How to stoke your inner fire

Unleashing the Transformative Power of Tapas: Cultivating Discipline and Inner Strength in Yoga. By Sian Siekierski

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Yoga is so much more than a physical activity and as you become connected to your practice on the mat you find its effects weave into your life – and not just to improved posture, more easeful joints, radiant skin and enhanced confidence!…there is deep magic at work here.

To what can we attribute this magic? Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras provides the roadmap and the explanation for the transformational effects of this practice. It sets out the ‘eight limbs’ of yoga which begin with a moral code for how to behave in the world and progress to enlightenment (‘Samedi’) as the final one.

The first two limbs, or steps on the path - the Yamas and the Niyamas - provide instruction for how to behave in the world and towards yourself so that you are mindful and impactful in the best way.

The Niyamas give the five components for a healthy and balanced life. One of these Niyamas is Tapas – no, not small plates of Spanish food! – but the activity of keeping the body and mind fit and well-functioning. It’s a quality that can translate more profoundly as self-discipline, passion and courage. You cultivate Tapas in your yoga practice when:

  • You are motivated to take to your mat even on days when you’re not too inclined to do so! knowing that the consistency and commitment to your yoga practice develops a strong, supple body and calm, clear mind
  • You keep coming back, with intention but humility, to postures that take much time and practice to develop. It is going beyond your comfort zone, exploring new boundaries and experiencing self growth as you do
  • You have the discipline to stay present and focused, rather than give up or drift off during your practice. This applies to the mind as much as the body
  • You expand the limits of your own potential, achieving more than you thought possible and establishing a rigour that translates into life.

To sustain your yoga practice, Tapas includes the discipline of eating well to nourish you, of adopting good sleep habits so you are well rested, and of limiting pollutants and toxins to the body all of which would negatively impact your capability on the mat. It also burns away polluting thoughts, such as self-doubt, judgement and criticism, so you become stronger and more trusting of yourself.

You will recognise Tapas in action as you move through a physically challenging or particularly absorbing yoga practice, then sink into a blissful relaxation – afterwards feeling clearer, cleaner, freer and really alive.

And you’ll know you have fuelled your inner fire when the passion, motivation and inner strength you have cultivated on your mat can transfer to other instances in life – for example when you take on a new challenge at work.

As with everything yogic however, there is nothing forceful about Tapas. We should not push ourselves to the point of exhaustion, pain or mental distress. It is about finding that sweet spot - ‘playing the edge’ - which is where transformation ignites.

Sian Siekierski

Sian Siekierski (RYT) teaches mindful Vinyasa yoga inspired by her dance and gymnastics background and the teachings of physiotherapists and anatomy experts. Diagnosed with the autoimmune condition Coeliac disease since her 30s, she is fascinated in the connection between the mind and the body. Alongside her 200 hr yoga teacher training, Sian has undertaken additional formal trainings with Jason Crandell, Adam Husler and Dr Yogi, amongst others.