The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An 18-week mini-course
WEEK NINE: TAPAS
Living life with zeal and sincerity, the purifying flame is ignited, revealing inner Light.
– SUTRA II.43
This practice of Tapas, the third Niyama in the Eight Limbs of Yoga philosophy, shall be my personal resolve for this New Year. I recently confirmed ten locations across the state to share a one-day Yoga retreat focusing on “Yoga from the Inside Out.” The intention is to address the deeper, broader teachings of Yoga to help you to discover the tools that are your own best medicine for revealing your inner Light.
Along the road on this “Rockin’ Montana Yoga Tour” I plan to create a video blog. “Yoga Under the Big Sky,” will highlight numerous Yoga studios now present in our state along with interviews from teachers and students regarding the growth and opportunity that has evolved over the years. I am bubbling over with burning enthusiasm for this adventure, hoping to create more awareness and connection of our Yoga community. Staying focused while illuminating individuals along the way will be important.
My most memorable translation of Tapas was a teaching delivered to me by Nischala Devi while attending a teacher training on The Yoga of Relationship. Her focus was on student/teacher roles and the importance of authentic communication: true listening as well as true self expression.
Nischala was seated cross-legged, adorned in her colorful Indian tunic, beaming out her compassionate smile, and flanked by fresh flowers and a large statue of Kuan Yin. At the age of 70-something, her spirit radiates youthful enthusiasm along with deep wisdom playfully symbolized by the pink streaks added to her long white hair. She is a true example of living with zeal and sincerity, while joyfully revealing her inner light.
Speaking clearly and eloquently, she encouraged us to dedicate ourselves to refining our actions in body, mind, and speech. “Allow the burning away of obstructions and distractions that obscure your true Self to be a slow, steady, subtle cleansing. Not a forceful bonfire. We certainly don’t want to burn out in the process of awakening. Choose the right practices that will gently ignite the spark of the Divinity within your heart.”
The sparkle in her eyes was inspiring enough to deepen my own commitment to this path. “I want to be like her when I grow up,” I heard my inner voice calling. Of course, I know I’ll be more like me, yet it is a sweet gift to have teachers that inspire our personal growth and development. Her twenty years as a devoted disciple of Sri Swami Satchidananda is incomparable as she was steeped in Yogic philosophy and lifestyle. However, I also believe that those of us that live as householders (a cycle of life well recognized in the Yogic culture) are given plenty of opportunity to apply and refine these honorable teachings.
To reach goals of any kind we need motivation, fiery discipline, and intense commitment. These qualities of Tapas help to burn off the mental obstacles and physical impediments that keep us from being our true Self. By observing and applying Tapas we are fortified with burning enthusiasm to dissolve attachments to what no longer serves us, creating a calm mind while listening more clearly to the voice of wisdom that guides us in mindful action from the inside out. Engaging Tapas cultivates meaningful and healthful habits that become, not a discipline, but a way of life.
As we approach the New Year tradition of resolutions, what are you willing to burn away that no longer serves you?
May you be guided by your own fiery enthusiasm choosing to live this one wild and precious life with truth, grace, and an open heart. Let your Light Shine!