TAPAS – Heat, Discipline, Inner Radiance
Tapas in Sanskrit means ‘heat’. It refers to the fire of discipline or austerities – focused effort leading towards purification and spiritual awakening.
Tapas is one of the Niyamas (ethical or self-restraints) in Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. The Niyamas provide a way of working with the inner self to build integrity and enhance our relationship to ourselves, others and life.
Together, the 5 Yamas (moral restraints) and the 5 Niyamas (ethical restraints) comprise the fundamental principles of being, action and attitude that form the basis of Yoga – a practice that brings us into union, integration and harmony with ourselves and the universe.
Tapas teaches us about the power and benefits of self-discipline, commitment and perseverance. Tapas is the fire that fuels us into action and burns away impurities. Through the practice of Tapas, we discover our natural inner radiance and enthusiasm. The body, the mind, and the spirit becomes clear and radiant. It is so essential that B.K.S. Iyengar says that, “A life without tapas is like a heart without love.”
Traditionally, yogis practiced ‘tapasya’ – a practice chosen with a particular purpose, practiced daily with great focus and commitment for a certain length of time, for a certain period of days, weeks, or years.
So as winter comes and we feel the tendency to slow or hide away under our doonas, let this be an opportunity to stoke your inner fire through the practice of tapas. With your inner wisdom, choose any practice (eg. 10 sun salutations per day, 5 yoga classes per week, 20 minutes of meditation) that you feel will benefit you the most and that is realistically achievable, a period of time that you will practice it for, and GO FOR IT. Commit with your inner fire, and don’t forget to cultivate your joy for the practice – especially when you find yourself dragging yourself out of bed at 5am on a cold wintery morning!
The beauty about tapas, is that if even if we work with tapas in one area of our lives or our yoga practice, we find the benefits start to extend to all other areas. And not only that, but the benefits also begin to extend to those around us.
As the Yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein says, “Genuine tapas makes us shine like the sun. Then we can be a source of warmth, comfort and strength for others.”
Have fun discovering your tapas – and see here for some upcoming workshops and courses to help build your inspiration, commitment, dedication!