2.1: tapah svadhyaya ishvarapranidhana kriya yogah
Yoga practice requires wilfully exposing oneself to the metaphorical element of fire within one’s practice, serious study, and aligning your actions with the true self.
According to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, the first two steps of Astanga Yoga or the eight limbs of Yoga are Yamas and Niyamas. When you want to go deeper into the Yogic wisdom, it helps when you understand and apply the concept of Yamas & Niyamas. This is what the first two limbs, the Yamas and Niyamas of yoga are about.
The Yamas are also called the five restraints. They are rules of what to avoid when embarking on a spiritual path. The Yamas are a code of ethics and morality for yogis to follow.
Ahimsa – non-violence
Satya – truthfulness
Asteya – non-stealing
Brahmacharya – chastity
Aparigraha – non-possessiveness
The Niyamas are the second limb of Ashtanga in the Yoga Sutras. They are things you must do to lead a spiritual and pure life.
Saucha – cleanliness or purity of the body
Santosha – happiness and contentment
Tapas – endurance and acceptance
Svadhyaya – self-awareness, and self-study
Ishwara Pranidhaana – Devotion to and love for the divine
Right now, we are going to talk about one of the Niyamas, which is Tapas.
What is Tapas?
Tapas is the one that increases the pranic energy, the heat, the strength, the willpower. The word, Tapas, is often connected with willpower and increasing pranic energy. When you are able to master or control over the body so that all of the impurities are destroyed, that is Tapas. Tapas is not something that is done one time. It's not a one time activity. It's a regular, everyday activity. Every day when you're trying to purify your body, when you're trying to control your sensory organs. You're trying to get rid of all of your unhealthy habits.
It starts from your day to day routine. It starts with the food that we eat. It covers what we actually see and feel with our sensory organs. When you do micro effort on a daily basis for a long period of time, you can bring your sensory organs under control.
A great example of practicing Tapas in daily life is to change our unhealthy eating habits to healthy ones; practice waking up early in the morning by deciding that you're going to get up early and stick with that every day until it becomes your natural habit. Right now if I'm getting up at eight o'clock, I will start getting up a little bit earlier tomorrow, say at seven thirty. Then I get used to it for two months. I don't wake up one minute later than seven thirty, even though I went to bed later. And that's a discipline. Slowly, that seven thirty time can be brought to six or even to five thirty, and then I stick with that time for a very long time. If you want to change habits, it's going to take time. The most difficult habits to change can also be changed if you practice tapas faithfully, because to change your habits you need the willpower and that willpower is your prana, is your strength. The only way to do it is by doing micro effort, small efforts but with long periods of time.
It is important to take the time when practicing Tapas. You will not change your habits immediately, and it must be done step by step but consistently.
When you're able to master the senses, you'll have a strong willpower and prana that can help you move forward on your path.