Swaying and grounding: A lesson on tapas

Swaying with the wind

I have always been a free spirit and am known for following my heart and following my passions. I still stand by it, but admittedly, this way of living has its own sets of challenges. In my 20s, I was explorative, and jumped at new experiences. My heart and my passions meandered, I constantly get distracted by novelty, which means I never stuck at anything long enough or deep enough. I was a classic jack of all trades, master of none. When I left my job two months ago, self doubts creeped in extensively. Someone looked at my resume and asked “What exactly is your skill set?”.

I don’t know. I’ve been swaying with the wind.

And so, it is without coincidence, that the next sway of wind, brought me into the world of yoga and healing.

Learning to ground myself

As I began meeting people in the yoga and healing community in the past two months, I started receiving certain messages.

Kundalini yoga teacher: “Emotional stability is not there. You feel like you are swayed in different directions, work on breath practices to strengthen the root chakra”.

Reiki teacher: “We need to ground ourselves and meditate on your Hara.” (Hara is similar to the area of the Root Chakra)

Note: The Root Chakra is the first Chakra. It is located at the base of the spine, and also around 3 fingers below the belly button. It is related to one’s sense of groundedness, identity, security and stability.


As I started practices on breath work and meditation relating to the root chakra, I am increasingly more comfortable with being by myself, and less susceptible to intense feelings of emptiness. It is still a work in progress but I find myself now contemplating another question – What do I ground myself to?

In my endless questions to Master Sree (my YTT teacher), things became clearer one day, when he introduced us to Niyama (the 2nd limb of Ashtanga) and the concept of Tapas.

What is tapas and what has it got to do with grounding myself?

I was amused when I first heard the name. Then Master Sree clarified that we are not talking about the Spanish tapas.

Not this! (Photo by Malik Skydsgaard: https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-wood-people-unhealthy-12132206/)

Tapas means austerities. 

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


Master Sree further explained, “You need to understand what makes you stronger. Push through all the blocks/ problems gracefully to get to the brighter part of life.” The blocks represent the “impurities” or the things in life that distract or challenge us. For example, family, work, money etc. Navigate through them gracefully to bloom and shine.

The blocks represent the “impurities” or the things in life that distract or challenge us. For example, family, work, money etc. Navigate through them gracefully to bloom and shine.

Upon reflection, I could now see that one of the major blocks in my life is boredom. I need to stop swaying with the wind and jumping into new, novel, interesting things. I need to stop running away from boredom. Instead, I need to say no for a while to what seems more interesting than whatever I need to focus on.

I will learn to put my heart into what I am already doing and doing it really well.