Tapas—Disciplining Ourselves through Fire

Speaking from an imaginative, constantly-changing-her-schedule girl, discipline is hard. Working through goals all the way to the finish line is next to impossible, naturally, for me. If I need something done, it requires a lot of motivation—sometimes more motivation than I’m willing to give. I would much rather daydream all day and get lost in my thoughts than get things done. However, life is such that I have to find that determination to finish things somewhere—and I do this through the understanding of tapas: a niyama, one of the eight limbs of yoga.


To start—the explanation. The eight limbs of yoga is an ancient yoga philosophy that lays down the key to a more content, disciplined, and balanced life. The niyamas, the limb that tapas falls under, is all about self-care and self-observances; basically, our attitude towards our own selves. Tapas is about heating up the body; it is purification through self-discipline.


Knowing this, how do we find tapas within the body? During my own yoga practice, the hardest part, the part that uses up the most of my energy, is working through the difficult poses. These are poses like Side Plank and Warrior Two that my body tends to shy away from simply because they are so much work for me. However, yoga teaches me the discipline of holding poses and calming my mind within them, so that when I release the asana, my body thanks me—and I have the simple pleasure of knowing that my body is now stronger. These poses that work our bodies heat up our insides—and the discipline we use holding these poses, or even flowing for longer periods of time within our practice, generates that heat and light within the body, purifying us from the dreaded (but oh so easy to find) laziness that can eat up our motivation. When we purify our bodies through hard work, through tapas, it becomes more familiar finding that same purification and motivation within our own daily lives.


What is one thing that you have trouble with in your own life, in regards to discipline? Mine is taking the time to sit down and write—blog posts, worksheets, and my own short stories and novel. It takes effort to sit down and accomplish something. What is yours? Once you’ve chosen something, before you do anything else, go practice some yoga. Carve time out of your day. And then when you get into those difficult poses, or those difficult flows, notice how your body reacts. Discipline yourself. And then take what you’ve learned on your mat and apply it. How did you feel in twisting chair today? Did you stay for longer this time? Did the teacher help you find a way to twist deeper? Take that and use it for your goal. Did you hold your arms up in warrior two the entire time? Awesome. Take that and apply it, too. Discipline yourself. And then once you have, notice how you feel. That release we find in the practice after getting out of a pose we’ve held for a long time always feels relieving, refreshing, even sometimes exhilarating. Do you feel the same when you accomplish your goals?


Let tapas motivate and purify you through life. Shed laziness and rework how life makes you feel through this purification process. The ultimate goal, as always, is to feel balanced. Tapas leads you to that.

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