Tapas is a Sanskrit word meaning “to burn” that — in the context of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras — is often described as “fiery discipline.” What does that mean, you ask?
- Tapas is that well of passion simmering deep inside of you that keeps you going when the going gets tough.
- Tapas lights a fire underneath your ass and gets you off the couch and onto your mat (or wherever it is you go to connect with yourself).
- Tapas is what keeps you coming back again and again, even when you cannot see the clearing past the trees.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been low on Tapas lately.
You might say that I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Not the sort of funk where you can’t get out of bed, or you stop practicing yoga, or you completely abandon your blog. But ever since teacher training ended, a bit of a malaise has set in.
Slowly but surely I found myself practicing yoga less often, writing on my blog less often, writing in my journal less often, meditating less often, pausing less often, feeling inspired less often, going for long walks less often … you get the picture.
And it’s not like I stopped doing these things completely — in fact, to the casual observer, I probably appear to be pretty dang dedicated. And I’m not saying that appearances lie (at least not in this case!), but even though I do remain dedicated to the practice, there has been a definite downshift as of late.
A classic case of the “shoulds.”
Okay, I admit it — since teacher training ended and I officially became a “yoga teacher,” I’ve been grappling with some preconceived notions about what a yoga teacher “should” do. According to my (crazy) head, a yoga teacher should:
- Practice yoga primarily at home.
- Wake up early and practice yoga first thing in the morning.
- Prefer to practice yoga alone.
- Not need to constantly rely on workshops, trainings and the like to stay motivated.
But here’s the thing: I love going to yoga classes and don’t always want to practice at home. I can barely manage to wake up early enough to get to work by 8:30, much less manage to have a full practice ahead of time. I’m inspired by being in community. And it’s really hard to stay motivated without the gentle nudge of a teacher assigning homework.
Yet for months, I’ve persisted. Slogging through a valiant attempt to live up to the picture in my head of what a yoga teacher should be. And predictably — since I didn’t magically become a yoga machine just because I started teaching — I’ve failed.
Get over it!
Last week I got over myself and signed up for a workshop series with a teacher I know and like. Nothing earth shattering — just solidifying my spot in a group of people who are similarly committed to practicing yoga. The teacher will provide some light reading each month, and we will gather to practice together and talk about our experiences in Home Practice Land on a monthly basis.
As soon as I looked at the materials for our first class I found myself GIDDY with excitement. Within the first hour I had jotted down ideas for at least 6 blog posts. And that evening I spontaneously jumped onto my mat because I actually wanted to to tune in and practice, not because I thought I should.
Keeping the fire burning, but not burning out.
Keeping the Tapas fire burning takes work, but what I am realizing now is that it doesn’t have to be (and perhaps shouldn’t be) the type of work that feels like you are efforting against your own nature. When you swim with the tide, it feels as though you could swim all day. When you’re trying to swim upstream, you tire in an instant.
Maybe someday I will find it unnecessary to rely on working with a teacher for motivation, but for now I’m appreciating the spark of inspiration that my latest endeavor is providing. And by loosening my grip on my image of what “a yoga teacher” looks like, I find myself re-connecting with the practice that I love. What could be bad about that?