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Tapas: The Eternal Flame

Are you ready to set your soul on fire?

Collectively at the start of a new year, we set new intentions or resolutions, which let's be honest - these have fallen by the wayside come mid-February - am I right?

Rather than succumbing to the inevitability of the failed resolutions, I chose a word that symbolises how I want to be in the world.

This year I am choosing SELF-TRUST; encompassing accountability, trusting my judgment, and building a better relationship with myself. It’s a pretty big ask.

In the context of yoga, this is the third Niyama, TAPAS, which more or less means ‘to burn’. And full disclosure here, it’s probably the one Niyama that I find the hardest.

The backbone of yoga philosophy is the eight-limbed path, providing insight on how to integrate yoga into our lives. The second limb, the Niyamas, provides guidance on how we interact with the world around us.

There are five Niyamas, these are:

Saucha ~ Cleanliness

Santosha ~ Contentment

Tapas - Austerity or Discipline

Svadhyaya ~ Self-Study including yogic texts

Isvara Pranidhana ~ Contemplation of a higher being

Associated with heat or fire, TAPAS is said to burn away our impurities so, through a sustained practice of discipline, we purify our bodies and more importantly, our minds. Discipline and discomfort typically go hand in hand, especially when we are looking to instigate change or do something differently, there is always an element of discomfort as we navigate the new. Tapas asks us to use the practices of yoga: to serve, to be kind, to step into our truth, and to commit to regular asana and meditation; our sadhana.

By cultivating a sense of enthusiasm we can (sometimes slowly) overcome the mindless urges that lead us off our path. Tapas influences those elements in our lives that become salient enough to determine our priorities, boundaries, and thresholds.

Our personal power and heat, in particular, are generated in our energetic center, Manipurna the third chakra of the solar plexus, so as we stoke the fire in our belly, our connection to our purposes becomes clearer. When we are fired up we move with more ease, this burning fire allows heat to rise up, shifting beyond the discomfort and into a burning passion or perhaps even, love. This is the fourth chakra, Anahata.

When our heart is open, we become more receptive to people, ideas, and our encounters with the world that surround us. An open heart elicits an energetic exchange between us and those around us. What is often not considered is that our heart not only has the capacity to open for others but also opens inward toward ourselves.

The eternal flame that is tapas allows each of us to be vulnerable and in doing so come alive from within!

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