Did you know that the word ‘tapas’ has more than one meaning? It’s not only a word to describe various delicious Spanish bites, but also a Sanskrit word often used in yogic texts.
Tapas – Discipline
That Sanskrit tapas is the one I’m referring to today. Most of the times, it’s translated as ‘discipline’, which is, for most people, not a very attractive word. We tend to feel that discipline is something that makes us unfree, something that binds us and keeps us from ‘going with the flow’.
In a way, that might be right. But if you look more closely, you might find that it’s actually discipline that can set you free.
We all need some discipline, in one way or the other. Even brushing your teeth every day is a form of discipline. It helps the mind to become still: if you have the discipline of brushing your teeth every day, you don’t have to ask yourself constantly if you want to brush your teeth, if it’s really necessary, if you should do it now or maybe in a few days. You brush your teeth and that’s that. That discipline of brushing your teeth will give you a feeling of stability, grounding. It’s something that’s an unquestionable part of your life.
Discipline will make your practice easier
Same goes for your yoga practice: if you choose the discipline to practice daily, it will get easier to practice not despite your discipline, but because of your discipline. Your mind will stop making up excuses not to practice. Because of that, you can relax more in your practice, it’ll bring you more stability and through that, you will experience more freedom.
If you choose the discipline to practice daily, it will get easier to practice not despite of your discipline, but because of your discipline.
At the start of every new year, a lot of new year’s resolutions are made – and all of those will require some discipline to make it a healthy habit. It might help to acknowledge the fact that you choose your discipline. It will get a lot easier to stick to a healthy diet (or yoga practice, or other disciplines) if you say ‘I choose to eat healthy’ instead of saying ‘Aw… too bad… I can’t have cupcakes anymore’.
There’s a cute little story explaining how a self-chosen discipline relates to freedom, and it has to do with another way of translating tapas: ‘heat’.
According to Hindu mythology, the god Brahman has a very stable seat he likes to rest on. He sits for days, months, years on end. Now, whenever a yogi(ni) has chosen a discipline and truly devotes her or his time to that discipline, Brahman’s seat gets warmer and warmer. As if a fire is burning underneath it. Eventually, the seat will get too hot to sit on. That’s the moment when Brahman will ask the yogi(ni) why they perform this discipline. Most of those disciplined yogi(ni)’s will ask for enlightenment, pure freedom. For the seat to become cooler again, that wish has to be granted. And so you can gain freedom through a steady discipline.
Text: Irina Verwer