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Austerity…yikes!  This word might bring to mind all sorts of things you’ve heard about extreme yoga like fasting, hours of yoga practice, celibacy to name a few.  However, Tapas also translates as heat, fire, light or discipline.

“…refers to the psychic energy generated by the voluntary practice of disciplines which purify the body and mind and generate spiritual radiance.”  ~Swami Kripalu

Traditionally, Tapas was considered friction that is generated by our opposing habits.  Kind of like velcro.  When you pull apart the pieces there is a lot of friction.

However, Tapas is really about discipline to build character or increase our vitality.  It’s a practical action towards an end.  For example, say you want to run the Jemez50.  Your training is Tapas – it’s a discipline to achieve a goal.

When we practice yoga, we practice Tapas.  In our yoga practice, Tapas is about

  • Staying in the present with all that you feel, even if it’s uncomfortable
  • Concentration, mental stillness, and physical stability for a successful practice
  • Willingness to practice discipline to achieve your goals

Some questions you might ask yourself when contemplating Tapas include:

  • Do I keep my commitments to myself and others?
  • Do I practice my yoga on and off the mat?

Tapas is about personal growth and sometimes personal growth is difficult.  Think of all the habits you have changed or tried to change over the years.  It’s not easy.  Changing habits requires patience, diligence, and discipline.  Every time we come up against ourselves or “heat” we move toward our goal and start to burn away what we don’t need or what no longer serves us.

The practice of Tapas helps us to become resilient.  What are you trying to change these days? Where are you practicing Tapas in your life?