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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

Tapas — To Burn

Feb 28, 2022 09:47PM ● By Nicole Zornitzer

What is Tapas?

  • The 3rd Niyama 
  • Refers to the burning of impurities in the physical, emotional, and energetic bodies
  • This relates to tenacity, perseverance and maintaining unwavering focus to better ourselves regardless of life’s challenges
  • Think of tapas as that little flame inside that motivates and keeps you on track with anything important in your life

Tapas is often translated as “austerity” or “discipline” and the word tapas is derived from the root Sanskrit verb “tap” which means to “burn” and evokes a sense of fire or passion. When we examine tapas further, we may say that this means to cultivate a sense of self discipline and courage in order to burn away impurities of mind, body or energy. This burning will therefore pave the way to our true greatness or dharmic path.

The key to understanding tapas and putting it into action is to not resist the resistance we may feel physically in a yoga practice or mentally when off the mat. To sit still and simply be is practicing tapas. To become the witness to sensation without judgement is practicing tapas.

Tapas on the Mat

At first glance one may believe that tapas would include a power-like yoga asana practice, however, sometimes tapas just means to get to the mat and meditate or slow down our daily routine. Tapas can encourage one to take time to be still and observe the mind versus becoming attached to unnecessary thoughts that distract us from our most authentic self. Of course, this can also translate to trying new asanas or challenging our bodies physically.

Tapas is the inner wisdom that encourages us to get on the mat and practice, even when we are tired or not motivated to do so. Other examples of engaging internal tapas are:

Going to bed early to then rise early the next day and practice yoga

Eating mindfully to best fuel the body

Leaning into our edge during a yoga practice to simply feel what the next stage may be like

Being consistent in your efforts regardless of the outcome

Finding the humility to admit we are not perfect, but we are passionately committed to our own health and wellness

Tapas off the Mat

Once we master the idea of tapas on the yoga mat, we can take the lessons learned and bring them into our external world. This could come in the form of useful pranayama techniques, managing challenges in stride rather than becoming discouraged as well as staying in difficult situations without judgement. We gain a sense of stability and strength mentally once we fully embrace tapas. Having the strength to not listen to the inner voice that at moments may tell us we are not good enough and instead allow these unnecessary thoughts to burn away thereby creating needed space in the body for new experiences.

How do we ignite our inner fire?

Working with core strength is a surefire method to tap into the sense of “fieriness” by stoking our own agni (inner fire). We look to our third chakra center; manipura in the solar plexus to ignite this flame.

The manipura chakra governs our sense of self-confidence, inner strength, willpower, and self-discipline. The earth element fire, which links to both tapas and manipura, will create transformation and this transformation occurs when we allow change to happen, when we step outside of our comfort zone and practice asana, pranayama, or anything new with intention.

Knowing that it is the most challenging moments in our lives that create evolution or growth, we must embrace this idea of tapas. To face difficulty yet remain steady is a challenge, yet one worth taking. Fear tends to hold us back, stories that we have created in our minds can overwhelm us and create disconnection with our true path in life. When we remove these obstacles, we learn that we can create positive change in our lives and in lives of others. 

Mantra: Om Agnaye Namaha

Invoke that which you wish to transform through heat or fire. As you chant the mantra for tapas, draw to mind something that you wish to cultivate, let go of, or transform through heat and fire.

Common Asanas & Breathing Targeting Tapas & Manipura

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Kapalabhati Pranayama / Breath of Fire

High Lunge Twist with Anjali Mudra

Parvritta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)

Bhujangasana (Cobra)

Nicole Zornitzer, ERYT 1000, yoga therapist, founder of Niyama Yoga & Wellness Shala, located in Randolph, New Jersey; Upper Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey; Roseland, New Jersey; and Delray Beach in Florida.