Can you imagine driving to yoga class on these busy streets with no traffic signs, no stoplights, no brake lights? You would really need the yoga after such a chaotic experience, and would find it a miracle that you made it here. Rules of the road allow us to drive safely and efficiently. And, because most of us observe these rules, driving gets us where we need to go and we might even enjoy the experience along the way.
Like driving, yoga too has “rules of the road.” While the signs are not so evident at first, if you keep practicing you will begin to understand and follow the rules using your body as the vehicle to get you where you need to go. Being still in between the postures, striving to do poses the right way, accepting the sweat even as it slides down your face, gripping tight even though your shoulders hurt, staying in the room all 90 minutes – all these are examples of how we navigate in class. This discipline, when applied every time will not only benefit your practice, but will also free you from the mundane and useless mind chatter that can divert you from your path.
Watching Tiger Woods in the US Open was like watching discipline in action. He simply executes each thought with exact precision allowing him to perform at his highest level every time, at every hole, at any golf course. He carries his discipline like he carries his golf clubs. I imagine at the 18th hole, when he had a chance to tie for first place, that he wasn’t thinking about dinner, the noise of the fans or the headache he probably had from missing so many short putts in the prior 17 holes. Instead, he has trained himself over the years that focusing on the task at hand is the only way to get the shots he needs. His legendary accomplishments could not have been achieved without his tremendous capability to focus, borne of years of disciplined practice.
Bikram often says, “we are slaves to the bad habits.” As you cultivate a strict discipline, you begin to sort between what is needed and what is desired. Even the smallest act of discipline is a deliberate statement: “I won’t react to the rantings and ravings of a monkey mind.” When you become aware of the need to master distraction, you are able to choose actions that carry purpose and meaning and become the fuel to take you where you want to go. Good discipline helps you understand what truly serves you. You learn to see the rest as either drama or fun accessories to appreciate along the way: what a luxury it is to listen to your music while you drive your car. Discipline can help you be more appreciative of the everyday things we have but don’t need.
Over time, the benefit of discipline allows us to become free of the pull to satisfy cravings that do nothing but sabotage our progress. “Our destination,” Bikram states, “is mental peace” – one of the greatest freedoms of all. Happy Fourth of July.