In the past months we've been investigating the five Yamas, or ethical practices, of Yoga. They were most famously described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. He considered them to be an essential foundation for the practice of postures, breathing and meditation. In February, we move on to consider the first of the Niyamas, or foundations of self-observation and self-betterment. Our theme for this month is tapas, the discipline or fire of yoga:
While we are tempted to pay tribute to small plates of high-calorie Spanish appetizers, tapas is, in fact, an important theme in yogic philosophy and practice. Iyengar and restorative yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater eloquently explores tapas in this way:
The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn”. The traditional interpretation of tapas is that it is “fiery discipline." It is this discipline which burns off the impediments which keep us from being in the state of yoga... Unfortunately tapas usually is interpreted to mean that anything which is difficult must be discipline and therefore must be helpful to spiritual unfolding. But difficulty can create its own form of impediment. In fact, the ego is drawn to difficulty; challenging yoga poses can increase pride and attachment to being an “advanced” yoga student, for example. Read more on Lasater's website.