Tap into Tapas: The Fire of Self-Discipline

Motivation is fleeting! If you want to free yourself from bad habits and move toward positive change, you might need to bring in the fire of self-discipline. In this article, I'll talk about yoga's concept of tapas and how you can apply it in your yoga practice AND in your daily life.

Mikah Horn
Tap into Tapas: The Fire of Self-Discipline

Tapas...the heat of self-discipline.

If you were like me years ago, the only "tapas" I was familiar with was the small Spanish snack. But tapas in yoga is one of the Niyamas, or moral codes guiding us towards positive behavior. It basically means "FIRE."

Tapas is fiery self-discipline that leads to transformation and growth. It's the fire and passion within us that gives us our drive to keep going. It’s what keeps you doing the things that you know are good for you even when you don’t want to. 

Here's an example: A lot of the time, I wake up excited to do my daily yoga practice. I love yoga and I love how it makes me feel, so much so that I've chosen to teach the practice to others. But to be honest, sometimes getting on my mat is a struggle! Whether that’s because I didn’t get enough sleep, I’m stressed about running my yoga business, I feel like I don’t have enough time, or my focus is just elsewhere.

But I get on the mat on the mat anyway because I know that if I don’t do yoga consistently, I won’t feel good. This is tapas.

When we practice tapas in our physical yoga practice, we practice sitting with whatever sensations arise for us without running away. So while tapas can literally be felt as heat in the body, like the burn of a forearm plank that transforms weakness into strength, it could also mean sitting with the discomfort of stillness in meditation.

This can lead to a higher level of self-awareness in your daily life, noticing how you handle discomfort from moment to moment and not being as controlled by temporary feelings and sensations.

Dedication and discipline, not force.

Tapas doesn't mean FORCE. We're still tuning in, listening to our body, and not pushing past exhaustion or pain. Tapas can even mean the self-discipline to simply get yourself onto the mat and see where the practice takes you, even if that’s to a few quiet restorative poses. We need to find the balance between self-control and treating ourselves with patience and kindness.

Explore the balance between self-discipline and self-compassion. They can coexist in harmony.

In Deborah Adele’s book The Yamas & Niyamas, she writes about tapas being “a controlled burn.” We need to pay attention to what is possible, what is safe, and what makes sense for us in our current life context. So in other words, give yourself grace. If you just had a newborn baby, you’re not going to be able to wake up 30 minutes earlier to exercise, and that’s okay. Certain chapters of our lives require different things. It’s wonderful to hold ourselves to a high standard, but we also need to be realistic with what else is going on. 

Put it into practice.

Want to put the concept of tapas into practice? Try this 20-minute yoga class. It's part of a 28-day yoga program inside of Lifelong Yoga Online, my online therapeutic yoga membership.

If you enjoyed this class, I'd love to invite you to join us inside of Lifelong Yoga Online. This "Stoke the Fire" class (themed on Tapas) is part of a members-only program called Cultivating Consistency: 28 days to creating a sustainable yoga habit you'll love.

Try this affirmation to further explore the concept of tapas:

"Through daily practice and self-discipline, I enjoy radiant health."

I'll leave you with this: Deborah Adele says that the discipline of tapas will "mold us into someone of great depth and profoundness if we let it." Embrace change, challenge yourself, and stay the course.