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Discipline shouldn’t make you cringe

Discipline. It is a word that makes me cringe. It's definition has always sounded more like punishment or consequence to me. When really, it is the consequence of NOT being disciplined that should make me cringe.

In the yoga tradition they have a word for discipline: Tapas (and I don't mean Spanish finger food!). As I have studied it, it seems to correlate with the third chakra. Tapas is a Niyama, one of the guidelines for personal behavior. It is the commitment to keep doing something that is good for you and the integrity to deny something that is bad for you. I have seen it defined as a burning zeal, austerity, discipline, or fire. It is the ability to burn up any impurities that come at us, to be a light so warm and bright that darkness and disease shrivel up and go away.

The third chakra is called Manipura, or City full of Jewels. This space is in our solar plexus, is said to control our personal power and motivation, and is known as our bodies strong-hold or fortress. It is where we understand our personal boundaries and is the home to our self-esteem. It is the color of a warm, yellow sun beaming down around us.

Often times when I teach I encourage my students to activate their belly full of sunshine to help them through a tiring string of postures.

It takes courage to do what is right and good. It takes creativity to implement said courage in your life. And it takes energy to make that courage work for us every day. If we were to replace the word discipline with the word energy would it be easier for us to allow our chosen path to be illuminated before us? To see clearly what our past actions had set us up for in the future? To walk boldly into our future knowing that the path to wisdom is paved with mistakes? To no longer fear that truth, but embrace it for the teacher it is? To have the strength to learn from the things that need not be repeated a well as the things that should be repeated often?

Just for fun, the next time you hear that crazy, catchy song, “I gotta pocket, gotta pocket full of sunshine”, replace the words with, “I gotta belly, gotta belly full of sunshine!”

Perhaps with a sense of humor Tapas, energy, in truth discipline, won't seem like such a bad guy. Maybe instead discipline will become the best friend you never realized youhad.

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About Tamara Milliken

Tamara Millken began practicing yoga in 2003, and teaching in 2007. She trained and is 500 hour certified through the Shambhava School of Yoga. She currently teaches Yoga for Healing, Tibetan Heart Yoga, and meditation at the Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio and the Millwood Community Center.

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One comment

  1. Kristine, on Facebook said, “There’s no denying that every major religious and spiritual tradition I can think of involve some kind of commitment, or discipline. In fact, I’m a bit skeptical when I see a “promise” of one that involves only reaping benefits, with nothing put in. Here’s another related thought, this one a quote from Goethe. I shared this during the brief time of worship before our first “Faith In’ Service where we went out into the community and did service as our “worship service” (we’re doing this once a month): “Until one is committed, there is a hesitancy, the chance to draw back. The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do BEGIN IT. Boldness has genius, power, and magic to it.” I think commitment, discipline, and boldness are all connected.”

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