We are moving right along through the Niyamas, the second limb of yoga. This week we focus on the third niyama, Tapas which refers to discipline. The word comes from the root Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn” and can represent a sense of fiery discipline. Aha! Finally, one that is clear, right? Well, not so fast. Like all things translated from ancient texts, there are many interpretations. Most center around the idea of “discipline” and heat. We can interpret this simply, in the words of T.K.V. Desikachar as “the activity of keeping the body fit” and “heat the body, and, by doing so, to cleanse it”. That seems straight forward, maintain a consistent yoga practice and you will be fit!
Other discussions focus on the tapas (heat) burning away old negative habits or patterns. This takes serious self-discipline as well. When we focus tapas specifically in relation to our yoga practice, it can simply remind us to have discipline around a regular practice, even 5-10 minutes a day. While I was reading Desikachar’s Heart of Yoga one of the many times, I recall being drawn to his discussion on agni, or fire, and the fire we have within. In his discussions on pranayama (yoga breathing disciplines), he talks about our inner agni burning all the internal rubbish. To me this rubbish represents negative things in my life that I create or can control. I think of practicing tapas in a similar context.
For more on the topic follow link below (by the way, notice the pose demonstrated on tapas is navasana!)
Meditating on Discipline - Tapas
“A worthy aim makes life illumined, pure and divine. Without such an aim, action and prayer have no value. Life without tapas is like a heart without love”. – BKS Iyengar
“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering” – Dalai Lama
I love the parable about the farmer negotiating a deal with God to create perfect crop growing weather and can relate it to the practice of tapas. It demonstrates that without hard work and discipline nothing can be created that has depth, quality, or soul.
Below find a link to a video with a few moments from an aarti that i attended on the Ganga River in Rishikesh, India. A beautiful ritual that uses fire as an offering. We lit small dishes with flowers and a candle that floats down the river. For more on aarti, see second link below.
Our Practice – Forearm (or other) Plank - Phalakasana
Part of me wanted to focus on navasana (boat pose) relative to tapas since I recognize the discipline, the heat and sometimes the chagrin, around that pose! Another equally strong pose, also focusing on the core (or the belly where the internal agni, or fire is located), is plank. I had to look up the Sanskrit name for this one! Phalakasana translates as “board” and is pronounced “fal-ack-AHS-ana”.
From sphinx, we will come onto our forearms with toes curled under. Press up (or peel your body off the ground) on an exhale. Press back strongly through the heals, activating your posterior chain (especially the back of your legs). Engage your core fully, pressing your navel back towards your spine and draw shoulder blades away from each other. If you start to feel any pain or discomfort in your back, come down to knees or child’s pose and rest/breath before resuming. This pose can also be done in a knees down version.
Physical benefits of forearm plank include core and leg strengthening and toning. The spine also benefits.
Nurturing with Food – Super Vegan “Meat” Chili
For years I have made my vegetarian chili without meat. Since our older son, Sam, has been home (Covid 19 casualty, but nice for us for a last hurrah with him under our roof), our vegetarian cooking has incorporated more plant-based protein. While he is not a vegetarian, he appreciates the benefits of the lifestyle and probably eats an 80% plant-based diet. Together we have explored many of the tofu options out there, including organic tofu crumbles that can be substituted in recipes for meat. I adapted the following recipe from my own recipe for bean only chili and several others including one from the website https://itdoesnttastelikechicken.com in which they claim their chili won in a non-vegan chili cook off contest (including ones with meat). Their flavoring of the “meat” really adds something. I think this will appeal to vegans and meat eaters alike. Next week a recipe for cornbread to accompany will follow!
See you on the mat