The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney

NIYAMAS - TAPAS

Tapas is the third of the Niyamas, representing the element of self-discipline.

Tapas can be translated as a burning, in which we can look at is as burning away of impurities within the mind and body to help us unearth the truest version of ourselves. 

Tapas is that inner fire that fuels our enthusiasm and passion to become better. When we are disciplined enough to go to bed early so that we can feel energized and ready to practice in the morning that is Tapas. Simply choosing a healthy snack like a fruit instead of a bag of chips can be viewed as tapas. Anytime we are working diligently and passionately towards something positive we are experiencing Tapas. 

Looking at Tapas in relation to your personal yoga practice is pretty straightforward. Using your body’s ability to “burn” away impurities through the poses can indirectly help you to burn away mental impurities as well. 

-Have you ever had a practice where you have felt focused and energized through all of the movements?

-A practice where the patience and discipline to work through an asana (one that continually proves challenging to you) has led you to feel stronger and more confident within the pose? 

-A practice where you’ve arrived at savasana to find that your mind and body have been washed clean of tension and you can rest blissfully for a few moments?

 All of that is Tapas! 

Experiencing Tapas on your mat is, in my opinion, one of the best experiences to help you during situations that can then arise in the real world. By using self-discipline and passion in our yoga practices we can begin to feel the positive effects of tuning into our breath and remaining fully present. Our yoga practice allows us to quiet those negative thoughts that tend to surface in our mind. We have all experienced that internal voice that can discourage us from taking risks, challenging ourselves and pushing towards accomplishing new goals and endeavors. Yoga helps us to burn through that mental negativity and challenges ourselves, even if it takes countless attempts. This so-called “burning” relates to the element of fire, also known as the element of transformation. When we approach things that take us out of our self-enforced comfort zones we have the option to either take a step back in self-doubt or to step forward in self-confidence. 

This month I encourage you, both on and off your mat, to look at challenges as an opportunity to harness your inner fire and burn off anything that doesn’t serve you in your quest for change!