Tapas – not the Spanish kind…


Mmmm… Did that make you think of olives and cheesy potatoes?

I always get a giggle in my yoga classes when I say that!

However, the Sanskrit concept of Tapas is very different from indulging in delicious Spanish food. In fact, it comes quite close to being the opposite.


Kindling your inner fire

Can you think of times when you’ve felt sluggish and heavy? Times when you found it reeeeeally difficult to get your body moving or to get started with a work/house project?

This was a time when you could have used some Tapas! (…not the food…)

Tapas is one of the Yamas from the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga created by Patanjali, a fore-father of yogic philosophy. (There are 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas – and these are like 10 ways of how to be a decent human being!)

Tapas is all about putting in the work. Getting a little uncomfortable. ‘Feeling the burn’ or missing out on some indulgences. Tapas is about kindling the inner fire – or ‘Agni’ in Sanskrit.

But why should we set our insides on fire??? (Figuratively speaking)


Fire of Transformation

The purpose of Tapas is to create transformation physically, mentally or spiritually – or all three!

A few examples are:

  • A body transformation could look like increasing fitness, building muscle or aiding digestion.
  • A mental transformation could look like burning through old habit patterns to create new, healthy ones.
  • Spiritual transformation could look like gaining a whole new perspective on life and happiness.


Tapas in a yoga class

I LOVE using this concept in my yoga classes.

Exercise is one of the most obvious ways of creating the internal fire. Therefore, to encourage Tapas, I like to lead my students through poses that will get them nice a sweaty and get their thighs burning.

In such classes I often use poses which require students to exercise some determination and push their fear boundaries (e.g. an arm balance like Crow Pose).


How would Tapas help you?

Is there something that you have resistance against? Something that would help you, but you just can’t find the energy or will-power to do it?

For example:

  • Starting that DIY project
  • Meeting a work deadline
  • Starting to run once or twice a week for exercise
  • Loosing a few pounds (ps. I’m a fan of healthy eating, not calorie counting!)
  • Attending my Sunday morning LIVE yoga class…. 😜

Can you think of your own example? Well, THAT is the thing that requires Tapas for you! And the important question to ask yourself is…

Are you wiling to ignite YOUR inner fire of transformation, to make this change?

If you are, read on!


Accepting discomfort

For you to make this change, it will require some discomfort (e.g. muscle ache) and a sacrifice of some comforts (e.g. sacrificing a weekend lie-in, or a pudding every night of the week).

THAT is Tapas.

And the more set in your ways you are, the harder it can be to endure the Tapas of change, the inner fire required for change.

BUT! Once you understand that inner fire is necessary to create the transformation you’re seeking, then the uncomfortable feeling of it might be easier to accept. You might feel that discomfort, that burning and, rather than backing off, you might think “this burn is good for me, it will transform me”.

And once you have ignited the fire of Tapas, it will help you carry on with that activity that you need for your transformation. It’s like a fire: difficult to get started, but once a-blaze, it will carry-on burning strongly!


Knowing when to back off

OK, OK, OK, so inner fire is a good thing. However…

Just like any power in this world, Tapas can be used for good or for bad!

You might come across situations where, actually, the best thing for you to do is to back-off. This is the case when you’re injured or too exhausted, or when the building blocks of something aren’t right.

Tapas should be used together with the two Niyamas ‘Svadhyaya’ and ‘Ishvara pranidhana’. Together they echo the Serenity Prayer:

“Grant me the courage to change what I can (Tapas), the serenity to accept what I can’t change (Ishvara Pranidhana), and the wisdom to know the difference (Svadhyaya)”.

Sourced from the book: Yoga Beyond the Poses, p. 63.

Ready to BURN? 🔥

Are YOU ready to kindle your inner fire?

To help you on your way, I’d like to invite you to practise a few of my strength themed classes this week!

Whether it’s a 10-minute class, 30-minutes or a full hour – doesn’t matter.

Just. Get. Moving.

Open your diary, and plan it in!


I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. 🤓

I’d love to hear your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x

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Love, Jolanthe x