January is the month where many often set our intentions, goals, resolutions, whatever you want to call it, for the coming New Year. It’s a great place to start – a changing year, looking forward to possibility of a new one. And many of these intentions/goals/resolutions have to do with doing something regularly. For example “I’ll go to the gym four times a week” or “I’ll eat vegetarian twice a week” or maybe “I’ll only drink on the weekends.” Each of these requires discipline; a focus to keep ourselves on track and not stray from this new path to the new you.
Let’s face it: after a couple of weeks, and maybe you’ve been really good at sticking to it, it suddenly gets harder. Now you want to skip that workout because you’re tired or you’ve plateaued and aren’t seeing the fast results. Or maybe only drinking on the weekend became a glass or two during the week, and eventually a glass or two (too) many nights of the week. So we get frustrated with ourselves and beat ourselves up for failing. Maybe we get back on that path of self-discipline, or maybe we drop the intention all together.
The Niyama* Tapas (literally meaning “heat”) teaches us that we must sit in the fire of self-discipline to burn away that which doesn’t serve us in order to be left with the beautiful, vibrant person we do want to be. Through this fire we are able to withstand anything life throws at us, but it is through this fire that we learned to be disciplined in the first place.
As a musician I’m familiar with this idea of self-discipline. From the early age of five I began taking piano lessons. And I practiced. And I practiced. And I became really quite a good pianist. This led into my discipline and transition into practicing voice and becoming a professional singer, and eventually into the discipline and practice of writing music and becoming a professional composer. It is frustrating at times, elating at others, but it is through the fire of trial and error, of work and focus that led me to where I am today: an independent composer and singer, and now also a yoga teacher. But it’s WORK – believe me, there are days where I wonder why I’ve picked this life of the independent entrepreneur who must stay self-motivated and disciplined or else never, ever make a living. It’s tough at times, but I can’t imagine living my life any other way. If I fall off the wagon of discipline and feel frustrated at slow progress, I remind myself that I didn’t read music the first day I looked at a score. It took time and patience and focus, and each day, week, month, year, decades of work is all worth it and will continue to be a worthwhile journey.
I approach my yoga the same way – I know that it’s a practice, so I’m in it for the long haul. I’ll get on my mat, I’ll read yoga writings that challenge and inspire me, and I’ll commit to the discipline it takes to grow a practice, one day at a time. We show up; and we do it again and again, applying this idea of tapas, of heat and fire, to our lives.
If we can burn away that other stuff that doesn’t serve us, then imagine what we can become. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable; sometimes we might want to walk away and say forget it. But if life is found through the practice, the only question to ask is what are we waiting for?? There’s no time like the present to start that practice, to get spicy and fired up and ignite that heat of tapas. Imagine how our lives would change, and not just for the few weeks after the New Year’s resolutions. We’re talking a lifetime commitment to practice, to bettering ourselves, and to becoming the brightest, boldest, best version of ourselves.
So let’s get spicy! Ignite that fire and create a transformation in mind, body, and spirit!
*one of the eight limbs of Yoga, Niyamas focus on observation – part of the ethical practice of Yoga.