control, mindfulness, focus, and integrity to stay balanced and calm in every situation.  If we can learn to cultivate more self-discipline, we can find balance and be on our path towards peace.

Even if it is dark and cold outside, there is always some silver lining. Without the trials and practice towards a goal, the achievement wouldn’t be as sweet. It is an easy example to work on self-discipline when practicing yoga. Some days on your mat can be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilling and you can find peace and calm with relative ease. Other days you have to dig deep for the motivation to continue. Those are the days where the most growth, patience, and perseverance can be found. Where in your life can you find more austerity? In a society where we multitask and fill our schedules to the limit, can you be disciplined to do one thing at a time? Try letting go of distractions and excuses to be mindful and focused towards your intention. Becoming aware of your own weaknesses is the first step in accepting and working through them.

When you work diligently, tirelessly towards a goal, you are practicing ant medicine, a Cherokee philosophy based on patience and perseverance. Ants are tiny but mighty creatures that can carry 30 times their own weight, which is like a 150-pound person carrying a bulldozer on their back that weighs 19,500 pounds. They trust the natural law that if they put in this hard work now, then the reward is just over the horizon.  We can learn from these resolute ants that you can never give up on yourself or a difficult yoga pose or only practice half-heartedly. 

So if you are cultivating self-discipline to create a lifestyle change, practice ant medicine and come back to your intention when things get challenging.  Use tapas to reduce doubt, discouragement, and negativity. By igniting your internal fire, you can burn up impurities and transform your actions. Try cultivating tapas not only on your yoga mat but also while doing the dishes, eating a meal, and being kind to others. Any task worth doing is worth doing well.

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