A Core Practice of Yoga: Tapas
For those of us here in Florida, August is one of the hottest, if not THE hottest, times of the year. With temperatures climbing to their peak, now is the perfect time for us to explore one of the core practices of yoga: Tapas! As you might have guessed, we’re not talking about tasty dishes served on tiny plates for your dining pleasure; nope, we’re talking heat!
In Sanskrit, Tapas translates as heat or discipline, and refers to a purification process. Over the past year and a half, we’ve all experienced, and might still be experiencing, 2020-induced stress and anxiety. This emotional pain has generated not only unhealthy habits but also physical distress and disease. Tapas is a path towards health and well-being, releasing what is no longer serving you. Tapas refers to the heat generated during our efforts towards ridding our minds, bodies, and hearts of toxins. In the practice of creating discipline in our lives, this heat we are feeling in the purification process is the product of the friction generated when we go against the grain.
Attending a warm vinyasa class creates intense heat for most of us; the room is warm, the movements are breath-based and the holds can be long. It’s something that we don’t necessarily WANT to do, but we know it’s a practice that does us good. Hence, we are disciplining ourselves and practicing more than yoga poses, we’re engaging in Tapas.
Someone well-versed in a rigorous asana flow might have a very different experience. They feel the physical heat naturally generated with such movement, but they are not necessarily burning through impurities on a more subtle level. They are not going against the grain and therefore not experiencing Tapas. However, when that same person sits up to engage in meditation, chances are they will be generating some heat during this practice. The discipline comes in through the effort of staying seated, even when the mind is protesting loudly. In this second case, the practice of Tapas is not during a physical asana practice; instead, it’s simply staying seated on the meditation pillow.
On the other hand, our first person might come to their meditation practice and experience a state of calm and deep peace without feeling any resistance whatsoever. Still, in a warm vinyasa class, this person might be bumping up against all kinds of toxins, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, and experiencing intense Tapas.
So, what will you start recognizing in your practice, both on the mat and off? Are you bailing when things start getting hot? The invitation here is to begin to notice where and when you feel that internal resistance and, in the process of forming new and helpful habits, feel the burn!
Are you feeling the calling and ready to experience some serious Tapas? Ready to learn more about the ancient teachings of yoga and spread the Love? Our next Yoga Alliance Certified 200 Hour TrueForm YTT is coming up in October! Head on over to the training tab of our website and get your application submitted <3