BY: TRISHA CURLING
You’re in the right place. I am still talking about yoga, I am not talking about Spanish appetizers. Iyengar, in his book The Tree of Yoga, describes tapas as “… a burning desire to cleanse every cell of our body and every cell of our senses, so that the senses and the body may be made permanently pure and healthy and leave no room for impurities to enter into our system. It is in this spirit that the asanas (poses) should be performed…because the burning desire to keep each and every part clean requires us to act.” It is also described as self-discipline or austerity.
I remember when I was first introduced to the term and I completely identified with the idea of that self-discipline and that burning desire to practice yoga because of how it made me feel. My body, mind, and spirit felt aligned. I was coming from a place of chaos in my mind when I started to practice. At the time, I didn’t know how to handle the emotions of grief I was experiencing. It was just four years after my brother passed away and it was a time of darkness. This darkness created my desire to change, to do something different in order to feel better. When I found yoga, it was a place of light that I could move towards during my practice. This place of darkness sent me to my mat constantly. As a started to feel better, more like I knew how to cope with my loss, my burning desire changed. When I went to my mat to practice, I came from a space that was more calm and happy. This fueled my practice for months and then I lost it again. There were feelings of guilt and shame about why I was not experiencing this magnetic pull towards my mat any longer. When I shifted from solely yoga practitioner to adding on yoga teacher I was able to study more and understand that this is normal.
I share this to ask these questions; What is the source of our tapas? Are we driven to practice yoga because we are coming from a negative space or a positive space? Why can’t the answer be one or both at any given time? Just because our desire to practice fluctuates does not mean that we should have any particular feeling about it positive or negative. The states of our bodies and minds are constantly changing. We may have a desire to practice one day because of the way our hips feel. We may be struggling with a personal issue and the only space and time we can feel some relief from this is by spending time with breath and asana on our mats. It may be a beautiful day when we are filled with gratitude and the only thing we want to do is celebrate this feeling with a yoga practice. We may have a burning desire to become stronger or more fearless in our arm balances and this is what drives us.
The point is, this can change in a moment. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to simply come back to your mat. Let go of the reasons why we left and maybe start small. It is important to shift our focus into what it provides and not what we have lost as a result of not practicing. Commit to going to your mat for even five minutes of breath and/or free flowing movement. Go to your mat to fuel the beautiful fire that already exists within.