The Hot Dewy TAPAS
tapah svadhyaya isvara pranidhanani kriya yogah~ The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, ch.2.1
- Tapah = austerity, discipline, heat
- Svadyaha = self-study, self-inqury
- Isvara = supreme being, god, the Universe, the Force
- Pranidhana = surrender, acceptance, devotion
- Kriya yogah = action of yoga
Some translate Tapas, Svadyaya and Isvara Pranidhana as three discipline and it is said that Patanjali considered them to be the most important part of yoga practice.
Out of these three components of yoga practice, tapas is often translated as simply heat. But it extends way more than that and I find it to be one of the most practical aspect of yoga practice in daily life.
In order to explain the way I understand tapas, imagine yourself scuba diving in our beautiful Indonesian water.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains that without the practice of tapas, we are generally reacting to life in two ways: aversion and attachment.
Reacting with aversion
In this case, if we react with aversion, we panic, we breathe fast and furious and quickly ascending to the surface to get out, which can actually cause your DEATH! You would have what’s called decompression sickness and if you’re lucky, you would be sent to the decompression chamber in the closest hospital and most of the time, you are completely paralysed on the spot. This is one of the first things you learn when you take a course with your diving instructor. Ascend slowly.
Reacting with attachment
In the case of attachment, some people have no respect for marine life. The general rule of thumb is DO NOT TOUCH marine life no matter how beautiful they may look. Many creatures have skin, such as turtle that is not meant to be touched by humans. And after all, we, humans, are the destroyers of other species. So marine life, too is best kept on their own. This quarantine time is proving that very quickly. If we stay away from nature, nature can quickly restore itself. And we’ve all seen these cocky divers (free divers AND scuba divers) get extremely close to animals for their Instagram worthy shots and boom! the animals react quickly and the diver escapes near death. So it can be just simply dangerous, too.
Either way, without the practice of tapas, we are simply reacting to situations. We do this all the time in life. Relationships, work, money, food, you name it.
Adding the practice of tapas
In the above example, if you add the practice of tapas, it would look like this:
In the practice of tapas, we feel the sensations and feelings after you perceive the stimulus. That’s why it can be translated as heat. If you were in a situation where you felt angry because someone said something hostile to you, the anger gives you the feeling of heat rising up.
Remember, our perception may not always be an observation such as in the case in the diagram. A shark may be underwater in your vicinity (if you’re lucky) but the shark may not be trying to kill you (,which is the case in most of the time).
The late Michael Stone used to say that any feelings generally last about five minutes and if you really practice tapas, you can feel it change even just slightly. The practice of tapas allows us to move in the world more consciously (and most of the time, less regrets).
The interesting thing is that reaction works in the same way for things that we mostly consider as positive, like passion.
How many times have you said or heard someone say that they “lost themselves in love”?
When I was a vegetarian, in the beginning, I was so passionate about the cause that I was constantly angry and I walked around lecturing people. And we all know that lecturing people immediately put people behind the walls of defence mechanism. There was no connection or understanding happening, which is a big loss as an activist.
So even something we consider “good” can be harmful to us and others without the practice of tapas.
What do you think?
Let me know in comments or dm me and let me know how this applies to you! Is there anything you’d like to add? Would love to hear from you!