This past weekend I was in NJ teaching a Winter Yoga Detox at Fair Haven Yoga. The first few weeks after New Years are when we are getting into our new habits of healthy living and in order to make that change we need a certain level of self-discipline. I know that when I try to make a change in my life it is the first few weeks that are the most challenging.
In the workshop we explored the Sanskrit term tapas, practices of self-discipline. Tapas in Sanskrit translates to ‘heat’ or ‘to burn’, and it is a term in yoga which describes the process of inner cleansing. Cleansing of not only the physical but mental impurities that no longer serve us. It is the purification is not only of what you put into your body, but what you see, what you read, the people you surround yourself with. You can control what you eat, read, and most of what you see. When you begin to eliminate things that deplete you, you create space for those that you love, things that ignite you, your inner strength, and strong self-confidence.
Tapas is about burning away impurities or attachments that cause us suffering. It is about having the ability to accept and adapt to any situation. For example being equally content with living in a shack or a mansion. Things change everyday and it is our ability to adjust to those changes that keep us from suffering. Tapas are the self discipline that make us physically and mentally stronger.
The nature of the mind and body is to run after pleasures and basically the tapas or self-discipline practices are teaching us to stop giving into every guilty pleasure. One practice that helps to purify the mind is the practice of silence. Taking a few hours a day without words can purify your mind, help to purge it of old impressions that no longer serve you. As my mentor Ashley Turner says “in stillness we amplify”. There is a great power that comes from being still and silent. We so often busy ourselves with menial tasks or television in order to distract from the emotions or experience we are having. Don’t run from the emotion because it will just keep popping up. Be with the discomfort and eventually you will come out with some clarity, understanding and purification.
Over the weekend as I was planning my classes and exploring what tapas means to me I took 3 hours of silence. I found that the first 20 minutes were the most challenging, when I wanted to pick up my phone to text, and my email was calling my name. Once I got past those first painful twenty minutes I began to appreciate the power of the silence. From my experience and other tapas practices I have made videos for the Online Studio. You will find videos on silence, receiving insults with serenity, movements, and breath of fire. Explore and bring yourself to an edge, notice what bubbles up for you as you challenge yourself.