It’s summer! If you’re like me, sometimes “summering” eats-up most of your time and leaves less for your yoga practice.Yes, even I experience this (yoga teachers aren’t superhuman). This is why, in my personal practice and public classes, I’ve been focusing on a kind of self-discipline, called tapas. To clarify, I’m speaking of the Sanskrit word for nurturing, mental and/or physical practice, and not the Spanish word for snacks/appetizers, though the latter form of tapas necessitates self-discipline too!
Many of us frequently associate the word “discipline” with subservience … a forced, rigid and sometimes harsh structure that we, or others force upon ourselves. The word can also elicit memories of punishment. Merriam-Webster gives at least 5 different definitions, including:
2) control gained by enforcing obedience or order
3) orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
5) a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity
Though the word “discipline” can give us an idea of what tapas means, yoga has a different translation.
In yoga, we practice self-discipline in a nourishing way. Tapas is making a commitment to ourselves to nurture our vitality, to build our resiliency and to support our well-being. Tapas comes from the inside. It’s the part of us that wants to learn and grow, and, ultimately, it’s an expression of self-love. We, at our core, want to succeed in growing into the best versions of ourselves. AND (this is so so important), we must learn to accept who we are in each moment, along the path.
Tapas is considered the single most important practice in life, because without dedication to that which we’re cultivating, we won’t succeed. Whatever we’re growing, whether it be compassion and generosity, focus and concentration, a garden, a family, or a business, all necessitate commitment. If I wasn’t committed to watering my raspberries, tomatoes, and dahlias, they wouldn’t grow. It’s the same for our personal growth/evolution. The yoga doesn’t work unless we do it!
A really helpful tool to promote Tapas, which I use in my personal practice and recommend to my private clients, is called the Body Dashboard. This is a tool to help us assess if we are meeting our basic needs. As if you were checking your car dashboard, you check your own, personal, Body Dashboard. (Thank you to my yoga therapy teacher, Sarahjoy Marsh for sharing this one!) The areas on the dashboard include:
elimination (sweat, tears, laughing, digestive elimination)
right brain activity
time in nature/fresh air
Check your Body Dashboard throughout the day, and make a commitment to maintaining each of its categories as best you can. The next time you feel off or in a funk, check your Dashboard!