Discipline: Cut Yourself a Break
For those of us seeking personal growth, we're all at different points along the path. I honestly believe that in general, everyone I come into contact with is doing the best they can, given their situation and where they’re at along the path.
This is why I think it is important to cut yourself a break when it comes to discipline. Yoga, like any other structured practice of self-improvement, requires a certain degree of discipline. When you’re just starting out, it can take all the willpower you have to make it to one yoga class a week—or maybe even one a month. Our willpower is a limited resource; this has been shown time and time again in scientific research. If you spend all day biting your tongue at a job you hate or around your kids, or use your mental fortitude to avoid foods that you crave that are bad for you, you may not have a ton of willpower left at the end of the day to get your butt into yoga class. This is understandable, and it is ok. (Side note: this is why many practitioners make sure to practice first thing in the morning, before their willpower stores are exhausted!!)
How do you build the discipline necessary for a solid yoga practice? Well, you have to go slowly! This consistency often happens naturally for many people starting yoga. Over the years I taught Bikram yoga, I saw tons of students who would just come to class sporadically, then after a few months or even a year, maybe once a week. From there, it slowly builds until the student is practicing several times a week and has to do many more loads of laundry due to all the sweaty yoga clothes and towels ;) It’s all about building a habit, and noticing all the positive benefits you get from your yoga class. And knowing you’re worth putting aside the time to improve yourself through yoga.
What I find to be counterproductive is when practitioners who are not yet consistent start telling themselves they’re bad or wrong because they think they don’t have the necessary discipline to make it to class regularly and do the work. Of course you don’t!! …Yet. Your discipline muscle will grow, just like your triceps will from doing lots of Chaturangas.
... And remember that we all grow at different rates, so you’re NOT bad or wrong if you see someone else growing more quickly than you.
Personally, I was one of those students who came to yoga class inconsistently for a couple years. Over that time, the physical and mental benefits I got from yoga were undeniable. I started to wonder, what would it be like if I went all the time? The more consistent I got, the more rewards I got for my body and mind. These rewards fueled my ambition to come back, and the discipline became easier.
My practice has been consistent for a while now, but I still have times where I think, “UGH! I don’t want to DO this today.” Discipline has become the ability to recognize that I'm not always doing this because I WANT to, but because it is good for me, and I have dedicated myself to it. Conquering that voice that protests practicing is extremely rewarding and empowering. It took me almost a decade of yoga practice to reach this point. I was a slow learner, and I am not ashamed, because I did the best I could and the end result is, I GREW!
Your discipline to make it to class will build. Your discipline within that class or practice to do the actual work of the asanas will build. You won't ever have perfect discipline, but the good news is, the discipline you develop in yoga will apply to other things in life as well. And when you start to see the overlap, you will be so happy you've put in the work.
Just don’t expect yourself to have great discipline all at once if you're just starting out or still not consistent with your yoga. Cut yourself a break and set small, attainable goals for getting to yoga class. Trust you will grow, because you will. Setbacks come at times, but your trajectory will continue forward if you truly seek growth. So, when’s the next time YOU will be on your mat? :)