Every morning I get up, have a glass of water and a dollop of peanut butter and start my pre-breakfast yoga practice. Except that some mornings it’s not so simple. I get side-tracked by my emails. The dishwasher. Or I just can’t really be bothered..…
On days like this I need an extra injection of oomph to get me on to my mat, even if just for 15 minutes. I know that if I fail to do so I am much more likely to a) find it harder to focus throughout the day b) and b) feel irritable and stiff!
It’s times like these when I have to draw on a bit more ‘tapas’ than usual. And while a few juicy olives might seem a good precursor to Warrior 3, I don’t mean the Spanish snacks.
The yogic version of ‘tapas’ is derived from the Sanskrit verb ‘tap’, which means ‘to burn’ and, in yoga, tapas is usually translated as ‘fiery discipline’ or ‘burning enthusiasm’. BKS Iyengar defines tapas as “a burning effort under all circumstances to achieve a definite goal in life”.
So, in terms of modern yoga practice we can use ‘tapas’ to refer the discipline we need to get to our mat or regular class in the first place. It is the inner wisdom we draw on when we are ridiculously busy but still manage to fit in our yoga because we know it will help us to act more clearly, efficiently and kindly – and generally make us feel better.
I find the easiest way to uncover some extra tapas is to turn my mind back to how I felt at the end of my last really effective yoga practice, when my body felt balanced and open and my mind calmly centred. This is one reason I always encourage students to make a mental note of how they feel at the beginning and end of each class. There will always be a change of some sort and becoming aware of the change is very much part of the practice itself.
As Iyengar goes on to say; “By tapas the yogi develops strength in mind, body and character. H(Sh)e gains courage and wisdom, integrity, straightforwardness and simplicity”.
One fool proof way I have found to boost my personal tapas reserve for longer (!) is to attend a yoga retreat of some sort. If that sounds like a sensible idea to you then I still have a few places left on the September retreat day in beautiful Hambleden village (just 1 hr from London, transport available). We will enjoy two long yoga classes, one to energise and open and one to relax and restore, a delicious vegetarian lunch, teas, homemade cakes and a walk in beautiful countryside. Cost is £74pp. Please contact me to book!