Your body is a temple of Tapas.

This week is all about tapas. Not the small-Spanish-dish-kind, but the self-observing yoga kind. The niyamas, as laid out by Pantajali in the yoga sutras, are simple yet challenging rules of self conduct. Tapas is heat, or fire for your practice. Often translated as self discipline, burning enthusiasm or self-motivation. 

So how do you stay motivated to roll out your mat every day? Recently I appear to have lulled in my practice, slipped off my meditation cushion and skulked away from my normal lengthy asana practice in favour of some pranayama and a few seated postures. My new ritual includes getting out of bed 30 mins before I need to leave the house. I used to start work at 7am every day, without fail I’d roll out my mat every morning at 5am. But what is different now? Well, one thing is that I was frantically stressed-out before and totally disconnected from my body. Another is that I was obsessed with the results of my practice. Searching for flexibility gains, desperate to nail certain poses and fancy transitions and probably really disappointed at myself if my pike headstand collapsed before the end of my 15 breath count.

“Importantly, my teacher taught me that Discipline is not about abusing or torturing our body. In the west we tend to connect self-mastery with pain, on the misguided belief that there is no gain with out pain. But self -mastery is not about punishing ourselves. It’s about breaking free from punishing patterns of thought and behaviour. It is about caring for our body, mind and heart to such an extent that we function at our optimum, so we may be of service in this world to the best of our ability.” - Simon Haas, The Book of Dharma.

But the truth is my practice hasn’t lulled at all, it’s just transforming all the time. Before I was mostly motivated by results and attached to them too. Now I’m motivated by curiosity. My burning enthusiasm is fuelled by my curiosity to discover 'how am I feeling?' Why do I even want to balance on my head this morning? I roll out my mat to explore challenges and questions rather than seek answers or results. Maybe it will make me nicer to my boyfriend (yes), more present with my friends, and calm down quicker after losing my sh*t. Maybe it will send me on a spiralling out-of-body experience with an overwhelming sense of oneness or of grandiosity. Maybe I’ll have an hallucination or a flashback to a moment from my past that I’m still holding or that effects my current behaviour. Maybe I’ll realise a negative pattern and begin the journey to release and replace it with something that serves me and those around me. 

I’ve discovered so far that I have a question mark shaped keyhole above my head and inside my heart, my tapas is the fire and drive to find the keys that fit.

Reading: The Book of Dharma - Simon Haas

Photo credit: Abu Huraira via tumblr, source unknown.

Mary Cooke