Tapas may be one of the easiest Niyamas (ethical observances) to understand yet the hardest to follow. Tapas is Sanskrit for discipline. As the 3rd Niyama listed in Patanjali’s eight-limbs of yoga, I often think Tapas should be the first. To fully experience Saucha (cleanliness) and Santosha (contentment), which are the first two Niyamas, mindfulness and full-attention are required. True discipline (tapas) commands that we are attentive in the moment.
Many times discipline takes months, or even years, of baby steps until we actually reach the top of the mountain. Discipline asks that we commit to what we are doing in the present time even if it’s uncomfortable or feels risky (i.e., holding Natarajasana 15 breaths or Headstand for five minutes).
Enough from me. I stumbled upon this short & sweet article on Tapas and love the ant analogy. Who knew such tiny beings could teach us humans a thing or two about the yogic observance of tapas. Quoted directly from the article Cultivating Self-Discipline…
“When you work diligently, tirelessly towards a goal, you are practicing ant medicine, a Cherokee philosophy based on patience and perseverance. Ants are tiny but mighty creatures that can carry 30 times their own weight, which is like a 150-pound person carrying a bulldozer on their back that weighs 19,500 pounds. They trust the natural law that if they put in this hard work now, then the reward is just over the horizon. We can learn from these resolute ants that you can never give up on yourself or a difficult yoga pose or only practice half-heartedly.”
Tapas is a lot of work but with patience, commitment and a shift in attitude, anything is possible. The next time you’re about to give up, let self-doubt take over or say “I can’t” remember the marching ants.