It's one thing to learn all the physical poses in yoga, how they are "performed" and their Sanskrit name but there is a whole other side of yoga - the philosophy of practice.
Over the last couple weeks, I've come across the word "tapas" in my reading and while participating in various yoga DVDs. It stopped me in my tracks because I thought "tapas" meant food, appetizers to be exact. What does that have to do with yoga?
Well, like many words, there are multiple meanings and definitions for one single word. So in fact it can be used on a restaurant menu but also in the context of yoga philosophy.
I had to know more...
And in drops Patanjali again as Tapas is found in his writings. It is under his second limb of the eight limbed yoga system otherwise known as the Niyamas, or suggested observances. Tapas is referred to as austerity.
Okay, so sounds like non-indulgence. I've found others write about tapas as discipline or the means of doing the work. The word "tapas" in Sanskrit means "heat" and has been referred to the "fire within".
So how does this all fit?
Judith Hanson Lasater wrote it well on her website:
"This is the spirit of tapas: the willingness to follow through with difficult decisions while maintaining compassion for all the effects that those decisions might have for self and others. Tapas is ultimately measured in the consistent willingness to begin practice again and again, over and over again to bring awareness to this very moment. Ultimately nothing is more difficult than consistency. "
My many weeks of working on downward facing dog may be an example of tapas for me. In Yoga as Medicine book, Timothy McCall writes that downward facing dog is a good pose to build tapas.
Also, for me, pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) this week and quite frankly, every time I practice this pose, it takes not only physical energy but mental toughness to get through holding the static hip stretch.
But others argue that it isn't about being pushed in a pose that works on tapas.
Regardless, the presence of this word popping up over and over the last while fits into others areas of my life. It has me thinking that I've been building tapas as a parent and as an individual wanting to contribute in this world.
Lots of single parenting lately due to circumstance beyond our control and what.I.hope.will.have.huge.impact-type project (not yet revealed!) that has been taking up a place (and space) in my mind and heart for a while. Both have pushed me and being consistent in vision and awareness has been key.
As with anything that is worth it, being consistent and enjoying the process (even when it sucks - ya pigeon pose, I'm talking to you!) is essential.
So, bring it on! How are you building tapas?
So this Patanjali guy, what's he all about? I've noted him before and even said I've started to read his work, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali but I don't fully understand who he is.
I picked up a copy of the Yoga Sutras, and if you don't know, it's someone else's interpretation of his Sutras that you'll find. Over 22 classical interpretations exist which doesn't include contemporary interpretations. I have Mukunda Stiles version because it proposes to be interpreted with the practice of yoga in mind. Okay, good place to start if I want to be a yoga teacher one day.
Here is what I've found out so far based on Stiles book...
"Patanjali is to Yoga what Buddha is to Buddhism."
His sutras are guidelines to self-realization. In other words, I see it as suggested recommendations to follow to achieve the most ideal yoga practice...and maybe life.
His Sanskrit name can be interpreted as "a lover of God" and thus, he isn't looked upon as the "one" or "creator of yoga" but a spiritual leader who shares his suggested way to practice.
And his book is separated into four sections with a total of 196 "antidotes". I haven't got much further in understanding the four sections. It seems that each section has a theme that touches on the nature of yoga, the practice or disciplines of yoga (I.e., the eight limbs of yoga), the manifestation that occurs with yoga and liberation gained from yoga. Kinda heavy and ooverwhelming to me at this point!!!
Stiles writes his interpretation in prose, kind of like a poem. My hope is that reading his version, it will be easy to understand and process what it's all about. Well, maybe. I can't say I'm an avid reader of poetry!
I haven't made it too far so more to come with answering questions about Patanjali.
Back to reading...and hopefully a peaceful pratice this week,
With it being Thanksgiving this weekend, it was time to reflect on what we
have in our worlds and what we are most grateful for.
How often do you reflect on what you are thankful for? More than once a year?
I find that my yoga practice is the time where I reflect the most. It quiets the mind and allows for a focus on what is important (no multitasking allowed!) I
particularly love the yoga teachers who ask questions and allow for inner
reflection at the beginning, middle and end of class. It's almost like the yoga
practice is then more of a mental challenge versus a physical challenge.
What resonates a lot during my individual practice is the power, grace and beauty of the human body. I am grateful that my body allows me to move and breathe, which nourishes the mind, body, and soul.
In the writings of Patañjali, an ancient yoga scholar, he writes of the Eight
Limbs of Yoga. I know the very basics of his writing from my academic yoga class but I thought to myself there must be somewhere in his writings where he references gratitude. I went searching and found that under the second limb, Niyamas, or the "rules" or "laws" of personal observance, he highlights a similar idea with Santosha. Santosha might align well with gratitude. It is being satisfied with what one has. Maybe in other words, thankful for what we have?
I will leave the readings of Patañjali for another day but practicing yoga daily,
weekly, monthly sure allows me to reflect on what I am thankful for more than once a year!
And I'd be remiss if I didn't reflect on what I am thankful for beyond my yoga practice.
It is in these moments that I am most grateful...the wonderful people I
have in my life (the newest edition exploring the world!)
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.