Tapas, defined as the “concentration of the spiritual willforce”, means to burn. It refers to the heat created from intense discipline, and is one of the Niyamas from the second limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed tree of yoga.
Physical Tapas – Likened to heating up base metal to refine gold from ore, the body softens in the Suryanamaskar practice, becoming malleable and open, therefore unlocking safely. Burning off physical toxins in a process of physical tapas, perspiration strains off impurities through the largest organ of elimination, the skin.
Mental Tapas – Focused attention on the breath, posture and gaze helps the mind to shift from the conscious to the sub-conscious realm, in a process of mental tapas. Through sustained concentration on the breath, psychic toxins are released, and swadhaya (self-observation) is cultivated.
Spiritual Tapas – In a process of spiritual tapas, we begin to “pierce the veil” of maya, illusion, removing the poison of conditioned existence, by surrendering to a journey from ego to soul, as referred to in the following mantra.
Vande gurunam caranaravinde
sandarsita swatma suhkava bodhe
nih sreyase jangalikayamane
samsara halahala mohasantyai.
abahu purusakaram sankhacakrasi dharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam pranamami patanjalim.
I bow to the lotus feet of the Gurus
The awakening happiness of one’s own Self revealed,
Beyond better, acting like a Jungle physician,
Pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.
Taking the form of a man to the shoulders, holding a conch, a discus, and a sword,
One thousands white heads to Patanjali, I salute.