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Tapas, the Fire of Transformation

You probably won’t know this, but my website has gone through three overhauls; so has my business name and logo. Not to mention the designs of my posters, banners and images that I use on my promotion materials and social media. And even now, when I really love and am proud of my current design set, I still find myself reviewing and refining everything.

The same is true for my class sequences. I use the next set in the cycle as my home-practice to enable me to refine the poses, modifications and mini sequences that make up the whole in preparation for my classes.

I must admit, I started out this article on Tapas very differently. But while I was musing over all these curating disciplines I do for my business it dawned on me that this is Tapas. The act of engaging in transformation and allowing that transformation to happen.

The Sanskrit “Tapas” translates to heat, and in the context of the 8 limbs of yoga, it’s ascribed to discipline and austerity. But I prefer to translate it to transformation. Heat, passion, discipline, fervour, fire, drive – all of these has the intention and effect of transformation. This transformation we derive from our craft, our practice, new things to try, old things to revisit, new points-of-view, acquiring new experiences, passing on our experiences – they all come from a fire within us; from Tapas.

Sometimes transformations come in big, profound changes. Sometimes they’re small and subtle. Sometimes it’s immediate and other times it’s long term. The key is to allow for transformation to happen naturally, without force or indifference. Without ego nor fear. This means that our own personal evolution takes its natural course from where we are to where we want; or to where situations in our lives lead us.

Tapas, the Fire of Transformation

Tapas, however, needs to be balanced with discernment. Our inner fire can sometimes burn too hot and push us into jumping head first into situations that might be more harmful than beneficial. This doesn’t need to be something as big as, let’s say…skydiving! I’m not saying skydiving is harmful…but you know what I mean, yes?

Let me bring it back to my example of working on my business. There are times when I suddenly get a spark of inspiration and when I start working I need to keep an eye on the time or else it’s quite possible that I won’t sleep! I can’t afford to do an all-nighter on a school night; my son needs me in the morning. If it were a Friday evening, then maybe that’s ok. I get so much done and have one highly polished finished project, but I know I’ll be paying for the lack of sleep for several nights, even weeks! The best thing for me is to plan and space my work. I don’t deplete my energy, I get work done, I’m alert and present for my classes and specially for my family. I keep the fire of Tapas lit, bight and hot to push me forward and transform me and balance it with discernment so that it doesn’t burn me out.

Here’s another example: I’ve been teaching for five-plus years now and I’ve seen an entire range of energies coming from my students – anywhere from just literally being there but without any engagement (physical, mental nor emotional) to full-on, fast, limb-throwing pace. The first type is lacking Tapas and the other, too much. To assist in my students’ transformation, I encourage those lacking Tapas to engage in the physical aspect more. Get the heartrate up, get the breathing going and make them feel the fire through the effort. For those with too much, I draw their attention inward; drawing the fire away from the physical and into the mental, emotional and spiritual. The discernment on their part is, hopefully, when they trust me to help them in their practise. Eventually, they will find the balance that resonates with them.

So, find what lights your fire. It doesn’t have to be one grandiose thing. They can be small, simple, every-day things like your yoga practice. Pace yourself and let the transformation of Tapas happen.

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