Ashtanga Adaptability,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy

What is Discipline and Do You Have It?

In your 30’s it becomes more difficult to rely on the physical power of youth and raw enthusiasm, and also on free time. You really start to discover what it means to have discipline. You have to yoke yourself to the discipline of practice-David Garrigues, Ashtanga Yoga Maps and Musings


What does it mean to be disciplined?

Discipline:  training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.-Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Discipline is the act of training yourself to take on a certain behavior at the necessary moment. It is process of training that prepares you for the fruits your are seeking. The proof of a disciplined individual is not evident when everything is going your way and when it is easy. The proof of your discipline is how you behave when everyone around you would understand why you would quit.

The quote above by David Garrigues hits the nail on the head. It is when you don’t have energy, don’t have free time and the fire within you for yoga has started to dwindle, that you start to see whether or not you are disciplined.

Why is Discipline Important?

Life presents many opportunities for us to be shackled both mentally and physically to day to day duties.  If you get caught up in day to day duties, you wake up 10 years later and you are no closer to your goals and you are still not happy. The yogis knew that freedom and liberation from suffering can only be had by those who are disciplined.   It is only the disciplined ones who can see day to day events as temporary and know that the spirit within is eternal and that a connection with the eternal is the only happiness that is sustainable.


Like soldiers train for war, yoga trains us for life.  In a battle, a soldier defaults to the training that has been drilled into them through discipline. When life comes at us, the positive patterns reinforced by our discipline in practice, become our first response.  Yoga philosophy talks about samskaras, mental grooves created in the mind through repetitive action. We replace negative mental grooves with positive through discipline. Until we get to the place where we can be fully present and we cultivate the ability to just do what is appropriate, this is the next best thing. We can start to build the life we want through positive repetitive actions. If we get caught up in our daily duties, our happiness is left to chance. The foundation of our lives is still being built but it is not in our control. It is like hiring someone to built you a house but you don’t give them a blue print and you just hope it has everything you needed when it is done. We want to control the blue print of our lives. We want to write the story.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

Like courage, discipline is not what happens when you have lots of time on your hands and no obligations. The disciplined person is he who practices in spite of all their other obligations.




Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail