This month at Breathe we will be focusing on tapas, the 3rd of 5 niyamas. The niyamas are actions and attitudes we can practice to promote freedom from suffering and enhance our connection with the outside world. Tapas translates as heat, and refers to the burning off of impurities. This niyama is about tenacity, perseverance, and maintaining an unwavering focus on bettering ourselves no matter how challenging change can be.
One way that heat is produced is by friction, which is another meaning of tapas, the friction generated by going against the grain of habit, of complacency, of doing what’s easiest. Tapas put into practice is physical willingness to face challenges, and a spiritual tenacity to not give into desires, emotions, and any other influences that move us away from our best self. Whether we were consciously aware or not as we began practicing yoga, a yogi is one with the burning desire to stay on the path no matter wether the going is easy or turbulent, mundane or spicy, and especially when the road gets rocky. Practicing tapas, like using a compass, keeps us pointed towards our true north, our truest nature, wholeness.
We invite you to join us in bringing more awareness to the practice of tapas this month (and beyond). Here are a few ways to get started:
— Cultivating a sense of tapas in your physical practice by practicing poses you usually avoid or find difficult with an open mind.
— Move forward courageously on and off the yoga mat.
— Have the courage NOT to listen to the voices in your head that tell you ‘you’re not strong enough’ or ‘not good enough’ to attempt a more demanding pose or go for that new job opportunity. Burn away those ‘impure’ thoughts, and trust yourself and your inner strength.
— Focus on the positive. Nothing burns away negativity as well as a positive outlook.
— Listen to your inner wisdom that encourages you to practice even when you don’t feel like it. Remember how good yoga makes you feel!
— Let go of aggression, intensity is is not the same as austerity, perhaps being still and surrendering as in corpse pose or meditation is the tapas practice du jour.
— Use this mantra: Om agni namaha invoking the transformational fire to invoke positive changes in your life.
I hope this focus on tapas is helpful to you. The purifying power of your inner fire is stoked every time a conscious choice or action is made that supports our greater good. Maybe it’s time to fire up your practice, resist complacent tendencies, and courageously going against the grain. Don’t be afraid of the fire, the heat of our tapas will give us clarity and brightness.