On this blog I’ve covered the Yamas: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. In review, the Yamas tell students that want to live a yogic life what not to do. The Niyamas remind us what what we should do. The Yamas and Niyamas are listed in the ancient sage Patanjali’s Sutras, under the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
In this post I am going to delve into Tapas.
Tapas at its most literal means heat. It also means purification. It means to bring zeal to your yoga practice, to your life. For some, the hardest part of yoga is getting out the door, and/or onto the mat. It may take Tapas to peel the child off your leg, and honor the promise you made to yourself to get the studio! Another example of Tapas is bringing your very best to each pose. It might mean engaging your core, hugging thigh muscles onto bone during trikonasana, or plank pose. For others it might mean returning to the breath again and again as the mind wanders off during meditation.
Tapas is a form of self-discipline.
It is important to note that tapas should not be used as a tool to feed the ego. Tapas should not become a punishment or a tool to justify self-hatred. Tapas does not mean push yourself to the point of pain or injury or exhaustion. It means do your practice with enthusiasm, and give it your best.
Is there a pose that you hate or avoid? Bring the energy of Tapas to it next time you practice. See if you have a little more in you to give. Is there an attitude you carry around that is adversely affecting you? See if you can work on this during your practice, offer it up for purification, visualize burning it off and letting it go as you move and breathe.
Where in your life are you feeling dense, or sluggish? Where can you give it a little more oomph? Off the mat, how are your relationships? Are you taking them for granted? Tapas might mean doing something fun with your partner or friends to give those relationships a boost of energy. Turning off the phone and having a face to face heart to heart with someone you love might be a form of Tapas.
Are you feeling like eating junk and watching junk TV? Get up off the couch and do six sun salutations with Tapas. Notice your energy change.
Life is a gift. Tapas means don’t just go through the motions. If you are going to do something, put your whole heart into it. Whether it’s mastering a pose like vrischikasana or cleaning the toilet. Give it all you’ve got. Draw from your inner well. Be inspired. Think Tapas.
*photo of Yoga Journey teacher Laura Buchbinder Hedges. Photo credit, her sister, Sarah Jane.