Determination and a passion are descriptive of the Sanskrit word tapas. Tapas (austerities; discipline; literally “heat”) is one of the Niyamas (niyamas describe actions and attitudes that we should cultivate to overcome the illusion of separation and the suffering it causes) the fire that we create within our yoga practice that helps us burn through all of the heaps of emotional, mental and physical baggage that we have aquired along our lifes path.
I love this next quote, and do not know the author to which to give the credit…
“Behind the notion of tapas lies the idea we can direct our energy to enthusiastically engage life and achieve our ultimate goal of creating union with the Divine. Tapas helps us burn up all the desires that stand in our way of this goal.”
Tapas is not easy by any means. Nope! It is meant to burn through the ego. Trust me when I say, the ego definitely does not appreciate toppling over in yoga class or for that matter looking ‘foolish’ in any way shape or form! In fact the ego when bruised will usually take the form of anger. Oh yes, it’s true, yogis can get angry! For some yogis not being able to do a pose not only opens a can of worms it can turn into a tub full of snakes! (Make that hissing snakes) I once watched a student curse out a teacher and then turn to the entire class and call us a couple of unmentionables as well.
I had the pleasure of taking a class from Rusty Wells a few weekends ago at Wanderlust and he talked about being open, curious, and childlike. (And not in a terrible twos temper tantrum kind of way) He spoke about what was it like for you when you first began practicing yoga? You were cool, you did what the teacher said, you tried new things, you were willing to invite new poses in, new sensations, new challenges. At some unfortunate point alot of people become yoga “experts” (yawn) and put the brakes on their tapas, that fire that brings about transformation, growth and keeps the yoga love flame burning. Yoga is a relationship, you have to put the work in. You have to be willing to give, to burn and ultimately transform or the flame will go out. It requires everything that you have and then more at times. It will test you to your breaking point, because therein lies the beauty, the alchemy, the truth of who you really are. Beneath the frustrion, the anger, and after you’ve gone through your own ring of fire you will arrive at something familiar something real, and a person you can proudly call your true self.