By Faye Martins
What should we know about tapas? Although Yoga has become a part of mainstream life, the word still conjures up visions of thin, flexible bodies in complex postures. In fact, many people who realize that everyone from cancer patients to senior citizens practice yoga still think of it as a physical discipline only. There are many forms of Yoga which yield emotional, mental, and spiritual health benefits.
The truth is that only one of Yoga’s eight limbs – Asana – involves the practice of physical poses. The other seven deal with everything from meditation and breathing to morality and concentration.
It is not my intention to discuss all of the limbs, which Patanjali describes within the Yoga Sutra, but to encourage you to think in-depth about tapas, which is one specific sub-category of Niyama that you may know as “Tapas.”
Niyama, the second limb, is a Sanskrit word that means ‘laws’ or ‘rules’; and its practice involves personal integrity. One of the five concepts of Niyama is Tapas, meaning ‘discipline’ or ‘austerity’. Tapas concerns the action of keeping the body healthy and controlling the inner cravings without exhibiting them externally. Literally, it is translated as ‘to burn’ or ‘to heat’ and signifies purification or cleansing.
Interesting Facts about Tapas
• The practice of Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breathing) help to keep the physical body in shape.
• In order to fully practice Yoga, one should have burning desire to keep the body clean.
• A healthy diet and adequate sleep are necessary to keep the body pure.
• Tapas stresses moderation and purity of all things, including actions, bodily intake, and senses.
• All thoughts and actions should bring the mind closer to the Divine.
• Activities should be for the benefit of the greater good, not for selfish gain.
• Purification involves sacrifice but leads to greater gains in the long run.
• A common means of practicing Tapas is fasting, or cleansing.
• Tapas may involve striving for a spiritual, physical, or mental goal.
• Spiritual practices and inner cleansing are manifested in the outer body.
• Prayer, meditation, positive thinking, and kind words or deeds lead to purification.
• The ultimate goal of purification is union with God or entering Nirvana.
A person who adheres to ascetic practices in an attempt to achieve the level of the great teachers, such as Buddha or Jesus, is called a Tapasvi. The everyday yoga practitioner, however, need not spend long hours meditating in an ashram to benefit from Tapas. Much like the Golden Rule, it is just a healthy and moral way to live.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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