Why discipline is important in yoga
Tapas and why discipline in yoga is important for teachers and students
Anyone, who ever experienced transformation and healing through yoga, knows how powerful it is. The practice is not to be taken lightly. Of course we can flow playfully through a class without aiming for transformation and healing, nevertheless the postures, the mind work and the breath do not lose their powers. The way we combine the tools of yoga does matter too. This is why understanding yoga alignment and sequencing is so crucial. The way we practice matters too. Our intention as students and as teachers, but also the distractions during and around the practice. Like running into the class with your eyes on your phone, or instead taking a couple of minutes to be early, and settle down for your practice.
What keeps you from having a powerful practice and making lasting changes is often your ego, as it wants to stay in control. Your ego wants to stay in comfort, and doesn’t want to be challenged. To release from the suffering, we need to go beyond the ego and the fluctuations of the mind. Understand when it’s necessary to be used, and when we need to ask it to be quiet. We need to understand that it is holding us back, and wants to avoid challenges at all costs. If the ego feels threatened it will come up with excuses. Especially why you cannot practice. ‘I don’t have time’ is a classic and can be easily addressed as yoga doesn’t need to take 1 hour commute and 1 hour in the studio. You can learn to self practice (ask your teacher for guidance/a personal program) or practice with online recordings of various lengths.
“If you don’t have time to meditate for an hour everyday, you should meditate for two hours.” – Zen Proverb
Being late is another one. We can be late for unexpected reasons, but how often are these the reality, and how often is the reason our priority?
Being late is not only disrespectful towards the teacher and the fellow students, it is also an excuse by the ego, to not join the practice 100%. Trusting that every minute of class time is carefully curated to get the most out of it. There are other reasons like Asteya and trauma sensitivity why being late is unacceptable, but I will address these another time.
Making time to practice and to show up on time require discipline
Even the most compassionate teacher will show discipline especially when some of the students are still covered by the veils of the ego to not put in the work. As teachers we are helping our students to learn discipline, to be applied to their practice to support them in their journey, and not to please our own egos. Being self motivated and disciplined to show up for your own regular practice is what will make all the difference.
Patanjali in his sutras talks about the necessity of discipline in the practice: Tapas. It is the willingness to do the work and the desire to learn (Source). Without tapas, yoga cannot blossom in its full potential. He talks about tapas in the first sutra of the Sadhana, the practice, chapter. It is the first thing he points out, and as the sutras have been often interpreted, each step is a prerequisite to go to the next, it shows us how important this aspect of our practice is.
“There is no magic wand that can resolve our problems. The solution rests with our work and discipline. ” – Jose Eduardo dos Santos
As students, having or strengthening discipline is highly beneficial on your path. If it is too challenging, ask your yoga teacher for advice and support.
For teachers, it is important to understand the struggle of the student by working on our own discipline, by getting up in the morning to practice, to show up on time and the willingness to learn. Only when we also experience this part of the journey, can we help our students to overcome what will hold them back the most. This is why yoga teacher training are designed to challenge you, they require self-motivation and discipline. So your own practice deepens and you experience and understand the struggle your students will have, so you are able to guide them from your own experience on their path.
“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.” – Dalai Lama