Tapas – The Third Niyama
Posted by terrepruitt on March 11, 2016
Tapas, no, not the little plates of appetizers in Spanish cuisine. But that is, honestly, how I remember this niyama. I think, “What is the third one? Oh yeah, little plates of food.” As I have mentioned before, and this word is no different, you will probably see it spelled many different ways. If you want to not confuse it with the little plates you could spell it Tapahs. Although, the Heart of Yoga, does link Tapas to food. First he says that it literally means “to heat the body”. He goes on to say that by doing so we cleanse it. Another form, he says is “paying attention to what we eat”. So that does kind of tie in with food. The book further states that “posture, attention to eating habits, attention to breathing patterns are all tapas.” I learned tapas as discipline.
So that would be discipline over your posture, eating habits, and breath. The idea is that if you have discipline over all of these things you are purifying the body and practicing tapas. The Heart of Yoga also says, “Tapas is often described as penance, mortification, and a strict diet.”
I like the way Connie Habash, talks about it in her article. She talks about tapas as being that fire that gets you to do things. The inner flame that motivates you, she says. That desire or discipline that has you doing chores or a daily workout even when you really don’t want to. The thing that keeps you on track. I am way more on board with that then “voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong”.
Which is good because I guess even though “tapas is often described at penance” it doesn’t mean penance or castigation” so it is mentioned later in The Heart of Yoga. Basically we are disciplined with ourselves. Not doing something (eating, exercising, working, playing) in excess. Doing what we need to stay healthy, but not taking it overboard. While exercising is a good thing it can be done to a point of making the body or mind unhealthy. And that can be said of many things, as I mentioned work and even play. If there is too much “play” then there is no balance. Yoga is all about balance. Things need to be in balance. The yin and the yang.
The practice of tapas allows for balance as it is the discipline that keeps everything in check. So, this is a brief idea of tapas. Tapas is the third niyama. There are five niyamas. Niyamas are the second limb of yoga. There are eight limbs of yoga.
I have mastered none. I am just posting about them as a way to familiarize myself with them and a way to keep them and their ideas at my fingertips. Yoga is a practice so these are things I can process for years to come. I share them, too, as a way to introduce you to the other aspects of yoga. Just like I share the principles and other things that make up Nia.
Can you easily see why yoga is called a practice? 🙂