There was a period of time last year when I practiced yoga everyday straight for three months. Now, these weren’t 90-minute power classes …
I attended one class a week because I enjoyed the connection and energy of the other students and the teacher. The other 6 days I practiced at home. I aimed for a half hour practice. But sometimes it was only 10 minutes.
Although often short, the consistent practices made a difference. I noticed changes in my physical body. I became more flexible, stronger, less tense. I also noticed changes in my mental outlook. I felt more confident and a little less susceptible to what was going on around me. (I could practice yoga even as my boys played full out, animated and loud, on their x-box!)
What is tapas?
In yoga, tapas is about fiery discipline. Tapas comes from the Sanskrit word “tap” which means, “to burn.” Traditionally, tapas is viewed as a commitment to burning away obstacles that are in the way of a yogic state (union of body, mind and spirit). More generally, it is the willingness to do what it takes to reach a goal. In other words, discipline.
Remember, discipline does not equal difficulty. You don’t need to achieve some crazy, twisty posture to become more “yogic.” It is not about pushing yourself as hard as you can in a physical sense. Taking a step forward, no matter how big or small, is enough.
To affect any type of change, you have to constantly commit and recommit.
Think of tapas as consistency in doing the work needed to reach your goals. This could be consistency in getting on your yoga mat or to your meditation cushion every day. It could mean consistently choosing healthy, whole foods in order to lose weight or get healthy. This view of tapas is more subtle yet still transformative. It is a constant practice that improves the quality of your life.
Do the work. Sometimes it’s boring or you don’t feel like it. But Tapas is about getting on the mat anyway and doing what you need to do to honour your commitment.
Tapas requires focus.
To train with purpose, you need to cut through distractions and bring your attention to the present moment. Bring your awareness to your practice. Following your breath helps.
Pause and make conscious choices often – in all areas of your life. The more consistently you practice something, the better you become at staying present.
Be the pose 😉
Bring mindfulness and joy to your practice.
Tapas isn’t all serious and somber. Imagine an internal flame that motivates you. It gets your heart pumping and fuels your passion for personal growth. It reminds you how much you love yoga and life. It is exciting!
When you apply tapas to yoga, you open up to a whole new level of practice. You become less mechanical. You practice more mindfully and with a determined effort to affect change.
This time of year is all about renewal for me. I know, it’s a month earlier than most … But it is now that I feel the urge to set goals, get on track with healthy habits and make changes in my life. This month I am going to renew my commitment to a daily yoga practice. I have chatted a bit before about how I make a home yoga practice work for me: Find Your “Why” and Make a Plan.
Is there anything that you would like to practice with focused discipline?
Is there some area of your life where you would like to make a change? Commit this week to one small change and bring it on with focused discipline. Commit yourself to the fire of tapas. Keep it burning and let it fuel a consistent practice. It may just be transformational.