This niyama literally means “heat” and can be translated in many ways. The heat of “cooking” ourselves in the practices of yoga so that we transform ourselves into someone of character and strength is the translation that speaks to my heart. It takes the self-discipline of cultivating daily spiritual and yogic practices in order to align more fully with our best selves and to have the tools to navigate life gracefully.
Tapas also means that you will rise up when you go through the difficult times of your life and in that process, you will learn any lessons you were meant to. You will look inward to see what part you played without a victim attitude. As they say, the phoenix rises from the ashes. Do you have the inner and outer strength to do that?
I remember a time when I was in the midst of trying to sell the family bowling business. Several deals fell through in the process. And to top it off a romantic relationship I was in imploded as well. I had an emotional melt down from all the stress of it. Then, a girlfriend took me to a church where others shared their stories of moving through challenges. One lady talked about how she was attempting to sell her business and how difficult the process was for her as well. Then the right buyer at the right time showed up. I walked away from that experience having faith that if I kept doing my work then everything would work out in divine order. And I was blessed that it did because that is what led me to open the yoga center.
Tapas invites us to look at our lifestyle choices. Do you eat healthful foods predominantly and drink plenty of fresh water? Do you move with daily walks, yoga and other activities? Do you start or end your day with prayer and meditation? Study uplifting texts to inspire and motivate yourself? These are all ways to live more fully and have expanded energy so that when challenges arise you are ready to meet them.
St. Francis of Assisi speaks of the transformative power for each of us in his well-known prayer:
Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
May we all aspire to practice these teachings now more than ever.