• Natalie Backman

Turning Tapas Into Tejas

Welcome to the Fire

For the last several weeks I have found myself saying, "I haven't written anything in ages!” I have intended to, but the proper inspiration hadn't struck and I didn't want to start writing without something truly valuable to say. I think I was over complicating matters, making excuses, in this case stalling because none of my ideas were quite right. That's a form of resistance. Ever find yourself doing that...?


Well, now that very resistance inspires me to share with you one of the most rudimentary principles of the yoga practice, something called tapas.


In general usage, tapas means "austerity." In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali refers to tapas as a practice, or a set of practices that detoxify the body and purify the mind. Tapas gives us the ability to conquer resistance to practice. No matter where we stand in our yoga practice, there is resistance to evolving beyond our current state. All of us, regardless of how strong we are, have our own unique level of inertia. A certain amount of energy is required to nullify that inertia before we can move forward. In a spiritual context, the subtlest form of inertia is resistance to the practice itself. Overcoming this resistance is tapas. Conquering resistance involves discomfort. Our natural tendency is to avoid discomfort in favor of an enjoyable, pleasurable life. Renouncing comfort, tolerating the intolerable, thus increasing our endurance and fortitude and eventually breaking through our resistance, is tapas.


The result of tapas is invariably delightful. Take asana, for example. Asana requires shaking off inertia. There is resistance to deepening a posture, holding it a few breaths longer than you like, practicing in a heated room... but once we have done it, we feel great! Asana detoxifies the body, energizes the nervous system, increases lung capacity, strengthens the heart, clears the brain and in time, purifies the mind and sharpens intellect. Similarly, eating a satvic (pure) diet, practicing silence and refraining from indulgence are all forms of tapas. Unless we embrace tapas, our practice remains vulnerable to our inherent laziness. I'm not talking about couch potato laziness, but rather, an unwillingness to confront that which is truly limiting you or distracting you from stepping fully into who you are meant to be. Identifying our principal laziness and preventing it from impeding our progress is an essential component of fruitful practice. - Information on Tapas informed and inspired by The Secret of the Yoga Sutra by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

My teacher shared something with me recently that shifted my perspective on tapas. Up to that point, hearing the word tapas always made me grimace and filled me with a certain degree of foreboding. It doesn't sound fun. At all. However, when she told me that it is through tapas that tejas arises, I found new inspiration. Tejas is a word, a concept, that has always called to me. It translates to "the radiant splendor that draws all hearts." It makes us shiny from the inside out! As someone looking to share the power and joy of yoga with as many people as possible, this is something I believe can help. It aids me in fulfilling my dharma, my life's purpose, which gives my practice and all sources of resistance new meaning.


I definitely experience my fair share of resistance. For example, it has taken me nearly a year, since the last Imagine Fest, to recover the willpower to start organizing the next one. I have had a massive amount of resistance. Part of that was needing a period of recovery, but another part was just knowing how much work, time, energy and effort it would require and wanting to postpone that for as long as possible. I know, full well, that this festival is part of my dharma - yet I still resist it, maybe even more so because subconsciously it is requiring things of me that are going to burn through aspects of my personality that don't serve, and to replace them with new possibility. Change. Growth. Evolution. My ego mind doesn't much care for any of those things. The ego is firmly invested in maintaining the status quo.


Are there things in your life, that you KNOW will benefit you tremendously, that you resist? Do you have any idea why? I bet you do. If you allow yourself the opportunity to get quiet and listen, your inner wisdom will guide you to the answer of that question. And when the answer is revealed, what will you do with it? Do you have the courage, the forbearance, the determination to lean in to what you know you need to do? Tapping into that kind of willpower takes practice. I can help you with that. You show up on your mat, I'll throw challenge after challenge at you and encourage you to come through for yourself. There will be no demands, you will always prioritize your own inner guidance, but I will give you a playground on which to lean into resistance, create tapas and develop tejas. And your life will improve from it. I promise. Eventually.



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