Feeling Disconnected? Lean into Discipline

When I arrive at seasons of my life that I feel disconnected from myself, I have to take a step back to reassess. The aimless, directionless existence can be exhausting and make the days feel lacking true purpose. I find in moments like this, leaning into discipline helps get me back on track.

Types of Disciplines

We may have experienced various types of corrective disciplines growing up from our parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, and from ourselves. These punishments to correct disobedience may have worked to some extent, but likely left a sour taste in our mouth. But this does not mean that discipline has to be associated with a negative experience. Corrective discipline is just one of three main types of disciplines. Though often we need corrective measures to form disciplines, there are also two other types of discipline: supportive and preventative

Supportive disciplines help us build our own ability to self-regulate and have self-control. Things like the ability to recognize when we get off tasks and when we are feeling weaker and tempted to abandon our healthy disciplines and habits. Supportive disciplines involved building our self-awareness to take notice of what places, spaces, people, environments, attitudes, and exposures do not support the way we would like to experience ourselves in the world. 

Preventative disciplines serve to keep us engaged and help circumvent the need for corrective discipline measures. When we are experiencing joy and engaging in our world with purpose, we feel empowered to be our best selves. So creating an environment that we want to be in and living in a way that brings us life can help curtail the need for any type of corrective actions. We are simply living in harmony, flow, and know how live out habits and disciplines to create the circumstances that will keep us in this state.

We often have to work from corrective first, and go backwards. After having corrective disciplines in place, we build supportive disciplines, and then when at our highest level of functioning we can maintain by living out our preventative disciplines.

Discipline does not have to be viewed as just a corrective slap on the wrist, or a consequence to our poor actions. It doesn’t not have to be seen as failure or rejection when we implement it. But discipline can be a gentle and loving hand, especially when we serve it to ourselves. It is the quiet whisper accessing in each moment “does doing this bring peace and harmony to my life?” “Does doing this bring vitality to my experience of living?” 

How do we know what disciplines we want to have?

Self-discipline is different than just creating habits or abstaining from things that feel misaligned. It’s defined in Oxford dictionary as “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” And in a world where so much feels out of our control, self-discipline is an incredibly empowering tool.

So how do we know what disciplines to start or practice? You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What are you currently doing that doesn’t bring harmony?
  2. What habits and behaviors do you engage in that no longer serve you?
  3. What things bring you the most peace?
  4. Where are you when you feel most connected to yourself?
  5. What activities make you feel alive?

Only you can know your purest and truest answers to these questions…and you have to be honest with yourself. Dig in deep and get real. The overarching question above all of these is What bring you back to connection? Connection to self, others, and your spirituality.

There is something incredibly empowering about being able to overcome one’s feelings and pursue what feels right in my heart even when surrounded by temptations. For me, self-discipline is the ultimate self-efficacy. “I am capable and in control.” When I behave from my discipline instead of reactively or impulsively, I align to myself. The reward of the discipline is alignment or re-alignment. It’s reconnection to myself. And mostly, it’s the feeling that life isn’t just happening to me, but that I have the power to manage certain outcomes.

Losing versus letting go

When we think of the idea of abstinence or abstaining from something we often correlate this with the idea of missing out or losing out. We perceive the lack as something that produced a void within us. Loss is something that happens to us, letting go is something we actively do. Letting go provides us with the power and control. Letting go involves willingness. It’s a choice, not a happening. Distinguishing the between losing something and letting go of something provides a deep power to support disciplines. I have lost my grandfathers, I let go of my Pilates studio. Neither was easy, but only one was a choice.

When you think of a behavior or something in your life that is no longer serving you do you still view giving it up as losing? If so, change will be harder to come by. Instead of focusing on what you think you’re losing, think about what you gain by letting it go. Also, what parts of yourself are you losing by continuing that habit or behavior? Are losing those parts of yourself greater than the actual loss of that habit or behavior? We need to channel the willingness to let it go, and this starts with developing disciplines. Think of the empowerment that comes from making the choice to let it go in order to serve your higher self. 

What areas in your life could you use some discipline?

Think or write on this question “what area of my life do I feel most disconnected?” This can serve as a great launching point. Some areas for developing self-disciplines may include: physical, mental, spiritual, interpersonal/relational, greater self or purpose. 

Building a discipline can involve actively doing something or actively abstaining from something that misaligns. Start right there. Pick one area that you feel most disconnected. What is one thing you could actively do in order to bring more connection in that area of your life? Establish how frequently you’d like to do that thing. Then, what is one thing that you could abstain from doing that would support you feeling more connected? Work to build supportive disciplines to help you abstain from that. With time and practice before you know it you’ll be in a place of alignment that preventatives disciplines will support your newfound self-discipline in that area of you life. And a deeper connection to self awaits you around the corner, when you are willing to let go. 

