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Tapas

Updated: Apr 17, 2023



Speaking about the necessary discipline for Yoga, the concept of "Tapas" arose. I decided to make this the theme of the month, because I love this concept.

Many times advances in our practices are not directly reflected in the physical aspect but in the acquisition of new habits and in the correction of old and not so convenient routines. Sometimes I receive a little message from you after class telling me "I felt tired but I decided to do the class the same and now I feel less tired than before I started": this is a clear example of the ability to prepare ourselves to do the work even though the mind is distracted and then reap the great benefits for doing it.


ORIGIN OF TAPAS

The term tapas is often translated as “discipline”. Literally, it comes from the root "tap", which in Sanskrit means "to heat" evoking the meaning of desire or passion.


In the yogi tradition, 'Tapas' is the 4th NIYAMA (ethical concepts to follow in Yoga) and at the same time the Niyamas constitute the 2nd step of the 8 steps described in the book "Yoga Sutras" by the sage Patanjali, to achieve the self-realization. Here we take as self-realization any objective that we have settled : perhaps it is to seek peace of mind, balance or health. Anyone of there; Tapas is the essential transformation tool to meet your goal.

Discipline and willpower are qualities of tapas: Every time you carry out something that you have proposed and that meant effort, you manage to control the tendencies of the mind and body. Observe that every time you resign for reasons that depend exclusively on yourself, your confidence decreases. On the contrary, fulfilling your commitment to yourself generates an enormous amount of energy that can boost your personal development process.


FIRE


Tapas is related to the fire element. In yoga, fire is a symbol of transformation; It is what moves and drives the progress of the human being.

The essence of fire is to burn all physical impurities (toxins), habit patterns, and impressions in the subconscious (samskaras) that prevent you from moving on your path, and expressing your true potential.

Tapas involves making use of the inner fire to eliminate or "burn" all obstacles that prevent you from fulfilling a purpose. It is important to remember that when practicing Yoga, we always try to do it with a transcendental character, which really helps us to become a better version of ourselves, for ourselves and for those around us.


You may wonder where this fire comes from, where does it originate? This is where the concept of "Agni" comes into play. Agni is the ability to process and digest not only on a physical level (eg: digestion / metabolism) but also on a mental, emotional and spiritual level (intuition, connection with a higher energy)


It is important to note that all these positive connotations can have their negative side if this fire is not dosed, uncontrolled fire is a great destroyer. Excess fire (in Ayurveda we would say excess Pitta dosha), can destroy the body and make the body sick. Inflammation, acne problems, liver poisoning and diarrhea are often indicators of excess Pitta.


AUSTERITY


Tapas also means "Austerity": in this case "Austerity" is not only the renunciation of the materialistic world, it is also a burning passion to find a state beyond the impermanent, beyond suffering. The one who practices tapas recognizes that the continuous search for pleasure and material possessions usually gets in the way of the unconditioned.


But true austerity is a state of consciousness, not just a mere abandonment of the material. It is not a state of mind of renunciation of abundance, but a silencing of all noise, creating space to let the depth of who we are manifest, beyond personal identity with our ego.


TAKING IT INTO PRACTICE

To quote the Yogas Sutras again "For our practice to be successful, it has to be permanent ". Many of us will be able to recognize that continuous and uninterrupted practice has two enemies: our daily obligations and -another that we already mentioned- our own inertias, routines and attachments. All this can lead us to establish a practice with great enthusiasm but it becomes very difficult to sustain it over time.


Try to find your Tapas: that which turns you on.

Follow that passion, trust and commit to fulfill it. And when you feel that it "burns" or conditions you too much, take a break. Breathe and reflect if you are too intense.

Remember that Yoga proposes above all things self-acceptance as a tool for growth and improvement.

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