The practice of Tapas was probably the easiest of the Yamas and Niyamas so far. I think it is because Tapas is very concrete. It involves the physical practice of yoga, as well as healthy eating and attention to posture and breath. These are concepts that I am fairly comfortable with and have already incorporated into my life on some level.
I have a feeling that there may be more to the practice of Tapas than meets the eye. The description of Tapas also talks about directing our energy to enthusiastically engage in life and achieve our ultimate goal of creating a union with the Divine. Or as I like to think of it, finding the divine within ourselves. That definition of Tapas makes it feel like the physical practice of yoga and related activities are merely a preparation of the body as a vehicle to help us attain a much deeper understanding and purpose.
Ultimately, I think I probably only scratched the surface of Tapas with my practice last week. It is one that I would like to explore more in the future as I grow in my understanding of yoga.
This past week, we were to focus on Svadhyaya, which means self study. This includes any activity that cultivates self awareness in our daily life. It could involve reading a book, writing in a journal or simply examining our behaviors and underlying motivations. The very nature of self study also includes a recognition and welcoming of our own limitations. Acknowledging that our weaknesses are as much a part of who we are as our strengths.
It feels like I have been practicing Svadhyaya for most of my life. I have always been a person who spends a lot of time in my own head. Probably too much time, in fact! I think a lot of women do the same thing. Constantly re-assessing our lives, the choices we make and people's reactions to those choices. Wondering if you are a good person, sometimes wondering if you are good enough at all.
The difference I have noticed in my process of self study since I started teacher training is that I no longer study myself with the same harsh judgement that used to constantly creep into my mind. Instead I study myself out of curiosity. Out of a desire to understand, and through the process of understanding, to find acceptance. That sort of self study is born out of self love, as opposed to self doubt.
Of course it is not a perfect process and the doubt is still a part of my experience. But it happens less often than it used to. And I am quicker to recognize it and send it back to it's appropriate place in the back of my mind instead of the forefront.
This week we had some amazing experiences in teacher training. On Saturday we all had to read a poem we wrote about ourselves. I was lucky that my teacher was willing to let me read one of my recent blogs instead of a poem. Then we discussed ideas for themes in our yoga classes and we were invited to do a 2-3 minute "mini class" that incorporated our theme.
We had to stand up at the front of the room while the entire teacher training class (including our instructors) were lying down on their mats. I volunteered to go first, knowing that if I didn't do it first, I might not have the courage to do it at all.
It was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. Even though it only lasted a few minutes, it was incredible to hear my voice calling out yoga poses and to watch a room full of people experience my class. Afterwards, I sat on my mat and felt my heart beating out of my chest.
My theme really didn't come across as clearly as I would have liked it to, but a lot of the girls told me afterwards that they thought I was a natural at teaching. And another girl suggested that I start to publicize my blog because it is better than many of the things she reads currently.
Even with all of the positive feedback, I felt so exposed. Not only did I share my writing with a group of people, but I shared my first real teaching experience as well. As I felt the doubt start to creep in, I reminded myself that everything I did was authentic. And while there may be things I want to improve on for the future, I also need to appreciate how far I have come.
So, did any of you try to practice Tapas during this two week break? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments section.
This week is the final week of our practice of the Yamas and the Niyamas. We will be practicing Isvarapranidhana, which is a celebration of the spiritual. The literal translation is to lay all your actions at the feet of God.
Coming from a Catholic upbringing, there are a lot of underlying tones from my childhood that start to arise when I hear the word God. It is important for me to separate the concept of God from organized religion. The practice of Isvarapranidhana involves setting aside some time each day to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and directing the course of our lives.
Through my practice of yoga these past few months and its impact on my life experiences, my faith in the wisdom of the universe has grown exponentially. This will be a great week to continue to follow along that path by setting intentions for my yoga practice and taking time outside of yoga class to recognize the interconnectedness of all beings, the little twists of fate that bring us together and the opportunities that are created as a result.
As always, you are invited to practice Isvarapranidhana with me this week. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, try to be open to the wisdom of the universe manifested in your own life. It could be as simple as finding a quiet moment each day to take three cleansing breaths and show gratitude. And I will be back next week to share my experiences.