Because, if I have learned anything in 15 years on my mat, it is that discipline is the path to living a purposeful life. Or, as yogis like to say, fulfilling our dharma. Fulfilling our dharma makes us happy, and that is a beautiful thing.
I thought discipline was a dirty word before I got into yoga. Why would anyone do the same thing, day after day? What could be more boring?
I liked having the freedom to do whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and not feel guilty about it. I wanted to be able to run, if I wanted to run. To swim if I wanted to swim. And to blow it all off, when I wasn’t in the mood to exercise.
Yoga changed all that. In 1998, I discovered that a little bit of yoga, every day, changed my body, my mind, and my spirit, more rapidly than I thought possible. I started seeing muscles in places I had never had muscles before, my battle with migraines got easier, and I felt more connected to God. I also craved healthy food for the first time ever, and spent less and less time in front of the TV with a pint of Haagan Dazs.
Little by little, and practice by practice, yoga shifted everything I believed about myself, and the world around me. I learned to reject the voices that told me it was ok to skip a day, and embraced the idea that daily discipline makes me happy. It really, truly did, and it still does, after 15 years.
Why did I experience such profound changes? Because, as I eventually learned, yoga is the most efficient practice for uniting the mind, body and soul. I realized that without it, my life felt fractured. With it, however, I incrementally found my way to becoming whole. Yoga became a foundation for living my life on purpose.
I was “getting into yoga”, around the same time that Rick Warren made a lot of money teaching us about The Purpose Driven Life. It was the late 1990s, and Rev. Warren challenged us to answer to the question, “What On Earth Am I Here For?”
I remember thinking, as I read Rev. Warren’s book, that this is the exact same question yogis have been asking for thousands of years, in pursuit of their dharma.
Yogis believe that there are eight specific disciplines that help us fulfill our dharma. They are known as The Eight Limbs, and are outlined in great detail in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Here’s what they mean in a nutshell:
1. Interact with others ethically.
2. Treat ourselves respectfully.
3. Prepare our physical body for stillness.
4. Breathe with awareness and intention.
5. Release attachments that interfere with our relationship with God.
6. Cultivate self-awareness.
8. Seek unity with God.
This might sound like rhetoric to some, but anyone who has a daily yoga practice will tell you that it’s very real, and it works. When we repeat these practices, over and over again, with intention and awareness, we discover who we are, and how we are supposed to live.
Isn’t that we all want? To know why we are here, and what we are supposed to do with our time on earth?
We all struggle with discipline…it’s human nature. It’s also human nature, however, to be resilient. Trust the struggle, reject the voices that tell you that you can’t, and just do it. Go create yourself!
If you are not sure where to begin, start here. And let me know if you need a little help or encouragement.
Daily discipline will help you live your dharma. And that will make you happy. I promise.
Happy National Yoga Month, my friends!