Why is Yoga Called a Discipline

Why is Yoga Called a Discipline?

Atha yoganushasanam – The disciplines of Yoga mentioned in Patanjali Yoga Sutra are Shasana and Anushasana. Shasana means rules someone imposes on you. Anushasana is the rule you impose upon yourself. Now, why is yoga called a discipline? Where is the need for discipline? When does the need for discipline arise?

When you are thirsty and want to drink water, you do not say “Oh! This is a rule, I must drink water”. When you are hungry, you just eat. When it comes to the question of enjoying oneself, no discipline is necessary.

Where does discipline come into the picture? Discipline arises when something is not very charming to begin with. Isn’t it? When you are happy, when you are in peace or happiness, then you are already in yourself. There is no discipline there. But when the mind is wagging its tail all the time, then discipline is essential to calm it down.

The fruit of it is eventually blissful, joyful. As a diabetic says, “I have the discipline not to eat sugar.”

There are three types of happiness.

  1. Sattvic — happiness which is not pleasurable to begin with, but ends in joy
  2. Rajasic — happiness that seems to begin well but ends in misery
  3. Tamasic — there appears to be happiness but in reality there is only misery from beginning to end

No discipline is necessary for tamasic happiness. Wrong discipline results in rajasic happiness. For sattvic happiness, discipline is essential to begin with. It need not be uncomfortable all the time. But if it is uncomfortable, then you should be able to bear with it. You need discipline. That is why Patanjali begins with the present, when things are not clear and when your heart is not in the right place.

Discipline and yoga – It is nobody’s imposition; it is self-imposed. There is a lot we impose on ourselves — every morning we wake up and brush our teeth, we then brush them again before going to bed. This is your discipline. However, these have been self-imposed from childhood. Haven’t they?

When you were a child, your mother had to impose the discipline on you. Then, once it became a habit, you understood it was for your own good. Then you found it was no longer your mother’s rule but your own.

In the same way, keeping yourself clean, hygienic, exercising, meditating, being kind, considerate etc. All these rules you have imposed on yourself are all discipline.. Isn’t it?

Yoga means uniting with your source. When does that happen? This happens when the mind, which is chattering all the time, suddenly becomes silent.


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  • I have been practicing the yoga sutras and I couldn’t understand why people say yoga as a discipline, it is not a discipline it is process, whether someone likes it or not it is going on it is upto the individual to know and understand the process of yoga and for that we need to follow discipline or one can call it as cardinal rules (anushasana) and that is ATHA that is time and space (now) and that is anushasana, to be with the process of yoga because in every fraction of a second thousands of cells (kosha) die and take birth and this process of replacing and building is Yoga. Please do respond to my reply.

  • The first Chapter of Astanag-yoga of Sage Patanjali is on Concentration and first sutra starts with word ‘Atha’ means no onwards… so it prepares the reader or learner mentally to bring the mind in activity which has just started. The word ‘Yoga’ is defined as a union or to join in normal dictionary meaning but Sage Patanjali has defined it as a ‘control of mind’ in the next Sutra. Now to control the mind, some effort is required. To bring that level of controlled mind, certain awareness and controlled behavior; mental and physical is necessary, which is called ‘Anushasan’ discipline. For any learning, basic requirement is concentration. So the science of Yoga is not discipline but the process of reaching the last stage of ‘pure concentration- Samadhi’, is based on discipline.

  • It should also be mentioned that these commentaries on Patanjali Yoga Sutras are by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. otherwise it is plagiarism. Jai Gurudev.