Austerity, self-study, and dedication to Isvara are kriya-yoga.
Tapas is one of the governing principles of spiritual growth, the niyamas. Tapas can be translated as austerity, referring to undertaking the practices that require putting the body and mind through hardship and thereby expanding one’s endurance. Using tapa as a verb it means to heat; to purify; to fire; to change; to transform.
Tapas can be felt in most moving asana practices. If you have been to a yoga class chances are you have already experienced tapas. It is that inner fire that warms the body, muscles, and joints while creating a purifying sweat that releases physical toxins. This release is a major contributing factor to the post yoga bliss sensation.
Tapas suggests a state of spiritual maturity. It asks us to accept life’s inevitable occurrences of pain. To resist striking back and instead accepting this pain as a teacher. This process strengthens and purifies us.
However, this does not mean to accept all pain, especially on the mat. As a yoga teacher I have been taught to accept pain in the body. After a few injuries and learning how to accept the body and embrace what is, I do not continue that aspect of my gurus teachings. Instead, I am inspired to instill the following to my students: Allow yourself to feel sensations, but not pain. Listen to your own teacher, the one inside of you to let you know if these sensations are acceptable or beyond our limit of honoring our own body and mind. Taking a look at the breath is key in staying in front of that line. Ask yourself, “Does listening to the breath quiet those sensations? Am I able to keep the breath steady and calm? Can I honestly agree this is nurturing my body and mind?”
That being said, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! Try new things, and how the mind reacts while keeping the body and breath at ease. Invite tapas into your life!