This practice is focusing on the 3rd Niyama; Tapas – Yogic Austerity. Tapas means heat of positive change. This is said to be the earliest term for the ‘austerity of Yoga’ and the endeavours of the practitioners. Tap means to burn or glow, it includes the element of fire (Agni) that is also said to be the essential element to create life, to heal, to inspire and to transform. Agni is seen to be the sacrificial fire that reintegrates what has been contaminated by being human – life experiences, judgements, bias, our opinions, our ignorance that makes us forget what we truly are and limits us to who we think we are. Tapas refers to inner heat, the desire that leads to ecstatic and creative states, so pointing the Yogi to something positive.
Tapas usually involves having healthy boundaries with others and ourselves (Brahmacharya) and control of your senses (Indriya Jaya) through physical acts of austerity, concentration and mediation. The results are that the Yogi is left strong, filled with vitality (Bala, Virya) and it states that they are radiantly heavenly (Jyotish) they have an aura that is beamingly resplendent (Tejas).
So why do Tapas, well to fulfil our Vedic goals of life, these are the Purusarthas; Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha.
- Dharma: Your duties, responsibilities, virtues and purpose
- Artha: Means and tools to support your purpose
- Kama: Pleasure, worldly delights, relationships, creativity, ascetic beauty
- Moksha: Spiritual liberation, freedom, trust and faith
Yoga is skill in action (Karma) with loving awareness (Maitri) to create lasting fulfilment of your purpose (Dharma), deep contentment (Santosa) and ultimately liberation from rebirth (Kaivalya). We practice Yoga – Asana to attain the ability to remain present with what arises in the midst of extremes, while remaining steady, comfortable and indifferent. So we create Sthira and Sukham in Asana, consciously connect to our wakefulness and discernment (Viveka) then focus our concentration (Dharana) to follow the breath, sensation and cultivate light, YS 1:34-1:36 undistracted by mind noise, our mental emotional afflictions (Kleshas) and anything else that tries to pull us out of practice. Detaching with love from that which doesn’t serve you any longer in your endeavours. This is called Vairagya; letting go of sensory observations.
The point of Tapas is to cultivate not only physical, energetic heat but mental-emotional heat of concentration showing the self-discipline to practice Yoga. And through the heat and fire of practicing this way, it is meant to create clarity, purity and transparency of the levels of our physical, energetic and mental states of being. Preparing us as the Yogi to fulfil our deeper desire to attain the state of Yoga, Nirodha Stillness.
- Kiya Nirodha – Physical Stillness
- Prana Nirodha – Energetic Stillness
- Citta Vritti Nirodha – Mental/Emotional Stillness
This state of stillness is said to be the path that opens the Yogi to true liberation and freedom. If you do a deep dive into the Yoga Sutras this is where its is instructing the Yogi to go…Not master handstands. Don’t get me wrong, handstands are fun, but it is not going to take away your anxiety, fears, problems and pain. This is why gymnasts aren’t enlightened or free from life’s dramas. So even if you can’t touch your toes, you can still practice these principle and attain the state of Yoga.
Enjoy this Tapas practice and creating for yourself Yogic Austerity!
*My wrist is wrapped up to offer myself support as I fell and waiting for it to heal. So I might be demonstrating different things on my hand that is injured. Please follow the healthy hand*