tapas in a home practice


stoking the yogic fire

I’m one hundred percent sure the boss, Bruce Springsteen, was not talking about yoga in the song “Dancing in the Dark.” Yoga was probably the furthest thing from his mind when he wrote and recorded that song, but the lyrics could definitely relate to yoga. One day I was taking a walk and this song came on. Over my earbuds the lyrics, “you can’t start a fire without a spark” resonated with me. I automatically thought of the Niyama, tapas. Tapas is best described by Iyengar in Light on Yoga as “a burning effort under all circumstances to achieve a definite goal in life…to achieve ultimate union with the Divine and to burn up all desires which stand in the way of this goal.” (38) I like to think of tapas as heat, fire, zeal for something so strong that nothing can stand in your way.

What fire or tapas is Springsteen talking about in his song? Maybe it is trying to find a fire for a new life or maybe rekindling a fire in the realm of a romance. Both are great examples of tapas. Yoga can help you find passion in life, rekindle a romance, or anything else you can imagine (whether it is in a Springsteen song or not). As I kept singing “you can’t start a fire without a spark” I constantly thought about a home yoga practice. Home yoga practices are the most difficult part of being a yoga teacher or devout yogi. They are filled with distractions: animal kisses, cell phones, garbage trucks, traffic, etc.

Home yoga practices are also easy to brush off. “Oh, I’ll do it later”, “after I do the laundry, I’ll get on my mat,” “when my baby goes to sleep” or whatever other excuse you can come up with that can easily distract you from your yoga practice. This is where an aspect of tapas comes in. We have to be on fire for yoga. We have to be on fire for all that yoga gives us, the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. Over time our spark can dim with the grudge and sludge of everyday life. But we have to be mindful of tapas and overcome those distractions. What starts or stokes our personal yoga fire? Iyengar suggests words that embody ahimsa (non harming), being truthful, finding a balance between hope and joy, positive attitudes, being in control of yourself. How about sharing your story and listening to your fellow yogis? How about just getting on your mat even if you don’t practice asana and just think about what yoga gives you or just being grateful for yoga and what made you go down this yogic path.

Stoke that fire for your home practice and no longer will you be dancing in the dark. You will be illuminated. Your home practice will shine bright and what you find on the way from pose to pose will light your life. When you burn for your home practice you burn for life.