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Tapas- cultivating discipline and transformation in your yoga practice.

Delicious but no.

A different kind of tapas.... but this image is actually really relevant. I'm referring to a discipline within Patanjali's Eight Limbs of yoga (if you've not heard of this don't worry- there will be a future email and more covering this). Tapas is described in the second Limb: The Niyamas, which are internal codes for living, recommendations if you like, for a more harmonious life. Tapas is a loving discipline, keeping the practitioner on track toward self-mastery and inner transformation.

The Sanskrit word 'Tapas' translates as "heat" or "to burn" and represents the dedication needed to commit, to persevere with this spiritual journey and self-improvement even in the face of obstacles and discomfort.

Like the picture above, Tapas is about choice. I have an ongoing relationship with an "all or nothing" mindset and a real turning point for me was when my teacher (Rory Trollen) said to think of it like tapas (as pictured), as small, achievable goals to cultivate progress and success. If one tries to, or believes they need to be able to do it all perfectly already, then what would be the point? Also, there is no correct list to follow or order of things to practice. It is the individuals path, their decision and their journey. Small, achievable goals. Such amazing advice that gave me permission, in that moment to set myself up to succeed. I let go of the idea that I needed to wake at 6am each day and practice 108 rounds of Sun Salutations followed by every possible pose completed in one beautiful instagram-worthy flow of lycra and toned abs. Instead he offered the concept that standing on the mat in pyjamas and taking a few deep breaths and an overhead stretch may be the practice, the first step. Then, with time and dedication to this seemingly small practice, intuitively the practice will develop. Start small, light the spark, watch it grow.

On the mat, Tapas manifests as the dedication to a regular yoga practice, no matter how small, exploring our physical abilities, engaging with each posture and surrendering to the effects and sensations that arise.

Off the mat, Tapas encourages us to examine our habits and patterns, recognising where we my be holding ourselves back and instead committing to positive change. It is the daily practice of mindfulness, self-reflection and conscious action, aligning our thoughts, words and deeds with our highest aspirations.

My experience and journey, is one of understanding myself, my experiences and my perception of all things. Honestly, I often feel muddled, anxious and a bit lost. The one thing that is always there though, is my own, unique, crafted-by-me yoga practice. I don't mean that I have invented anything new. I mean I take what I have learned and (if you remember my first email about cultivating change and embracing new beginnings) to fill my own tool box with the things that support my needs so I can return to them time and time again. Journaling is in my toolbox. Tapas is in my toolbox- the practice of creating small habits and choosing to repeat them, to add to them and develop them over time as and when I am ready to set myself another challenge that nourishes me, allowing opportunity for expansion and growth. And for some the fire may be blazing, there may be this burning enthusiasm to practice asana and achieve inversions, arm balances and reaching the highest goal. For others, it may be a drive to find a way to get out of bed each morning, to cultivate a kind inner voice that supports instead of criticises. A commitment to journaling each day to face those internal dialogues which hold us back. To take a few deep breaths and carry on with the task at hand instead of hiding under the duvet with an extra layer of social media to avoid the internal struggle.

More great advice I was given- take what works for you and leave the rest. And that's ok! You don't have to do it all, precisely the way someone else does it. Because they are not you Their journey is not your journey. But maybe one thing they did or said resonated with you- so, take that and put it in your toolbox. Use that one thing and don't worry about all the other elements that could go with it- think of them as optional extras. Own your choice and cultivate your own practice that works for you. Interpret things your way. Maybe your interpretation is your inner guide pointing out what you need. Maybe another person interprets a teaching in another way- because that is what they need to learn from it. I am aware as I write this that other interpretations of Tapas are different. What I take from these teachings is my own. If you are interested, I invite you to explore Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga and see what comes up for you.

Tapas in daily life- is this something you would find useful in your toolbox?

To cultivate a daily habit (no matter how small or simple), it helps to create a routine, just like brushing your teeth.

  • set your intention: each day set clear goal for your practice. This may be to: meditate and be present with the breath for five minutes; to honour your body and be fully present in a reclined twist; or to find ease in a challenging inverted pose. Tune in and choose what feels right for you in this moment- having a clear goal will help maintain focus and motivation.

  • create routine. It's so easy to prioritise other things that feel more important and your yoga practice gets left till last and often falls off the to do list completely. Find a time of day that has space for this dedicated practice, that you can repeat daily. Write it into your diary/ to-do list and stick to it until it becomes a naturally essential habit. If you cannot commit to the same time each day due to your existing schedule, attach it to another existing routine so that it becomes, for example, part of your lunch break or something you do when you get home before slipping into making dinner or other evening responsibilities. And be flexible- practicing yoga doesn't mean the physical postures. Yoga is meditation, self awareness through journaling, breathing techniques and so much more. Therefore your daily yoga practice doesn't need to be exactly the same each day. Ask "what do i need today" and use your time accordingly.

  • Be kind to yourself. Tapas is not about harsh self-denial or impossible goals. It is about fostering growth through disciplined effort- conscious choice and commitment to return again and again to your goal.

So if you wish you had the motivation to move your body, to still your mind or to reconnect with yourself, start small, be consistent and let your practice grow with you.

Now I'm really in the mood for some olives and humus!

With love and gratitude,

Nicci x

PS Have any questions or thoughts on this? email me to connect 💫

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