Blog Post

Tapas – Austerity or discipline

18. September 2022

We have now come to the third niyama, which is Tapas. If you missed the first two posts about the first two niyamas, you can read about Sauca here and Santosa here.

Tapas is translated as discipline, effort, zeal, austerity or heat.

For me Tapas is about lighting a fire in the body and the mind. The fire of purification. It’s an internal heat. The heat should move from the inner body and out.

I once heard this analogy in relating to Tapas: Have you ever tried melting coconut oil from the outside? There’s a lump in the middle. Same with the body. When we heat the body from the outside, the inside remains cold. In yoga we try to heat up the core of the body so the heat radiates outside. It is the profuse sweating that comes from the inside.

The fire should also be emotional and mental. You need Tapas – discipline and effort. Yoga asks you to change your life. Perhaps you prefer eating burgers and fries everyday. Perhaps you like to party hard every weekend. Yoga asks you to change this. Yoga essentially asks you to change your life. Perhaps you naturally easily fly off the handle, yoga asks you to change this.

An element of Tapas in your practice and life

Your yoga practice (and life) should have an element of challenge. It should not be too easy. It needs the element of effort. Otherwise we miss the Tapas. However, we also must be moderate with Tapas, otherwise it can lead to problems. Too much fire is not good either. It’s about balance and moderation. We are not looking for pain. We put in the effort and put in the work where it is needed. Sometimes the effort is softening the practice. Sometimes the effort is going to a sweaty vinyasa class and challenging yourself.

Sometimes the effort is working more on your business. Sometimes the effort is taking a day off. You see what I mean? There is a balance between effort and surrender. Sometimes your effort is to not drink wine every night. Sometimes your effort might be to let your hair down and perhaps enjoy a glass of red wine. Sometimes your effort is saying no to chocolate cake, other times it might just be saying yes to sleeping in and having pancakes for breakfast.

Unchecked Tapas in your practice can lead to injury. This happened to me. I was practicing too intensely and I wasn’t listening to my body which lead to a rather severe injury that still flares up from time to time if I practice too much.

Think of it like this: you need fire in the kitchen. However, too much fire and you will cause an explosion, too little fire and you cannot cook the food.

Sometimes we need to push ourselves, other times we need to dial back a bit. We need to stimulate the fire. We need enough fire to get the flame burning, but we don’t want to explode the kitchen.Tapas, the fire, will clean the body of all impurities after a long time.

But remember, it is always about the balance between effort and surrender. For instance, I rarely ever practice a pose more than three times. This is my effort. I then surrender and let go. The same with my business. I put in the work and I work hard, but at one point I have to turn off and allow things to just unfold. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to just leave things, go to the beach and allow God to work for you.

I also sometimes look at this like meeting the universe (or God) halfway there, because I firmly believe that the universe will meet you halfway there.

I hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of Tapas.