May: Tapas – Self-Discipline
Tapas is one of the most powerful concepts in the Yoga Sutra. The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn”. Tapas refers to the burning off of impurities. To rid the body of toxins and our minds & hearts of impurities. We are cleaning the slate and emerging in a more pure state with Tapas. It’s the fervor of striving to be the best you can, a practice of self-discipline, but not self-torture.
Tapas is tempered by self-study. Sometimes tapas may be a super sweaty Vinaysa class and other days, it’s simply getting up and onto the mat and see where the practice takes you, even if that’s to a quiet restorative place. Tapas is the focus that’s required to remain centered with your breath and stay with whatever arises. It’s the willingness to do what is necessary to reach a goal with both mental and physical discipline. This may be when we move into places of heat or cold, discomforts or challenges of postures, silent meditation & ritual fasts.
The pursuit of a daily yoga practice & enthusiasm for spiritual path is tapas in action. Joyfulness from this outer discipline leads to inner discipline.
Tapas in practice:
- Step into a practice that contains an element of difficulty for you. This may be a sweaty class, this might be a restorative class, it might be a guided meditation. If every practice is too easy, it may lose the gift of teaching us the depths of the Self.
- Dedicate yourself to practicing yoga with great frequency, maybe every day this month. Whether it’s a physical practice, 5 minutes of meditation, or even 2 minutes of focused, purposeful breath.
- Eat like a yogi. Changing food habits is never easy, but a great cleansing opportunity this month and to move your practice of tapas off the mat. You may find this fuels your fire more on the mat!
- Be watchful of your thoughts both on and off the mat. Use positive thinking to develop the grit it takes to retrain patterns of the mind.