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.