Continuing our discussion with the 2nd limb of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga, the 3rd niyama, tapas, which literally translates to discipline from the sanskrit root tap or heat, is the niyama most of my college students connect with. When they first read TKV Desikachar’s description of tapas in The Heart of Yoga, they tell me they can relate to working their bodies.
It’s much more than working your body, tapas is creating heat or fire through discipline. When we commit to a practice, be it asana, meditation or eating clean, we are transformed by following through and getting it done. Patanjali tells us that we can burn away impurities through practice, which then makes room for a spiritual connection to ourselves, to others, to a power greater than us.
Discipline is not beating ourselves up because we skipped a day or fell out of practice. Discipline is picking up where we left off, supporting another in their practice, and showing up. Practice is not perfect. TKV Desikachar also warns against using tapas a denying the self or as punishment. Tapas is a choice that we make to be healthy and to rid our bodies and minds of impediments to moving ahead.
Through our discipline we create change. This change propels us forward to want to do our best in the moment. I see it often in my students who are so inspired through their yoga practice that they want to teach and share with others what they’ve learned.
Setting up routines and doing them repeatedly is discipline. As with any skill, the more we do it, the more we want to do it. Discipline sets us free. Think of brushing your teeth. Most of us could not leave the house with if we have not brushed. It’s much easier to continue with a practice than to stop and start repeatedly.
I’ve worked with successful athletes and professionals in my practice. One thing that is common in them all is the commitment to do what they need to do. Many times they come to me because they are challenged with committing to other aspects of their life especially focusing the mind. One might think if you are disciplined in one area, it will transfer to other areas in life. For some this is true, for others, this is not the case.
The body for some is more tangible and easier to manage. The mind, well. We all know they are intimately connected–you cannot change one without the other.
What can you do?
- Observe your habits-I like journaling for this.
- Choose 1 or 2 habits you’d like to change.
- Start slowly-meditate for 5 minutes a day, give up soda, take a 15 minute walk or yoga practice at lunch each day.
- Commit to a time period-one month.
- Do it.
- Evaluate how you feel.
- Continue with the practices that serve your body and mind.
- Slow and steady is the way to create lasting change.