Yoga, as described in the yoga sutra, is made up of an eight-fold path, each limb is meant to guide us to living a happier, more purposeful life in the now. The second limb of the eight-fold path, niyama, is concerned with discipline – how we treat ourselves (whilst the first one, yama, focuses on how you treat other and the outer world), or begin to cultivate the inner being. These are sometimes called observances, the do’s, or the thou -shalts.
Tapas is the third of the Niyamas and translates to self-discipline, heat or fiery passion. It expands on that feeling you get when you do something you might not want to but you know it’s good for you. The heat that passion creates as it burns away impurities.
All of us will from time to time feel a bit off, unmotivated and lazy, tapas is what helps us keep going and recommitting.
Tapas evokes change and transformation, we stay disciplined and committed to our goal. Breaking habits and not just taking the easiest option, but remember that it is self-discipline and not self-torture.
Putting in a lot of effort and pushing hard might not take you where you want to if you are pushing in the wrong direction, tapas is putting in the right effort.
Tapas in yoga
Because of the fiery nature of tapas, hard sweaty flows usually come to mind when thinking of tapas in your yoga practice, and sometimes this is the case. Sometimes all you need after a day at the office is to move and sweat even though it is the last thing you want to do.
But sometimes, maybe in cases of injury or over working, tapas is to breaking the habit of always pushing hard, taking a step back with a gentler approach.
Some days the most difficult part of the practice is lying still in Savasana, and some days it is the best. Teaching yourself the discipline to stick to your goal whilst also remember the second niyama (Santosha), being content and happy with where you are on you journey.
By listening to and looking after your body you will avoid injuries caused both by being to still and moving too much.
Tapas off your mat
Creating new habits takes time and can sometimes feel tough and it might mean you need to let go off others you have had for a long time.
For example, getting up earlier in the morning so that you have time to make a lunch box might be easy the first days, but one day you wake up and the bed is just so comfy, you went to bed late and you have done so well recently. The excuses seem never ending and that snooze button is so effortlessly easy to click.
Even though you know it saves money and might even be the healthier option, it is hard to stick by. Giving up the habit of having a lie in is hard.
If you know your motivation waiver from time to time, make it easier for yourself by riding the waves. Keeping yourself disciplined by making the harder choices when you feel motivated, for example making lunch the night before or a big batch once a week.
But there is no easy cure, that is the whole point of it so just step out of your comfort zone, allow change to happen, light that fire and keep going one step at a time, trust that you will get there.
This week will ignite that fire in the core with balance, strength and twists and work through the warrior poses to motivate us to stay disciplined and on course with our goals with yoga and other parts of our life.