Tapas: Turn Resolutions into Action
Grand plans for change, growth and something new!
To be honest, I have a strong dislike for the ‘New Year, new you’ propaganda that we are forced to endure every January.
However, the New Year – like any change of season – is a great time to reflect on the past and set intentions for the future.
But, how do we stick to our resolutions and turn them into real actions? Yoga has the answer – of course!
Despite being the queen of procrastination, I’m pretty good at sticking to an intention – even if I do have three cups of coffee before I get around to doing it!
Whenever I consider NOT acting, there is something inside that keeps pushing me forward.
From a yogic perspective, this invisible force is tapas the third of the niyamas – personal observances as laid out in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
I first heard tapas translated as ‘discipline’. Many other interpretations like ‘burning enthusiasm’, ‘inner fire’ and ’austerity’ exist and, essentially, mean the same thing.
In my perspective, the word ‘discipline’ is used when we do something with a degree of effort that it would be easier NOT to do.
Let’s unlock the secret to finding the discipline to stick to our resolutions – whatever they may be.
Firstly, it’s all well and good describing discipline as a ‘burning enthusiasm’ to act. But, where does this desire come from in the first place?
I mean, what sparks that fire?
I’ve read a lot about this, but everything I’ve read is aimed at yogis; people who are ALREADY doing yoga! They have the fire – or at least a spark – already!
I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two key elements: Knowledge & Faith
Is it a coincidence that they are also niyamas? Probably not!
But, I would argue that they might be better placed BEFORE tapas on a yogi’s journey.
Think about it…
You’ve never practiced yoga but you study it (through books, watching videos or talking to other yogis) and you come to develop enough faith in it that your little flame of enthusiasm starts to grow.
The more you study; the more you develop that sense of faith; the bigger the flame of enthusiasm.
Of course, I’m using yoga as an example but can you think of other areas of life where this applies? I sure can!
All work & no play!
Okay, back to the yoga…
Yoga is work, right?
I mean, on the mat we obviously have to work our muscles, our circulatory system, our focus and concentration.
But, off the mat is where the REAL work takes place!
I often feel like it takes more effort and discipline to practise yoga off that mat – trying to stay grounded, inspired, motivated, loving, truthful, insightful and connected to every living being.
Shit! That really IS hard work!
R. Sharath Jois says that every practice should contain at least some element of difficulty and, I think that is equally true of our yoga practice off the mat.
It would be SO much easier to just blurt out the first emotional thing that comes into my head during a… ahem… ‘discussion’ with my husband!
But, with the help of tapas, I (usually) make myself slow down enough to pick a more balanced way of saying what’s on my mind.
Can you think of any examples where you use tapas off the mat?
Finally, I really want to be transparent here: tapas is hard!
Whatever our resolutions for 2023, it is inevitable that we will fail at times. In fact, we might fail a lot!
This is where Patanjali was absolutely on the money when he placed ahimsa – or kindness – as the first step on the yogi path.
If you skip a class or don’t do anything on your to-do list, remember to go easy on yourself!
Self-compassion is the most important aspect of any yoga practice.
Let me know what areas of your life could do with a little more tapas in the comments below.
Wishing you a 2023 that is full of all the wonderful things you deserve.
In the meantime, keep burning bright!
New year, new inner fire!
If one of your resolutions is to stress less, check out Happy Yoga Wales classes and events for 2023!
I love seeing our Happy Yoga family grow with such a diverse and beautiful range of people from all over the world. Beginners and veteran yogis are all welcome and catered for in classes, workshops and events.
Here are some upcoming dates to stoke that inner fire of enthusiasm!
Saturday Morning Workshops
(10am-11:30am – £15 or free to members)
21 January: How to start a home yoga practice
18 February: Self-love & heart openers
18 March: Sun Salutations for new beginnings
Sunday Night Laughter Yoga Clubs
(6pm-7pm – Just pay-what-you-can!)
I hope to see you there! x