Tapas is part of Classical Yoga that is often translated as heat. As a result we find an infinite number of HOT yoga classes around town and the nation. While heat in a yoga class can dissolve sluggishness and release toxins from the physical body, Tapas has a much deeper and more powerful application to practice. It has the power to transform us into who we know ourselves to be.
Many yogis first encounter the idea of Tapas in the second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, where he describes the eight limbs of yoga. These limbs are an intricate network of supportive practices that help an aspirant attain self-knowledge and union. Considered the mild path, it includes Tapas as one of its observances.
Tapas is also found earlier in the Sutras when it describes the slightly more intense path of Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga provides fewer supportive practices – only three -- which results in a more intensified practice.
In both levels of practice, Tapas refers to the heat generated from strengthening our inner resolve to expand past our limitations. It is not about a hot room, but rather about the heat generated from the friction of strengthening our psychic muscles.
We need a strong physical body in yoga, but more importantly, we need a strong psyche. According to foundations of classical yoga, each of us came here to do something specific. Our soul has a purpose. Yet, most of us have forgotten what this is, and in its place developed a "sense of self" based on our culture, parents, beliefs and other potentially limiting behaviors. This understanding of ourselves become our habits, and our habits become our lives.
In Yoga, as we learn to reconnect to our inner teacher, the one who remembers our purpose and can see beyond these limitations, we need to expand past our habits. Yet these habits run deep. They have caved grooves in our brains and it's often much easier to fall into the habits than into the potential discomfort growing pains of evolution.
So to create new grooves, the ones that take us out of the habits that don’t serve our original purpose and into the ones that do, we must develop a sort of psychic strength. And just like we sweat from the heat of working out the body, we will “sweat” psychically as we strengthen these muscles.
THIS is what the sutras mean by Tapas. They call it “spiritual effort” and it is a foundation for practice. It is the heat that is generated when we don't indulge the mental temper-tantrum. It is the effort to say no to what does not serve and yes to what does, the effort to stay focused on the anchor of our true self and not be swayed by the small self. Tapas will make you sweat, even when you are sitting still. It will take you from who you think you are, to who you are meant to become. And eventually, this effort will become effortless, and we will know we have are in a state of Yoga.
Jackie Dobrinska is a beloved yoga therapist, holistic health educator, minister and author. She recognizes that finding fulfillment and beauty is an inside job - the result of an inner radiance that comes from connecting to the core of who we truly are. She teaches at Asheville Yoga Donation Center on Fridays 1:30 - 3:00 (and as a self proclaimed yoga nerd, she promises to leave the left-brain discussions at the door!)
“Transformation isn’t a Google download.” – Lisa Nichols
Most of us want to improve our lives—laugh more, stress less, follow our bliss—but the *how* of transformation can feel overwhelming. Here are 11 practices you can start weaving into your life in helpful ways to live a deeper and more authentic you.
1. Let your imagination run wild
Close your eyes and imagine your dream life. What does it look like? Where are you? What does it feel like? While sometimes we can get discouraged because what is here is different from the dream...but energy follows thought. So think it, feel it, hold it in your awareness, trust it, connect to it...and the movement towards it will happen with more effortless effort.
2. Practice gratitude
This one practice can change everything. When we're mad, sad, or feeling discouraged, just think of three things you can be grateful for RIGHT NOW. Sometimes this practice requires a little bit of Tapas - inner fire - but it is well worth it. It has the power to change brain chemistry...and your whole day!
3. Pay attention
By noticing what is in front of us, we enjoy ourselves more. Start paying more attention to your daily routine. Listen to the wind, the birds chirping, the sound of your own breath. Enjoy the smell of your freshly brewed coffee, your food, your arms. Feel the cozy, softness of your bed, your seat and your body. Relish the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings of your daily life.
4. Be real
We all wear masks—pretending and posturing our way through dinner parties and interviews and cocktail hours. But releasing all that phoniness and asserting your authentic self will feel like a breath of fresh air. And watch out, it’s infectious: when you’re real, you’ll notice those around you get real, too.
5. Surround yourself with positive people
You may have heard that you’re a product of the people with which you spend the most time. So pick the right crowd. Stick with the upbeat, optimistic people in your life; their company will nourish you. Avoid those that drain your energy, leaving you exhausted and unhappy.
6. Embrace change
Change is the only constant, so it’s time to start welcoming it. Stop dreading it, avoiding it, denying it, or fearing it. Start seeing change for the possibility, fun, inspiration, and growth it can bring. Embrace the spiral of change and transformation!
