September marks 2 years of my yoga practice. Much has changed within and without during this period. Trikonasana is not a hated pose anymore. However, the thirst to learn remains the same.
As a novice, I took my body to class and slowly my mind also attended. I stumbled through the poses as the rest of the students would move into the next asana. Class would often leave me sore as the body started to wake up. It never seemed possible that I could ever find any stability or symmetry. Yet, at the end of every class, I felt invigorated and as though I was inhabiting my body. It’s only now that asanas are beginning to be something to stay in. This became possible only because of a home practice. Initially, I had no clue about what to practice, how to practice and no idea of what I was doing. I just started mimicking whatever I remembered from class. Since, there were too many asanas to remember, making notes was the next step. Then came using the books and now my body often expresses what it needs. I still use class sequences sometimes or the ones in the book but there is a little exploration and experimentation that happens as well. The longer I study, the more I realise I have not even begun to study!
Yesterday, I wound up with a longish Supta Virasana at home and cramped a couple of times while in the pose. I stayed with the discomfort both times and it passed. The staying and passing away was a new experience of passive alertness. Just watching the breath and state of mind, being a witness. A tiny shift from an unthinking response to pain transformed into an opportunity to endure and create a new cell memory.
Tapas is not about pushing and exerting, sometimes it is about staying too. It requires a different kind of will. Burning zeal, penance, rigorous adherence to one’s discipline etc. are the typical descriptors that arise in context to the word. In the ordering of the niyamas, it is placed after santosha and I like to think that it corresponds to Agni and its location in our field of play. Perhaps, there is significance in that sequence as well, I do not know but intuitively, it feels like there is a connection. If I had to interpret tapas as I understand it today, I’d say
- Tapas is solitary.
- Tapas is burning love.
- Tapas is the willingness to destroy.
- Tapas is surrender.
- Tapas is brilliance.
- Tapas is humility.
- Tapas is brutal honesty.
- Tapas is out of sight.
- Tapas is for the sake of tapas.
Guruji’s sadhana was a stellar example of tapas in the bustling world of ordinary people. An inspiration for those of us who often scatter about like a rent cloud…