August 7, 2013

A New Way to Look at “Discipline.” ~ Leslie Hendry

Photo by Jessica Walden

Simply stated, yoga creates discipline.

Discipline” is a funny word. It sounds harsh and serious, and often has a negative connotation, yet its origins are from the word “disciple.”

“Disciple,” with its more positive connotation, creates thoughts of learning, dedication and of commitment.

Discipline usually means the assertion of will power over base desires. The way I way I like to interpret discipline is being a disciple of something in which one wants to learn. If you were a disciple of someone, or a school of thought, in a perfect world, it means you are passionate or interested in devoting yourself to the study/teachings. The discipline comes naturally because it comes from free will.

This is what I’ve learned through yoga. Never before a steady yoga practice did I stick to an exercise regime or community or philosophy for any extended period of time. I was in my 20s, experiencing, learning, exploring many things. But once I found yoga it’s been an easy commitment going on 10 years.

In the morning, I do not debate doing my yoga practice. It’s a discipline I’ve crafted out of pure enjoyment on many levels, not to mention the tacit results of yoga: calmer nervous system and state of mind, balance, friendship, increased consciousness, confidence, cleaner lifestyle… I could go on.

For adults, there are roughly two schools of thought when teaching discipline: the start-them-young school or the let-them-be types. My parents were the let-them-be-types, to a fault. I never once had to clean the house, or dishes, or rarely my room. However, my room was never a total disaster either. Somehow it worked itself out. Of course, my parents had the occasional comment, “Looks like a bomb went off in here,” but other than that, they weren’t too concerned.

This of course led me to rebel in ways most parents would love. I was the clean police as I got older. Bugging my parents to throw stuff away, make things look more beautiful. Without anyone telling me, I took on cleaning my bathroom, but then I never washed my own clothes. My mom took full ownership. (Bless her soul.)

In high school I even helped clean my best friend’s house. Her father was a taskmaster. Every Saturday morning, all six girls, mom and dad, and their sleepover guest, me, woke up and started cleaning the entire house. It was fun. I felt ownership in the baseboards. (Who even notices those baseboards?) I also felt more mature and responsible. I felt part of a team.

This wasn’t how my best friend or some of her sisters felt. Because it was a constant chore world, they tired of it quickly. Which is why I believe the best way to incentivize a child and help them become disciplined is not an allowance, but in letting them find where they naturally want to focus their energies. Where we focus our energies is hugely important in how we develop.

The best place to start is doing something active. When healthy, the body wants to be active. It knows activity keeps it well. It’s oftentimes the mind that makes us lazy.

Yoga is the answer to both of these issues. The best place a kid can learn about his/her capacity is through moving the body. Yoga is one of the many ways of doing this without the pressure of performance. It’s adjustable to all levels and to different body types, which is why it’s so good for kids, or anyone for that matter.

Physical education classes in schools now seriously consider and/or offer yoga as part of the curriculum. When kids do something regularly that is enjoyable, that stretches the body, calms the nervous system, that creates respect, confidence and kindness, they will continue to develop into disciplined people. Ones who find welcoming responsibility instead of shrugging it off.

As a yogi and someone who truly believes the innumerable benefits of yoga, I created a story app that helps kids understand just how a few down dogs can make their life happier and healthier, if not cleaner. If we want kids to learn life skills we have to be the role model. As adults, we prefer to do things we like. As adults on the yoga path, we figure out how to do things we like and that are beneficial. Kids will be no different if we show them.

With yoga and activity, kids have the chance to learn how to be a disciple of activity, accomplishment responsibility and fun for a long time to come.

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Ed: B. Bemel

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Leslie Hendry