The translation of tapas, the second niyama, is literally to heat or burn, by way of practicing discipline or austerity. This can sound a bit daunting or inaccessible at first, but it doesn’t have to be.
Tapas is about adding little elements of “discipline” to one’s routine, which is key to getting the mind on the right track, and breaking down all the harmful thought patterns that can plague us, creating unhappiness or depression. The disciplines you add to your life can be simple. Carving time out to exercise daily; practicing yoga, meditation, mindfulness and eating healthily.
Jennifer Schmid, who lives and teaches at the Ananda Ashram in upstate New York says, “it’s through having a focused effort of self-discipline – be it asana, meditation, or mindfulness – that we purify the mind of impurities, habits and patterns that are no longer serving us. When these impurities are burned away we begin to see the world as it is, rather than a projection of what we think it is.”
In other words, it’s when we burn through our crutches (overeating, over-drinking, negative thinking), that we can be freer, and more in touch with the universe, ourselves, and those around us.
Because it has such an intensely fiery connotation sometimes tapas or discipline is mistakenly equated with difficulty, which isn’t necessarily the case.
Tapas can be a challenging asana practice, but it can also be the self-discipline to simply get yourself onto the mat and see where the practice takes you, even if that’s to a few quiet restorative poses. It’s the effort involved in getting onto the meditation cushion, or the focus that’s required to remain centered with your breath and stay with what arises when holding a yoga pose.
It’s important to look behind us to the steps just taken on the eight-step path of yoga delineated in the Yoga Sutras to bring our practice of tapas into balance and harmony.
We can temper the fiery discipline of tapas with the first yama: ahimsa or nonviolence. In so doing, we don’t allow our zealous energy to intensify into self-aggression or abuse. We take a kind, thoughtful and compassionate approach to our exertion.
When the fire of tapas burns too brightly, we might push ourselves so hard that we become vulnerable to physical injury or mental self-aggression. We can lower the flame by remembering the second niyama: santosha or contentment.
We remind ourselves that at the same time that we push ourselves and strive to achieve our goals, we can also live fully in this moment and be happy with whatever it holds, here and now.
When we practice tapas in conjunction with the earlier yamas and niyamas, we balance our effort with compassion and our discipline with benevolence. We can work tirelessly towards our goals while still keeping our eyes open to the beauty that we find along the way.
Morning Meditation For Positivity
A morning meditation to begin your day with intention, and bring in fresh new energy, vitality and positivity, gently lighting the fire of tapas and intention to support you throughout the day.
Commitment & Motivation Guided Reflection
When we have a strong motivation to bring mindfulness into our daily life then we will practice. This short meditation helps to cultivate and deepen our aspirations, and stokes the fire of tapas. At the end of this meditation is your journal prompt 🙂
Questions Asked in the Above Meditation
- What is my motivation or purpose in doing this mindfulness training?
- How do I hope to benefit from doing this mindfulness training?
- How do I want mindfulness to change the way that I live my life?
- How do I wish my mindfulness practice to benefit the people in my life and in the world?
- What are my deepest hopes and aspirations in bringing mindfulness into my daily life?
- How can I express these hopes and aspirations in a personal vision which communicates my wholehearted intention?
For your journal feel free to explore one or two of these questions…
Practice with me this Thursday from 7-8pm PST in our virtual studio! Feel free to let me know if you have any requests 🙂
Here’s the link for our livestream yoga class https://zoom.us/j/822123822
And here’s the recording!