Photo: Matthias Kabel
Real Life Yoga and Ayurveda, Part 3
Finding balance: Stoke the Inner Fire.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST AJA BLANC
Part 1 Some Like It Hot
Part 2 Chill Out or Burn Out
Are you chronically cold? Hands frigidly numb? Toes like icicles?
Wait a minute, you’re thinking, what do my cold toes have to do with a lack of mental motivation?
In the science of Ayurveda, everything.
Doshas: the elemental constitutions we all possess
When the doshas are thrown out of balance, it’s not just the body that is affected, but also how we show up in the world.
Both the Kapha and Vata doshas possess the quality of cold, but that may be where their similarities end. Where Kapha is heavy, slow and steady, Vata is light, quick and changeable.
A too cool Kapha could be thought of as water-logged – heavy in the heart and mind, prone to depression or resistant to change.
A too cool Vata is nearly the opposite – quick and irregular, with restlessness, worry and anxiety.
Yoga for balancing cool with heat
The beauty of Ayurveda is that there are numerous ways in which to balance these overly cool qualities and bring more heat into the mind and body – all tailored specifically to you and your distinctive needs (because we are all so special!)
However, when we look specifically to yoga as a source of balance, there is a way to cultivate an inner heat that benefits everyone: tapas. No, not the tasty Spanish treats (although those are wonderful).
Tapas as in the Sanskirt word for heat.
This is where things get really fascinating, because in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, kriya yoga (the yoga of action) is outlined as a system of self-transformation that features tapas as a key aspect.
Dedication is transformation
Author Dr. Timothy McCall, in his article Yoga as a Technology for Life Transformation describes tapas as the fire of dedication that fuels practice:
To the ancient yogis, the human body without yoga is like an unbaked clay pot, and regular yoga practice is the kiln that gives the body the strength and resilience to withstand the wear and tear it is subjected to. If mustering the willpower to practice regularly seems like too much for you, don’t despair. There’s something about doing yoga every day that makes you want to do it every day—and this tapas, which tends to grow over time, can be extended to other aspects of your life.
In yoga, the heat of tapas is directly related to dedication, discipline and in turn routine.
That’s really good news for chilled Kaphas lacking motivation and under-heated Vatas with unfocused restlessness. Even fiery Pitta benefits because tapas provides an outlet for their unproductive heat.
Intensity produces refinement
The principle of tapas is introduced in Yoga Sutra II.4
kâyendriya-siddhir aåuddhi-kæayât tapasaï
This can be translated As intense discipline burns up impurities, the body and its senses become supremely refined.
Patanjali isn’t saying any old discipline here, we are talking intense discipline. Discipline so powerful, so hot, it burns up impurities, through which we become supremely refined.
Supremely refined. Doesn’t that sound good? I think it sounds awesome! Because as Dr. McCall points out, the burning fire of dedication and discipline can be extended to other aspects of our lives.
This kind of discipline is fed by passion, passion is fueled by prana, prana is created through the practice of yoga, and yoga practice is the dedication to tapas. It all comes full circle!
Consistency is the first step
Intense, fiery discipline feels like a real passion for embarking on a yogic journey, but how is it lived day to day? The idea of discipline so hot it burns up stuff sounds a bit overwhelming I admit. Sometimes my discipline feels more…lukewarm at best.
Yet cultivating an intention to show up everyday to the mat, whether that’s for just 20 minutes a day, is the first step in finding your tapas. Indeed tapas grows – exponentially in fact. My practice today makes practice tomorrow all the more fueled with passion and possibility.
This is to say: its gets easier and easier. Once you start a regular practice, whether your discipline is burning or not, you will find that tapas naturally comes.
Start where you are. What matters is to begin.
If 20 minutes takes more tapas than you currently possess, then start as simple as possible: set aside a moment, unroll your mat, take a seat and inhale. Then exhale. Roll up your mat and you’re all set. Even that is enough to feel a little something. Eventually, if you are up to it, you can increase to two breaths. And so on.
Sounds silly? Its not! Even one regular, disciplined breath is enough of a foundation to grow tapas.
Day after day, the inner fire of practice is stoked. It is through the fire of tapas that we can seek our balance.
Peace to your practice,
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.