Tapas, bitches! That’s what we say (and wear) with conviction. Build heat, purify and transform! Without tapas, you ain’t got nothing going on. Yoga is like alchemy – The heat (energetic and physical) created through austerities, practicing pranayama, asanas, bandhas etc., takes what is blah and makes it ALIVE again – vibrant, radiant and pure like gold! Tapas, the third niyama brings so much power to your practice. To make change, you must have the right amount of discipline and will-power balanced with surrender and acceptance. Discipline is not only essential to garnering tapas but it is also the result. Of course, if you were fine and complacent with the status quo, you wouldn’t have a serious practice (and you probably wouldn’t care about some novice’s yoga blog). But most people do want to grow, progress, “improve” themselves, deepen, learn etc., etc., and to do this – you must befriend tapas! Of course, this is not always easy! Fasting…waking up early….cold showers….hard practice….long meditations…intense self-reflection…challenging pranayama…cutting out lots of fun vices….eating/sleeping/breathing/living yoga??? Yikes. Some parts are easier than others (for example, for me… the fasting? FORGET IT). And also it’s important to remember that some of these actions/practices are more relevant at certain times than others. For everything there is a time and a place – so let us pray for the discernment and awareness to recognize this.
In Richard Freeman’s new book The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of the Body and Mind, he writes:
“[Tapas] is not necessarily a physical heat; it is a metaphorical burning, an awakening to what is really happening within the mind or the perceptions. When people first experience tapas, there is often a sense of discomfort, a desire to squirm away from the situation because it is so authentic; it is as if the border of life is being eaten away by fire. But if we stick with the observational practice, if we do not run away when we reach the juncture where tapas first arises, the we can gain an incredible insight into the fact that all this do change.”
So wherever you are on your path, in your practice, honor yourself and honor the progression of your practice by bringing your awareness to tapas. Connect with your inner fire. Tend that fire. Embrace the discipline and pledge to yourself to stand firm, unmovable by the discomfort and fear that so often arises. Dedicate your energy and your heart to your growth. Be courageous. Be strong. Be subtle too. Observe carefully and always remember in the wise, irreverent words of Jack Black of Tenacious D: “You’re not hard-core unless you live hard-core… and the rent is so hard-core!!!”
Blessings to all. Burn bright!
And do take a moment to check out our Etsy page of yoga-inspired organic cotton and bamboo t-shirts.