Be encouraged

Discipline is difficult. Do not be discouraged. Discipline is not a one-and-done doing. Discipline is the strength to continually choose the habits that support your highest connection to self. It’s an active choice of letting go of that which no longer serves you, and engaging in world in a way that enlivens you most. It makes deep connection possible and invites us to be the purest version of our unique selves. And when you live your life in this deep connection, let me tell you…there’s no amount of losing that I’m afraid of…I’m ready to let it go. 

-Courtney Anne Holcomb

“Discipline is the strength to continually choose the habits that support your highest connection to self.”

Courtney Anne Holcomb (CaH)

Moving in All Directions with Move and Yield**

Four Pilates Exercises for a Healthy Spine

**Adapted from a featured article in Appleton Monthly Magazine April 2018 “Healthy You” Edition.

Joseph Pilates, creator of the Pilates Method of fitness once said, “a man is as young as his spinal column. If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” We spend most of our days sitting, slouching forward, and rarely moving our spines at all, and it’s taking a toll on our bodies—and our posture.

Pilates helps to move the spine in all directions which creates resiliency and flexibility that will keep your body feeling young through your years.

Try these four Pilates exercises to increase your spinal mobility and eliminate stiffness after a long period of sitting. Each one of these exercises moves the spine in a different direction: flexion, roation, side bending, and extension.

As always, make sure you consult your doctor or primary care provider before starting a new exercise program to ensure you are cleared for movement.

Spine Stretch Forward

Set-up:  Sit up tall on your hips with the legs straight and shoulder-width apart.  Flex your ankles and reach your arms forward at shoulder height.

Exercise:  Inhale, and pull your abs in as you slide the shoulder blades forward.  Reach and round through the spine as if you were bending over a fitness ball.  Exhale, draw the shoulder blades back down your back as you roll to sit up tall on your hips.  Repeat 6-8 times. In order to feel the stretch through your back, you must engage your core through the front. Really feel the abdominal wall pulling in and back to maximize the stretch through the backline of your body.

*Pro Tips: Think about elongating the spine forward, rather than “crunching” it forward. How much reach can you feel through the crown of your head?  This exercise stretches the mid and upper back, so keep your hips anchored throughout the exercise (the pressure on the base of the pelvis should not change at all as you perform the movement).

Modification:  If you are unable to sit-up all on your hips, place a soft bend in the knees so you can sit perpendicular to the ground, or prop yourself up on a pillow or book.

Modified Corkscrew

Set-up:  Lay on your back with arms at your side, and extend your legs up to the ceiling at hip-height.  Point through your ankles and actively hold your legs together.

Exercise:  Inhale, swing both legs to the right, allowing the left hip to lift up and off the mat. Continue circling the legs down towards the ground while stabilizing both sides of the pelvic. Exhale, lift the legs back up towards the ceiling allowing the right hip to leave the mat, and return the legs to the starting position.  Reverse the exercise by beginning to the left. Repeat 3-6 times each direction.

*Pro tips: Only let the legs lower toward the ground as much as you can without arching the low back.  Feel for the subtle rotation of the low back as the hip lifts off the mat, keeping the hips level, the hip is lifting, but not hiking towards the ribcage.

Modification:  For more support, allow the arms to be out in a “T” with the palms facing down, or keep the legs bent at a 90 degree angle while performing the exercise.

Side Leg Bananas

Set-up: Lay on your side with your head, shoulders, hips, and heels all in one straight line.  Rest your head on your bicep with your palm facing towards the ceiling. Place your opposite hand palm facing down in front of your chest.

Exercise:  Take an inhale to prepare for the movement. On the exhale, engage your core and lift both legs up and off of the mat.  Feel your top hip move towards your ribcage. Inhale to lower back down, and on the next exhale, keep your legs down and lift your upper body off the mat all the way to the bottom of the shoulder blade using your waistline.  Lower back down and try lifting both upper and lower together on your next exhale. Repeat the whole sequence (lower, upper, both) 2-3 times, then switch to lie on the other side and repeat.

*Pro tips:  Keep the body in one long line from fingers to toes.  Think about pressing your waistline down into the mat to help you stabilize as you lift.

Modification:  Turn the palm of the arm overhead to face the ground and press into it while lifting just the head and legs off of the mat.


Set-up:  Lay on your stomach with the palms facing down right below your shoulders, elbows pointing up.  Legs long behind you in parallel as close together as is comfortable for your low back, kneecaps facing the ground.

Exercise:  Inhale and engage the abs and press into your palms.  Exhale, and slowly begin peeling the spine up and off the mat one vertebra at a time.  Keep the shoulders gliding down your back, and lift only as high as you comfortably can.  Try to feel for even extension through the spine, head is in line with the spine. Inhale at the top, and exhale to slowly lower the spine back down to the mat with control.  Repeat 4-6 times.

*Pro tips:  Keep the low back long and feel for a stretch through the front of your hips.  As you lower back down to the mat, imagine the spine is pressing through the chest to stretch it longer as you lower down.  Try to maintain the shoulders neutral and wide across your back throughout the exercise.

Modification:  Place your hands level with your ears, and only rise as up to your elbows.  Focus on anchoring the pubic bone into the mat the keep the pressure off of your low back.