If you’ve been following along on my Wellness series, you already are familiarized with the 8 limbs we need to nurture to live well:
Last time, we took a close look at living with Limb 1’s “Ahimsa”, the yama to top all yamas. If you missed it, let me sum it up for you: “Be nice.”
And while the Limb #1 yamas, like Ahimsa, are things we should avoid doing in our quest for wellness, the Limb #2 niyamas are just the opposite…listing things we should be doing. That’s where I’d like to go today.
There’s one niyama in particular that I especially like. It’s this one:
Tapas is the 3rd of Patanjali’s 5 niyamas; and no gang, it isn’t referring to a small plate of tasty Spanish snacks. Though I have to admit every time I study it my mind does go there…
“Tapas” comes from the root Sanskrit verb ‘tap’ which means ‘to burn’, and is often traditionally translated as ‘discipline or “passion’; which is exactly how I think of it…”burning-passionate-discipline.” While many of the yamas and niyamas encourage us to control ourselves and calm down, tapas lights a fire under us and want us to get passionate about our wellness journey! So you can see why I love this one. I especially like that tapas gives us some concrete ways we can improve ourselves…through adding little bouts of “discipline” to our lives. But don’t think this means tapas is the squasher-of-all-fun, not at all. There are actually great rewards that come from that discipline.
Tapas in Practice:
Cultivating tapas goes hand in hand with cultivating the mind-body relationship. Tapas is basically asking us to do what we need to ensure the body is getting what it needs to be at its best. Phew. Read that last sentence again. It’s a mouthful and says more than you realize at first glance. Problem is, our mind is in control of making sure our body gets its needs met. And unfortunately, sometimes the things the body needs aren’t all that fun for the mind to carry out: exercising, eating right, sleeping enough, not being big stress balls, etc. That’s where tapas comes in, and challenges us to show a little burning-passionate-discipline and treat our bodies right, even when we don’t feel like it. We all have an incredible amount of untapped potential thanks to a lifetime of ignoring tapas. But when we embrace tapas and live by it, we start tapping into that buried potential. And just like that, life looks and feels way different.
But what does that really look like from a practical standpoint? Here. I’ll show you using two of the limbs:
Tapas and Limb #3 Exercise: When we’re living tapas, we’re in a frame of mind where we’ll get up and go exercise even when we’d rather lie around and watch Netflix all day. Cultivating tapas also means trying exercises and physical activities we might normally avoid because they make us uncomfortable. In fact tapas actually welcomes discomfort. When we can be disciplined enough to willingly enter the Discomfort Zone, we grow stronger…and not just in the physical sense. That strength we get from practicing tapas through our physical activity choices carries over to all other aspects of our lives, leaving us better able to handle challenging life situations. It nurtures the mind-body relationship, which truly is the ultimate key to wellness.
Tapas and Limb #4 Disciplined Eating: Tapas requires eating to nurture the body, not harm it. This is easier said than done, I know. If we all ate using the tapas rulebook, there would be no obesity epidemic, and no obesity-related diseases. Food would be fuel first, and our minds would stay fiercely protective of what we feed our bodies. But as it is, most of us don’t have that nurturing mind-body relationship down pat just yet and therefore don’t “tap our tapas” as much as we should. But luckily we’re capable of change, and just being here with me right now is a step (and it’s actually another niyama called Svadhyaya…or self-study). Studying, increasing your awareness, reflecting…all are necessary components towards firing up your tapas and transforming your life.
Balancing Tapas and Ahimsa:
There is a flip-side to invoking all this fiery-ness. While tapas do encourage us to burn bright and get passionate about caring for ourselves, we don’t want to burn SO brightly we’re pushing ourselves into self-aggression or abuse. We need to temper that fire with the non-harming principles of Ahimsa, and ensure we’re exerting our burning-passionate-discipline from a place of acceptance and compassion. So basically, here’s what I’m really trying to say. Don’t get too crazy working on the other wellness limbs. Discomfort is one thing, doing harm is another. Care about yourself enough to recognize the difference.
Let’s do a little tapas test and see where we’re at on firing up our tapas levels. Create a 7-day exercise plan. Choose some sort of exercise to do each day for the next 7 days and write it down. So, perhaps you’ll power walk an hour 3 days this week, you’ll do yoga stretches for an hour one day, you’ll go to the gym two days, and you’ll ride your bike for a couple hours the 7th day. Make sure each exercise you pick is at an intensity of discomfort, nothing easy. It should also be more than your normal routine, so if you pick exercises you already do each week, you aren’t challenging your tapas enough…so amp it up. Once you have the schedule planned out, make it non-negotiable. Tap your tapas and don’t let yourself off the hook. See if you can go 7 days letting your tapas run the show. After the week, reflect on how it felt to live with tapas. Make a plan to move forward continuing to use your tapas on your road to wellness.
As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated! Let me know your thoughts down below! And if you’re ready to read on to Part 4 of this article series, CLICK HERE.