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Exploring Yoga Philosophy: Tapas

Tapas is the third Niyama and translates to 'heat', which can be interpreted as catharsis, self-discipline, practice or transformation. Just like the process of cooking transforms food, the process of 'cooking' ourselves through disciplined practice transforms us.

What are Niyamas?

As we saw in the article on the eight limbs of Yoga; in the traditional Yoga system the second aspect of practice is called niyama or inner observances, which helps us build character and guides us to live life in its fullest, most joyful form.

The five niyamas:

  1. Śauca - purity, cleansing

  2. Santosa - contentment

  3. Tapas - work, practice

  4. Svadhyaya - self-study, self-inquiry

  5. Ishvara Pranidhana - surrender the fruits of your actions

How can Tapas - or self-discipline - be applied to our day-to-day?

- Creating a daily Yoga routine that I stick too,

- During difficult times, I choose to go into the fire instead of running away from it, knowing that something better will come.

Let me offer other ways we can practice tapas:

- I practice staying in my unpleasantness one extra minute and consciously notice what it feels like to be in the fire,

- I practice making choices that bring about transformation and strength and notice when I tend to be over-indulgent.

Tapas teaches us that transformation can only happen if we are willing to throw ourselves into the fire of uncertainty and discomfort and hold on for the blessing. Self-discipline and 'heat' creates energy that is able to feed what we want to create, giving us the strength necessary to achieve what we want. We become fearless.

Self-discipline is essential in order to make everything we learn here, a reality. Reading and researching is wonderful but practice is where real transformation happens. A lot of people are attracted to the idea of feeling better and more at peace but are stuck in the research process; that's when practicing Tapas becomes helpful. If we are not willing to put in the work and take risks, we will fell stuck and unhappy because after all, humans are designed for evolution.

Knowledge without practice and discipline is just knowledge, it won't bring about the changes that you are seeking. There is a real sense of courage, strength and trust that comes with tapas.

Practice Yoga with me in person or online, where we explore ancient themes around philosophy and ways to move our bodies and experience ourselves in ways that help us navigate the modern world.

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