The sutras of Patanjali refer to “the removal of impurities in our physical and mental systems through the maintenance of such correct habits as sleep, exercise, nutrition, work and relaxation” (2.32) In this manner, “physical and mental illnesses and disabilities are contained."
It amazes me that something written thousands of years ago is so relevant to our lives today. Tapas refers to the transformational powers of fire to change and strengthen. Going into the heat of difficulty, our integrity is challenged resulting in “burning off” of the old self. The discipline of Tapas can shape us into someone of great depth and integrity. Literally translated as “heat” one can think of it as our inner fire or that which ignites our passions and our sense of purpose in life. It can be understood as our spiritual fire or process of transformation.
In life, there will always be challenges because things such as our work, relationships, living spaces and health, just to name a few, are in constant flux! If we aren’t taking care of ourselves by practicing good health habits, we can be thrown off center, rocking our world.
Yoga, meditation, time in nature, eating healthy and getting enough sleep, create a stronger, more resilient self that is prepared to face the fire. Practicing tapas means that we have a choice to choose mental, physical and spiritual disciplines that enhance our lives instead of succumbing to unhealthy habits of the past.
“At times there will be fire; this we can't avoid. But it's up to us to decide whether it will consume or purify.” Unknown