The Niyamas in Practice: Tapas to Transform

2.43 Kayaindriya siddhih ashuddhi kshayat tapasah
Through ascesis or training of the senses (tapas), there comes a destruction of mental impurities, and an ensuing mastery or perfection over the body and the mental organs of senses and actions (indriyas).
— Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

In the study of the Yoga Sutras and the process of Tapas, Patanjali invites the practitioner to continue cleansing (remember Sauca?) through the process of heat to help release impurities of the body and balance the senses. There is of course the "burning" of toxins through fasting, by moving the body to generate internal fire (think Sun Salutations) and we practice self-discipline to help facilitate practice of all the Yamas and Niyamas.

Finding opportunities to build heat on the yoga mat is easy, there is always an appropriate pranayama practice, series of yoga asanas, even hand mudras to deepen the awareness of Tapas. However, taking your practice out into daily life will help to solidify the time and work on the yoga mat. Consider how you would practice self-discipline, find the heat or fire within to help with transformation at work, home, community? Taking that awareness of  third chakra energy with you to generate will, determination, strength and power without burning yourself out is your Tapas practice.


Our physical sequence this week included Kapalabhati pranayama, more advanced practitioners could consider Bhastrika . Ujjayi breath during asana practice will help to build heat, be mindful as you work through the core sequences! Asana began with Sun Salutations, involved LOTS of core activation and strengthening work by holding standing postures for longer times. We used Surya hand mudra, said to be good for loosing weight and releasing the fire element of the body.

During the last week or so as I have practiced Tapas, I found that the heat flashes associated with menopause intensified, where they were usually occurring early morning they would spontaneously happen at the strangest times in the day. At the same time I had made at choice, with the change of the seasons, to incorporate more fresh fruit and vegetables into my diet, all in line with the practice of Tapas. As mentioned above, heat is needed to manifest change, I like to think of it as the activation energy (remember your chemistry?) to get a reaction going. There is a lot of digestive heat available and can be tapped into through the foods we eat. Unfortunately this means I had to give up spicy food, one reason to look forward to winter again!

These hot flashes are part of the change a woman makes from her Pitta time of life to her Vata, and referring to Ayurvedic practices have been a wonderful resource to help in this time of transition. If you or a loved one are struggling with menopause, consider researching an Ayurvedic diet or connecting with a certified practioner.

So, be mindful of your practice, understand and know yourself, work though Svadhyaya...oh that is next week...

~Peace and Blessings