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Have you ever noticed that self-discipline starts out as a chore, but in the end becomes something that brings us joy because we are benefiting so much from our efforts? When I was young, I remember my grandparents and relatives talking about The Great Depression and how they suffered and struggled during those times of hardship. The tone in their voices was that of great achievement and resolve for having made it through those times of strife. The struggle, they felt, gave them the determination to live up to life’s challenges and experience fulfillment.

If we let go of extreme comfort, we make ourselves stronger and more resilient

We all know that when we work really hard for something it tends to have greater meaning for us. Even our kids like the challenge of working for things. When we give them everything, they become entitled, always wanting more and never happy. In Yoga there is a precept called Tapas, which encourages us to rise up to life’s challenges through self-discipline and tenacity. Life constantly gives us opportunities to practice Tapas. Turning the heat down by five degrees asks our internal fire to rise up to keep us warm. If we let go of extreme comfort, we make ourselves stronger and more resilient. Even just parking the car farther away from the grocery store so we have to walk a little further than we normally would, could be considered part of the practice.

Ornish Lifestyle Medicine is no exception to this practice. Many participants report that while heart disease has been painful and challenging, it has called them to a path of health and well-being unlike nothing else in their lives. For them, it has been purification through fire. Working with these lifestyle changes asks us to be disciplined and dedicated, but in the end we are the ones who benefit. Our health improves, our relationships get juicier, and we feel a greater sense of connection to others and ourselves. What could be better? Through this kind of purification we become shiny and bright and we feel a great sense of accomplishment and joy. Cooking for our selves, walking everyday, extending ourselves through support and communication with others are all practices that require self discipline and an inner resolve to take our health back. The yoga practices we use are no different. When we put in the extra effort we feel a sense of vitality and energy. Here are some ways you can infuse your daily stress management practice with Tapas.

Before You Practice

Get up earlier, sleep a little less and practice a little more. You may feel groggy at first, but soon that sense of early morning grogginess will be replaced with a feeling of being more balanced and centered throughout the day.

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On the Mat

Stay a little longer in a pose and ask yourself: “Is it my body or my mind that wants to come out of it?” If there is discomfort in your body, then by all means honor that limitation. But if you are just letting the mind bully the body into a sense of complacency then see what happens if you stay in the pose for a few more breaths. Always infuse your intention to endure, with loving-kindness.

Off the Mat

Reach out to others who are in need of support or help. Experiment with extending yourself in service of others at least once a day. It may mean just holding the door open for a stranger. It could be listening to someone who is lonely or making food for someone. The opportunities are endless.  When we make the extra effort, we are the ones who shine. When have you felt stronger and healthier after you rose up to a challenge?

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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