Home Yoga Practice: Tapas/Discipline

Tapas, or devotion, is a key fire in the engine of our yoga practice.

Applied energy toward positive change – a healthy body and mind-spirit.

Tapas is one of the Niyamas, or ways of personal behavior, in yoga. The Niyamas guide the “what it’s all about.” 

“Tapas is the conscious effort to achieve ultimate union with the Divine and to burn up all desires which stand in the way of this goal.” – BKS Iyengar – Light on Yoga.

He says there are three types of tapas: as it relates to the body, to speech and the mind. Heat in the body as it relates to physical activity is easier to notice as a way to burn off toxicity. But heat in our emotions and thoughts are harder to confront, much less find ways to practice a more healthy and pure way of being in them. Letting go of toxic thoughts and words is hard.

By focusing on tapas as an intention of practice we get to check in our yoga engine. What fuels it? When does it run out of gas? Do we have good, healthy fuel or rely on garbage? Physically and mentally.

What keeps any of us from actually practicing the limbs of yoga without an instructor? What are the obstacles and barriers we believe are in the way and what’s truly in the way?

Do you really need someone to tell you to sit in chair pose for an amount of time? Do you really need someone to tell you when to breathe in and breathe out?

This can be a really challenging, yet rewarding week of practice, revealing some aspects of truth about ourselves, hopefully helping us tap into a level of dedication that rewards us with positive change and growth toward ourselves.

Poses: Sun Salutations, Tree pose, Boat, Bow

(See the video for these poses)

Time: Set an amount of time as a practice of your discipline for the week. 

XX mins for breath practice

XX mins for pose practice

XX mins for reading/study

Breath: Kapalbati

Abdominal breath inhale and a forceful diaphragmatic breath out. You may only be able to do two or three of these without a break and executed properly.

Do not do this if you have seizure disorders, blood pressure issues, optical disorders.

Kundalini spiral exercise

This practice generates core strength and taxes it to keep moving. We sit in lotus or a cross-legged position that’s comfortable for you. Arms out to the sides like cactus arms and start to twist the spine left and right. Feel the coiling of the spinal muscles and the containment of the core muscles to keep the torso solid as it conducts the energy upward and generates the heat of constant twisting. Pause if you get dizzy or light-headed. Notice when you are wishing to quit and why. Notice what’s making you keep going. Feel your core strengthening. Breathe and let the energy flow without restraint.

By nature that tapas is about connecting to the Solar Deities, getting into the solar plexus or center core of our bodies makes sense. Often poses that generate abdominal heat are targeted when we speak of tapas. We get to feel how connected we are to devoted development of our physical source of strength.

Keep a balanced approach to that area of the body however. Everything doesn’t mean pushing things super hard and aggressive.

In fact, much can be learned about tapas by practicing restraint or denial.

“Tapas begins with temporarily or permanently denying ourselves a particular desire – having a satisfying cup of coffee, piece of chocolate, or casual sex. Instead of instant gratification, we choose postponement. Then gradually, postponement can be stepped up to become  complete renunciation of a desire. This kind of challenge to our habit patterns causes a certain degree of frustration in us. We begin to ‘stew in our own juices,’ and this generates psychic energy that can be used to power the process of self-transformation.” – Deeper Dimension of Yoga.

Doing less is hard, for me at least. It’s been a huge part of my journey on the yoga mat, after I singed myself with doing so much excess.

“Tap into your fire without burning yourselves” – Belinda

“Are you practicing or punishing yourselves?” – Belinda

These are mantras that have grown from my practice and that I’ve shared as a teacher. Stepping back and doing a lighter practice or a slow practice or a Yin practice with just one pose, offers tons to learn about the urges that roar just beneath the surface

As we slow down we really get to notice what the struggle really is.

“Yoga citta vrtti niroda” – Yoga sutras 1:2 

Yoga quiets the chattering mind. 

If denying yourself excess on the mat is too hard, maybe incorporate tapas in your diet this week. Cut something out (brahmacharya – abstaining). Cut back on some sugar, coffee…. Netflix! And see what happens in your mind and body and words and emotions. (Can’t wait to hear how this goes!)

Now, let’s add some time for study. 

Pick something you want to read. I recommend reading more than watching a video. We retain and absorb knowledge differently with reading.

Maybe there’s a book you’ve always wanted to read.

Maybe there’s a ton on your shelves you’ve never cracked open (I’m raising my own hand here).

Commit to reading a page or maybe simply a paragraph a day.

Add this as an element of practice that you assign an amount of time to, do and observe/journal about.

It can be about tapas/discipline or some other aspect about yoga. 

Lastly, remember to check in with your guide/teacher. Ask questions about what you’re practicing. Share what you’re noticing. Ask for more readings or guidance.

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