Tapas is defined as sustained practice performed with passion, dedication and devotion (1). It is one of the five niyamas or self-observances included in the second limb of yoga. All yoga students will attest that attending a yoga class regularly once a week makes a positive change in their lives. Some students find it easier to attend class twice a week before they develop the discipline to have a home practice. Once you learn to ‘fit your life around your yoga practice’ rather than ‘fit your yoga practice into your life’ you tap into the heat of tapas.
We are wired to resist change. The friction of a new, positive pattern rubbing up against an old, negative pattern can create heat. The heat of a daily practice can cause positive change in our life, whether it is 15 minutes or one hour a day. It creates new neural pathways, frees up the nervous system and transforms energy in our body-minds. BKS Iyengar explained that asana practice breaks the rigidity and hardness of the body and allows prana or life force energy to move freely and uninterruptedly. This energy can then be used for our personal evolution (2).
The practice time on our yoga mat is not separate from but gets incorporated into our daily life. During yoga practice we become sensitive to notice differences in actions and make adjustments to lengthen equally and evenly. This awareness during practice helps us to observe ourselves internally when managing external events in our life. Once we accept that every human life has inevitable challenges and disturbances, practice can help us learn to function in a smooth way with our environment. Geeta Iyengar once explained that a daily asana practice was like putting money in our spiritual bank account. This currency can then be withdrawn when needed during times of personal or family crisis without depleting our strength and energy reserves. With commitment, discipline and devotion to our deeper self, we can watch the positive effects of practice ripple out into the lives of those we care about and interact with.
To get started on a home practice, talk to your yoga teacher, practice what you learn in class or use the asana course in the back of Light on Yoga (3) or other Iyengar yoga books. Remember to include a five minute Savasana at the end of your practice.
1 BKS Iyengar. Light on Life. 2005, p. 257
2 Ibid. p. 104
3 BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga. 2001. pp. 389-412
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