7. Trust your gut
Your intuition knows what’s best for you and it will encourage you to live your right life. Your job is to honor that inner voice—you’ll be happier for it.
8. Enjoy joy
What do you love to do? What makes you laugh? What makes your heart swell with happiness? Give yourself permission to do that, often.
9. Be gentle
No one’s perfect, we all make mistakes. Go easy on yourself. I say it again...go easy on yourself. Develop your inner cheerleader, and make your mind your own best friend.
10. Get enough sleep
In a culture that seems to celebrate those that pull all nighters and work until they drop, it’s sometimes hard to value rest. Sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity.
11. Find your own successContrary to popular belief, success isn’t a corner office or a fat paycheck. Real success won’t just look good, it’ll feel good too. Chase your own success.
This weekend we celebrated the autumnal equinox. The time when the Earth's axis is turned neither towards or away from the center of the sun. It is that ephemeral instant of time when we hang in balance, neither moving toward or away from anything. And after that suspended second, we continue on our path towards the dark phase of the year.
As we transition, it is important to shift our diet and lifestyles to stay in harmony with these changes - to stay in our own unique point of balance for longer than that short, suspended instance. It's easy to do if we create a little bit of mindfulness and set our systems in place.
During the fall, temperatures vary dramatically. Here in the mountains, the days can start in the 40's and go up into the 80's. One day it is hot, the next cool. In Wisconsin, they just got snow...on the green grass!! If we can say one thing about this season, it's that it is unpredictable.
In Ayurveda, this is considered Vata time - the element of air and ether. When you think about it, this makes sense, Air is mobile, changeable, fast, cool, and dry. If Vata takes root, we'll start to feel worried, anxious, scattered, and ungrounded. Colds & flus also often come from Vata Season. So, to stay balanced, it is important to incorporate stable, warm and soothing qualities into our diets and lifestyles.
Here are a few things to consider to stay in better health this season:
BREAKFAST: Start the day with warm whole-grains. Congee is a preferred option. Cook soaked grains - either brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth or other grains of your choice alone or in combination - with an abundance of water in a crock pot overnight (1 cup grain to 6 cups water). Spice with cinnamon, fruits or nuts, and sweeten with honey or maple syrup as you wish. Enjoy an easy, grounding, wholesome morning meal.
OIL: Keep the skin well lubricated to balance the drying winds. RAW seasame oil, applied liberally to the skin either 5 minutes prior to, or immediately after a shower, will do wonders to soothe both body and mind. (Avoid toasted oil or you'll end up smelling like a restaurant...a rather unpleasant experience!)
REST: Make sure you take time to nourish yourself with soothing activities - baths, books, yoga nidra/relaxation techniques or anything that brings a slower focus and enjoyment to your day will keep your system in balance.
STAY WARM: In Chinese Medicine, they say that an ill wind (i.e. certain sicknesses) can enter through the back of the neck this time of year. As the days start to cool off, make sure you wear layers of clothes to keep you warm and protected from the Vata Winds. You may even consider heeding the advice of the ancient Chinese healers and wear a scarf!
HERBS: Now is the time to add certain immune building herbs to your diet. Astragalus and elderberry are great alleys this time of year, and both can be added to your morning Congee or taken as a tincture. Another great immune builder, though probably not as appetizing for breakfast, is garlic elixer. It has been used for centuries to ward off viruses as well as vampires and taken daily will build the immune system.
DINNER: Warm stocks and stews made with seasonal vegetables such as squash and potatoes will help keep the earth element alive balancing out the fall season. There is wisdom to eating locally, as what is in season is often the food that balances the ill effects of the season. Stews are warming and their long cooking times creates easy digestion.
YOGA: Either upon waking or before going to bed, hold a few forward folds for at least 2 minutes each. Combine with a breath where the exhale that is twice as long as the inhale. This will have a grounding and calming effect that soothes and calms the chaotic nature of the fall season. Some poses to consider include seated forward fold (pashimottanasana), child's pose (balasana), standing forward fold (uttanasana), head-to-knee pose (janu sirsasana), Cobbler's pose (baddhakonasana) or any other forward folds you prefer (see below).
The Key is to stay grounded. Incorporate these or other easy, small changes into your day, and see how these small measures of daily self-care will add up to keep you well nourished and moving through the season with health and vitality.
Note: Below are a couple of Forward Folds for Vata Season. Please be steady and stable in the posture, allowing it to feel nourishing and relaxing even while engaged. Always seek the wisdom of a certified yoga instructor if the pose does not feel good in your body. To find out more contact Jacquleyn at www.TheAlchemyofTransformation.com