The Niyamas are the second of Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga. They are moral codes or social contracts which guide us towards positive behaviour, specifically towards ourselves.
One of the niyamas is the focus of this article, Tapas. Tapas is the heat or energy that a yogi cultivates as they progress toward awareness and wisdom. On the yoga mat, tapas is the heat that is generated in the physical body, the kind that’s needed to keep moving through all those asanas we breathe into. The discipline we learn on the mat is a fantastic lesson to take off the mat and into our everyday lives. When we breathe through challenging situations in a yoga practice, such as a difficult balancing pose, or when we find the strength to lift up into an arm balance we previously thought was ‘impossible’, we can take these lessons with us and learn to be strong when facing challenging life situations. Off the mat, tapas can be translated as sternness or "sticking it out".
This experience of discomfort around "sticking it out" is the heat of tapas. The practice of tapas is learning to stay in the discomfort without succumbing to it. If you can learn to stay in it until it passes or changes—if you can stay in the heat of tapas and learn to harness it—you will be able to transform your negative habits. Rather than giving into a habit - can you sit in the heat of discomfort when you don't fall into that habitual pattern?
The practice of tapas turns up the dial of our attention. It forces us to stay present with the discomfort of choosing not to act on behalf of our ego, attachments, aversions, and fears. Tapas practicing ‘burns’ away those ‘impure’ thoughts, and leads to more self trust and inner strength. Can you stand the heat of discomfort in order to be transformed? In order to move toward inner truth, which means we’re free to experience the world with clarity and vision. Full of vibrant energy, we’re able to see the path we want to take and we have enough willpower and stamina to steadily move forward on that path.
*Come to my Warrior Weekend class this coming Saturday, February 11th to ignite your fire!
Yoga Practice Notes:
*Starting a practice or your morning off with a handful of rounds of Sun Salutation A can build the heat in the body preparing you for the day.
*Building a sequence of practice around the differing poses of Warrior (Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Warrior 3 and so on) can build heat in the body, but also challenge the body and mind to stick out the discomfort in holding the pose.
*Working with core strength is away to tap into that sense of stoking the ‘agni’ or inner fire. The core is where our solar plexus lies, the energy point that directs our sense of self-confidence, inner strength, willpower and self-discipline.
Written by Brooke Halperin
Brooke teaches every Thursday at 6pm at Good Juju Lombard. Be sure to check out Brooke's classes. Book it at goodjujuyoga.com