Category Archives: From the Sadhaka’s Mat

Yoga for Tapas

Thosai - simple food for the soul

This is not about little Spanish dishes.

Tamas (inertia) and tapas (ardour) are opposites. When the mind slackens and is lazy, it is too easy to do nothing, and doing nothing invites further inertia and sluggishness in the body, in a vicious cycle of inertia. We have all been there before. On the other hand, like a switch that is flipped, the mind can just as easily fire up the body. Ask any first-time marathoner about their final 10km and they would tend to share similar reflections on the mind carrying the body through to the finishing line, when the body is apparently no longer able.

The mind is a powerful tool that we can harness to realise our goals. With the body, mind and soul aligned, we can make many things happen, from using visualisation to hold a power yoga pose, to realising a dream. We can all share personal epiphanies that reflect that this is true. For myself, some time back, I had set my mind on deepening my yoga knowledge and to share it with others, and now, I am living that dream.

But care must be made that the mind is not used to serve the ego but to serve a higher purpose. In kundalini yoga, there is a lot of emphasis on awakening the kundalini, firing up the chakras to move closer to the spiritual plane. The mind, when engaged through yoga study and practice, learns to align with the ultimate, be it a God, goddesses, or a supranatural universal life force. Yoga is meant to guide us towards ultimate spiritual bliss, or samadhi. Whilst many of us may never achieve that, the idea is to, constantly – in spite of real world challenges, including stress, temptations, lack of resources – move in the direction of blissful self-absorption, samadhi.

This has applications in our asana practice. I remind often in my practice sessions, that one should constantly, mindfully, work on the actions of the pose, more than look to achieve the photogenic ideal pose itself. The pose will achieve itself, once the rest is ready. And surprise, surprise, you would feel joy at finally breaking a barrier, perhaps at getting into a headstand after months of working on the core, the shoulders, the arms and integrating all the actions together.



Most people come to experience great love by chance. I came to know yoga 8 years ago, on a guest pass at one of the outlets of a global fitness centre chain. After that, I tried various yoga studios and classes, curious about different ‘styles’, such as yin, vinyasa, Bikram, power, kundalini and Iyengar. At the beginning, like most people who started getting interested in yoga, it was out of curiosity, and out of the desire to have a more healthful and shapely body, without giving much thought to the greater significance of yoga.

When I completed the yoga teacher’s training, I came away not only with knowledge of yoga’s history, philosophy and practice, but wisdom. Awareness and insights on one’s self and life are corollary to going through such transformational training.

I encourage you to not consider yoga as a fitness and health routine, but a way of being, with love as its premise. Yoga is about universal love, and that starts from loving oneself first. When I started out with yoga, there was a lot of ego involved. Ego is self-obsession – to look great, to have the perfect pose, to be respected, and so on – but not self-love. Regular yoga practice can bring you to self-awareness of your strengths and flaws, instead of constantly measuring the self against artificial benchmarks. Self-awareness helps you to use your strengths on the right occasion, and accept your shortcomings during others.

Loving oneself also entails taking care of the physical body, the receptacle in which our souls rest in this lifetime. Yoga teaches one to care for the body, and not treat it like a dump, including feeding it the best nutrition, and cleaning it regularly, and this actually removes real as well as apparent blockages.

Start with self-love this New Year, and the rest will follow.