As a quick review, last year I started a discussion on the eight-limbed path of yoga from the Yoga Sutras starting with the five tenants of the yamas, or the way we interact with the world. My first post focused on ahimsa (non-violence), followed by satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (moderation, celibacy), and finally aparigraha (non-hoarding, greedless-ness). I then moved on to the niyamas, or how we interact with ourselves, starting first with saucha (purity, clairty) and then to santosha (contentment).
Now, I find it semi-ironic (and I hope you do too) that I left off with my examination of the Yoga Sutras with the niyama tapas, meaning austerity, commitment and self-discipline. But what's a girl to do other than to pick up right where I left off and continue on.
"kayedriya siddhir ashuddhi ksayat tapasah" -YS, 2.43
The willingness to do what is necessary to reach a goal with discipline and commitment.
The direct meaning of tapas is to burn. When we think of tapas in this light, we imagine our practice is burning away the layers of ignorance, bringing us closer to self-realization. And while that's true to some extent, tapas is also commitment to the practice and self-discipline. Sure, you can endure a difficult yoga practice, but if you only happen upon the class once every few weeks, you're not creating discipline around your practice to really burn through anything. Rather, you should aim to incorporate yoga practice (whether formally or informally) into your daily routine and the only way to do that is with self-discipline. Some days you may not want to get up and do asana or meditate, but you do it anyway, modifying the practice fit your needs at that moment. You don't deter away from practice because you just don't feel like it, instead, you embrace the practice as a means to overcome and burn through the obstacle in front of you (which if we're being honest here, is usually yourself anyway).
On her website Judith Hanson Lasater explains:
"Another way to understand tapas is to think of it as consistency. One of the highest disciplines is that of consistency: getting on the yoga mat every day, sitting on the meditation cushion every day, observing the antics of the mind every day, forgiving your mate or your child yet another time. If tapas is considered in this vein, then it becomes a more subtle practice, a practice that is concerned with the quality of life and relationships, not just with outlasting some difficulty."
Consistency in practice is hard, but by bringing joyfulness to your outer discipline you develop your inner discipline, such as the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind (yogash chitta vritti nirodhah, YS 1.2). Nowadays it feels like there is never enough time to do anything, however, if you want to make progress in your yoga practice, then you have to find ways to do it every day. Consistency is key and there are a plethora of ways to incorporate practice into your daily routine. If you steer away from your routine, you find a way to make it happen again. Doing so will remind you why you started coming to your mat in the first place. Consistent practice is difficult, but in time and with commitment and self-discipline you will cultivate a joyful attitude toward practice and come closer to your goals.
I am trying to incorporate tapas into my writing as well as yoga practice. In what other areas of your life can you incorporate tapas? What is your take on tapas? How do you keep consistent with practice?