challenge yourself with tapas

Tapas is one of the Niyamas, which is the second limb of Ashtanga Yoga in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.  The Niyamas are a list of recommended observances which we use to
establish positive inner attitudes. 

Tapas literally means “to heat or to burn” and its significance in yoga is to cultivate a “burning desire” to evolve on the path of yoga.  It’s nurturing discipline and inner strength to use our own will-power to do what is necessary to make the changes in ourselves in which we know will stimulate our personal growth.

There are so many distractions and obstacles in our contemporary lives that it can be demanding to maintain a regular asana practice.

Work commitments, family duties, enjoying time with friends and “lazy” time are all important aspects of a balanced life.  However, the key word here is “balanced” and so often we are pulled out of balance by allowing ourselves to let our work, family, social time, TV or even FB take over. 

We become too busy to do hatha yoga.  In fact, there is an idea of self-importance attached to this state of “busy-ness”.  We feel that if we have “important” things to do then we are
important.  It is a good idea to reflect on what we actually spend our time on every so often to see if we are really so busy with the things we want to be busy with in our precious life.

After working in the fashion industry for many years, I learned that every person in any job is replaceable.  Even those initially loved new talents get trampled by the new next best thing.  Or, the years of service of a loyal and competent employee can be totally forgotten.

When a new boss takes over and comes with their own fresh and inspired team.  It’s sad to see someone who has attached their whole self-worth to their job to find themselves no longer appreciated.

Same with family, and I personally believe in the importance of developing a well-balanced relationship with one’s family, however, at the same time you need to have time “off” to bring yourself inside and reflect.  Otherwise it’s hard to truly be present in these principle relationships.  When you are needed, your body may be there but are YOU really there?

We are social beings and having a circle of friends is essential.  Although, just as with one’s family, we need to be sure that we are truly present for our friends.  And on a side note, we should cultivate friendships that nourish us, not friendships that deplete us.

Lastly, what I like to call “lazy” time.  Don’t confuse it with being a lazy person.  I mean time that we have to re-charge.  Reading an inspiring book, watching a movie, staying in bed late on a Sunday morning, baking or cooking or whatever you find nourishing.  Just be aware of quick fixes!  Analyze if your “lazy” time is renewing your energy or draining it (for example mindless television, internet surfing and virtual social connections). 

There are few things capable of nourishing the body, mind and spirit as efficiently as yoga (all the forms of yoga; meditation, pranayama, asana, mantra, etc.).  No one can do the yoga for you, only you can get yourself up and on your yoga mat and do it.  Teachers will guide and inspire you to do the work but in the end the work must be done by you.  Consistently and over a long, long time.

I can guarantee you that if the work of yoga is done with a burning desire for self-growth and transformation you will succeed!  The magical thing about hatha yoga is that when practiced with that strong, burning inner desire to progress on the path, all other aspects of your life will be affected and improved!!  Therefore, every time you step on your yoga mat and do your practice you are learning to be more focused at your work, more present with your family and friends, more discriminative on how you spend your free time, more compassionate and loving towards yourself and healthier in the physical body, calmer in the mental and emotional bodies and able to find more balance in contemporary life!

After all these years of studying and teaching Ashtanga, the practice never ceases to amaze me!  You only have to do it!

“Practice and all is coming.”  ~ Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois

“Yoga is Balance.” ~The Bhagavad Gita

“From Tapas, on account of the dwindling of impurity, perfection of the body and the senses comes about.”  ~The Yoga Sutra