Tapas Nimaya

I was talking about yoga to my friends the other day. They already know how much I am into it, and were quite intrigued about the benefits one’s could get from yoga.

I had to tell the truth: Practice of Yoga won’t turn you onto an ecstatic radiant goddess able to float above the clouds, playing harp and wearing Birkenstock.

It has actually a lot to do with  self -discipline.

It is true that yoga can make you feel more confident, strong, anchored, safe and happier. But all theses promises won’t happen unless you follow a few rules.

The third of Patanjali’s Niyamas is ‘Tapas’, which often translates traditionally as “austerity” or “discipline”. The word Tapas comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means ‘to burn’, and evokes a sense of ‘fiery discipline’ or ‘passion’.

Tapas can mean cultivating a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage in order to burn away ‘impurities’ physically, mentally and emotionally, and paving the way to our true greatness.

Tapas has relevance both on and off the yoga mat.

But starting on your mat, here are seven rules below to help you start  to practice asanas, and get some benefits from it:

Breathe. This is the first step. However it seems obvious that you have to breathe, sometimes, maintaining balance, streaching hard, engaging strength to keep a plank longer … we might have a tendency to hold the breath, or, at the contrary accelerate  it..

But a good deep regular  breathing  is your best friend when difficulty increases. It will help to stay in touch with your body, to keep awareness and focus at the same time. And I am not talking only about the practice of asanas.

Enjoy the slowness   I noticed some teachers having a tendency to go very fast, trying to show how sporty yoga can be. I remember attending a class where a yelling teacher did not realize that the students where not  interested in training for the Olympics.  After a busy day of work, give your body and soul a little rest. Doing things slowly allows a better control of the movements.

Be soft with yourself.  Again, it seems completely obvious. But we might forget that we are living in a world where performance is king, and we might think that more effort, more intensity can make us improve faster.

Sometime, some twisted  poses might make us feel uncomfortable – some unknown muscles are suddenly revealing to us, but the practice of asana should not hurt.  Always carefully warm up, and act responsively with  your body. ‘Discipline’ doesn’t strictly mean pushing ourselves harder in a physical sense. For some, Tapas will mean making time to be still and observing the mind, and for others it will mean working on his strength or balance.

Enjoy sharing. Enjoy being part of a group, but keep your focus. Being part of a group class is motivating, and brings lots of  energy, plus you can meet new friends. Yoga is a personal journey, that you can share, but forget about competing with others.

There always will be someone better than you are. But, hey,  good new!:  Yoga is not about competition. The teacher should always be able to propose some alternatives to each pose based on student  abilities. Having the discipline to practice consistently and the humility to admit when we’re not perfect are both essentials.

Adapt : Instead of cancelling your session, if you are not feeling well, try to attend  the class but do not push yourself more than necessary. You might be tired, sick, stiff and still feel the benefits of the practice. Just choose the options that suits you well but be consistent  in your practice. Tapas is an aspect of the inner wisdom that encourages us to practice even when we don’t feel like it. It’s that fiery passion that makes us get up and do our practice for the love of it, and by committing to this, the impurities are ‘burned’ away.

Be aware of your movements. It is easy to put yourself in an automotic mode. But the benefits might not be the same.

Be confident. Instead of thinking that you might never be able to perform some asanas, surprise yourself. We can do a lot more than we actually think. Just try, and try a little more. If you still cannot make it,  it’s probably because it  was not the right day. You may try again the day after. And another day after. Cultivating a sense of Tapas in our physical practice could mean practicing poses we usually avoid or find difficult.

 

Veronique Blavec.