Niyama – Tapas!

Niyama is the second limb of Yoga and it means personal observances which a yogi should follow.

The 5 parts of Niyama are as follow:

  1. Saucha : purity of thoughts
  2. Santosha : contentment and acceptance of the world, oneself and circumstances exactly as they are
  3. Tapas : self-discipline, passion and courage
  4. Swadhyaya : study of the self and the practice of self-reflection
  5. Ishwara-pranidha : surrender of ego

Out of these 5 parts, Tapas left the deepest impression on me and this phrase “Austerities transform impurities!” has became my favourite personal mantra by the end of the training course.

The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn”. Hence, Tapas is interpreted as cultivating a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage in order to burn away physical, mental or emotional ‘impurities’.

When we face challenging situations in a yoga practice, such as a difficult inversion pose or arm balance poses we previously thought was ‘impossible’; remember to calm the mind through breathing and keep on trying. If you can’t achieve the poses today, try it again tomorrow. Have the self-discipline (Tapas) to keep on trying until the poses become comfortable. It is through the practise of Sirsasana (Headstand) that allowed me to have greater awareness about Tapas. Inversion poses have always been my weakness as my body just did not know how to feel comfortable in an inverted position. Through this TTC and with the constant encouragement and tips from my batch mates (thank you all ladies!), I finally managed to perform Sirsasana without a wall. It is still far from perfect but I know I will get there someday, so long I continue to practice.

The self-discipline (Tapas) we learn on the mat can be applied to our daily life too. Some examples are waking up early on every Sunday morning to spend quality time with your family or committing to a “no mobile phone” rule during meals so that you give utmost attention and respect to the person you are having meal with. 

The greatest lessons we had in life often come after persevering through the difficulties. So next time when you feel a little overwhelmed with the challenges in your life, take a breath and remember: “Austerities transform impurities!”