Igniting the tapas within you.

Before attending the 200hour YTT at Tirisula, I would shake my head in disapproval when a class pushes me beyond my abilities. Perhaps it was because I had a bad experience where my upper back ached for half a year after a teacher guided me to sirsasana (headstand) during the 2nd of 10 classes with her. In addition, my academic training and work on mental health also affirmed that it is more important to prioritise mental calmness over physical expression of yoga poses. Despite not being able to execute a proper chaturanga dandasana (four-limb staff pose) after 1.5 years of yoga class, I was satisfied with the relaxation felt after the classes.

I was determined that that was the right way until I got introduced to Ashtanga (“ashtau-anga” or eight-limb) Yoga, where we were guided to integrate both theory and practice during the course of the YTT. As I reflect upon myself, I realise that it is natural to be stronger in certain aspects and weaker in others. For myself, I need more work on the 2nd limb – niyama, particularly on having more tapas. Tapas can be translated as “austerity” and it signifies the fire in us that transforms sluggishness to strength and enlivens the body and mind. As much as my earlier practice has been relaxing and beneficial to me, progress towards higher states of experience is hindered without continous efforts to cleanse our impurities and self-mastery. I believe that one reason behind my decision to take on the YTT is because I feel like I’ve hit a wall with my practice. Through practising, learning and reflecting, my perspective on how asana practice should be has since changed.

In our practice of asanas, the difference between having rigour and torturing ourselves lies in the thoughts we hold amidst difficulties. Imagine yourself climbing up a hill at noon. Do you pay attention to your burning legs and the intense heat or do you focus on the well at the top of the hill, where the water it provides can rejuvenate yourself and others. Either way, you will experience pain in the physical body. But with a paradigm shift, we can appreciate that although pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional.

We can do it! 🙂

Jo-an Ng (200hr YTT weekend batch) – yoga philosophy