The word Tapas in yoga has nothing to do with small bites of food, but comes from the Sanskrit root word ‘tap’ which means to burn. In yoga it refers to building and maintaining heat in the body through a physical practice and creating commitment to returning to the practice over and over again. From the heat we build we also garner energy to keep going, keep striving. In this way tapas is both the fuel and the fire.
Tapas is practiced through consistency. A steady commitment to practice yoga every day no matter what shape that takes. Yoga is the study of life and tapas is the commitment we have to keeping that life going even through difficult periods. Tapas is about fueling our intentions with the right amount of heat or practice to succeed in life. Tapas is creating an inner fire of desire to keep practicing especially when we don’t feel we can. When we make a commitment to a practice or relationship, tapas means that we try again and again to make it work. We forgive our partner or child for the 100th time, we clean up the same dirty washing again, we meditate or run every day, whatever daily commitment we made to ourselves or others we stick with it.
When we build a steady base like this and the fire is burning strongly we can celebrate the successes and not beat ourselves up so much if things don’t go right. We know if we have a set back that change will come and if we have a victory we accept it as graciously as our downfalls. We know that difficult does not always mean good and practice is not always easy but we keep at it. Through consistency we cultivate willingness to begin our practice again and again, each and every day.
Practice for today: Do you have an everyday practice that fuels your inner heat and desires? What aspect of your life can you make a commitment to and stick with regardless of the outcome? It is very easy to walk away from things that are difficult or uncomfortable but with a constant and steady practice you can learn to walk through the valleys and over the mountains with ease.