Photo by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels.

“God knows your breaking point. You simply don’t know your own strength.”
–Swami Satchidananda

How many times have you been a safe container for those you care about?  What did it look like? What did it feel like? Challenging oneself to be disciplined or to attain a continual disciplinary practice is arduous yet revealing of ones’ efforts. As we would willingly be a safe container for people we care about, we too, get to create and hold space for ourselves.

Tapas (self-discipline) is one of the five niyamas—Yoga’s ethical practices. Tapas is a Sanskrit term meaning “heat” or to “burn.” On the spiritual path, it refers to the purification process that removes impurities, toxicities, and obstacles. It also refers to the welcoming attitude we can cultivate toward pain, as part of self-discipline, rather than the usual reaction of resistance. We don’t need to look for pain, but when it comes, we accept its purificatory qualities. Incorporating this understanding of tapas as part of our Yoga practice requires patience since daily living may at times be met with both foreseen and unforeseen challenges. It invites one to take notice of how one approaches their life and see the areas that can be worked on, areas to burn that which may plague the mind and body. One gets to become mindful and learn to shift a negative perspective to a positive one.

When I was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I was graced by God’s healing hands. After I received chemo and radiation therapy my meditation was one with the Divine Healer and in my meditation those Divine hands were placed over the 7-inch tumor that invaded my temple nestling into the cavity of my abdomen. I completely surrendered to what I had no control over and remained committed to my unwavering faith knowing that it was the Divine’s will for my life, not my will.

When on the battlefield it is easy to retreat to place of fear and doubt but instead, I chose to meditate, write about my experience and spent time in communion with God. Having done this, I was able to access the practice of self-discipline, thus holding myself in a safe container where God poured love into my body, burning the tumor in half and draining the insidious traces of death. This cathartic experience showed me how to tap into a discipline that nourished my mind, body and spirit. It was the precursor to fully understanding the yamas and niyamas, Yoga’s ethical disciplines.

To experience the result of a sacred practice such as tapas, would be like being left on an island alone—one would get to learn to work through their fears and purge all that has been an obstruction of their mind  and body, like a silent meditation pushing the mind against its own limits in exchange for peace, health, joy and humility.

When practicing tapas, there’s a sense or feeling of Divine intervention where one is being shown what’s not working or what may be lacking—sending a sign or message for one to become introspective and see how they show up in their life, how they react to others and life matters, revealing ways in which one may take things for granted. Through this awareness, one gets to cultivate tapas in a way that results in divesting oneself of impurities.

When this practice becomes a committed practice the road to freedom, peace and harmony is seen through a set of lucid lenses making one’s path clear. One then can manifest and bring to fruition their dreams as their life walk is fluidly flowing.

Someone may ask where or how to begin the practice of tapas. Well, you may commence with small steps. If you are seeking to break a pattern of behavior for example, you can begin by repeating an affirmation such as, “With change comes the potential for better opportunities and experiences.” Or, “Today I surrender to the things I am powerless over and embrace the opportunity to experience empowerment through change.”

Another step would be acknowledging that self-discipline is a commitment, that it may take working through mental and/or physical challenges and past trauma to rebuild your confidence. Since this ethical practice takes time to learn, it is important to practice self-compassion. We are spiritual beings living in world that is ever-changing and capricious. We get to forgive ourselves for our imperfections and with our eyes and ears open, learn our lessons with genuine receptivity. Tapas may lead to transformation, again opening and/or changing the trajectory of one’s journey.

Most importantly, when you have a “welcoming” attitude rather than a “have to” attitude toward the challenges and difficulties in life, there is a sense of gratitude for the things you couldn’t see before. And, again, what you may have taken for granted such as good health, a job, relationships, lifestyle, or finances becomes more deeply appreciated. By shifting your perspective you can cultivate an uplifting and positive outlook on life. As a result, you become empowered, steady and grounded in your commitment to living a yogic life. You get to reframe how you approach your journey so that you can cultivate an attitude of gratitude for whatever life brings your way.

I hope that you feel encouraged as you read this to know that the practice of tapas can help you move—as it did for me—from a place of fear to learning to choose joy, authenticity and self-love.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Saranya Sostre returned to her love for Yoga and writing during the time she took ill with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, in 2009. Upon learning she could not return to her career as an educator for the Department of Education, she took time to rediscover herself. As she continued her new journey, she developed interest in several healing modalities, which led her to becoming a Reiki master, Yoga teacher, life and holistic health coach, and a transformational trainer. She  joined the Integral Yoga Institute family in New York as a karma yogi before the commencement of her employment at the front desk and as the Wellness Sanctuary Manager. She attended IYI’s 200hr. Teacher Training and is both excited and passionate about teaching a Hatha Yoga Level I class. Liz is currently writing a book, Deconstructing Your Past To Live In The Present.