Tapas is often translated to mean discipline, refinement or austerity. It is a self practice that inspires dedication and consistency in life. This can be really challenging, especially in modern life with instant gratification everywhere. As a society, we tend to shy away from that which may be temporarily uncomfortable, even if it does eventually lead to growth, health, wellbeing, etc. We sometimes also glorify those who have been disciplined and determined, only to then put ourselves down before we have even begun.
I have seen this come up a lot recently - for myself, as well as for the people I practice yoga with. In my yoga asana classes, we spent the entire months of January and February discussing different types of meditation: silent, candle gazing, loving kindness, chakra, japa (recitation). When we checked in to talk about our personal meditation practices, many of us (myself included) felt like if we didn't have enough time, if we didn't have the perfect setting, if we felt our mind chattering as soon as we sat in silence, we would not even try to meditate. I think this plays on a common misconception that the practice of yoga, more specifically in this case, dedication to the practice of yoga (and ourselves) is easy. In actuality, it is incredibly challenging. When we do finally take that time to sit in meditation and observe our thoughts, or take a look around at the state of our lives, we are filled with guilt, shame, anger, frustration, sadness and that is really hard to sit with. Tapas does not ignore this fact.
The word Tapas comes from the "TAP" in Sanskrit. "TAP" means to burn. So, Tapas can literally mean the burning up of what no longer serves your path, your life, your dharma (duty this lifetime). In the book Living the Sutras it says, "When we burn - whether it's our thighs burning in Chair Pose or emotional burn out - it hurts. But if we can accept the temporary, short-term discomfort, we build the strength to hold the pose or we melt away the habits that caused our emotional burnout."
When we embody Tapas, we commit to ourselves, to our path and to continued practice. Over time, as we evolve, so does our practice. At the beginning of your practice you may have found that taking a flowing vinyasa class served you best and maybe now you prefer a slow paced yin class that incorporates meditation. Or vice versa! You are growing and changing. The fires of discipline and refinement are guiding you and supporting you so that you may live more fully and find bliss.
Here are a few ideas for how to practice Tapas:
• Write a list of goals for yourself starting at today, then this week, this month, this year, etc.
• Create a routine for yourself. Morning or bedtime is a great place to start!
• Starting a meditation practice one minute at a time.
• Write down what you are ready to release, give thanks for how it served you in the past, then burn or shred the piece of paper.
• Choose one habit that you want to reenforce or one habit that you want to let go of and practice this for thirty days.
Love & Well Wishes Kiara Flowers
REFERENCES: Living the Sutras by Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Bryant The Yogi Assignment by Kino MacGregor The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi