“What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” Samuel Johnson
As the first official day of summer on June 21 heats up our external environment, it also marks a fitting time for us to excite our own internal heat (tapas) by re-dedicating ourselves to our yoga practice. As creatures of an instant gratification culture, we may be skeptical about a practice like yoga that demands persistent training and perseverance over a long period of time and perhaps we may question if there is a faster way to achieve the results we desire.
This query is easily answered by contemplating the things in your life that are of most value to you. If your list is similar to mine, you will notice that every thing in your life of true worth has required time, consistent maintenance, and an attitude of determination. Whether growing a garden or a business, sustaining a relationship or a home, diligence is always a necessity.
“Tapas” is a Sanskrit word used to describe the diligence that is essential in maintaining a yoga practice. Tapas derives from the root word “tap” meaning “to burn” and has been translated as heat, fire, unwavering zeal, and passion. Tapas may be understood as the will to cleanse oneself by burning away impurities through the regular practice of hatha yoga.
But what impurities, exactly, are we burning away and for what purpose? This question is best answered in the context of yoga philosophy, which views a human as having 5 koshas (layers). The outermost layer is the Annamaya kosha, which is the physical body including the bones, muscles, and skin. Slightly deeper lies the Pranamaya kosha, or energetic body which consists of the breath and the prana (life force) that pervades the body. Still deeper lies the Manamaya kosha, which encompasses the mind, thoughts, and impressions. Vijnanamaya kosha lies even deeper and is our wisdom body, or the true knowing that exists beyond thoughts. The deepest layer, Anandamaya kosha is referred to as the body of Bliss. This layer consists of the pure joy of Being and within this sheath lies that which is eternal in each of us (Soul, spirit, True Self, Divinity, Atman).
The concept, then, is that at the center of each of us lies pure Divine light and our objective is to radiate it outward as a beacon to other seekers. However, when the layers of our self lying external to our inner light are not kept clean, our inner light will appear dull, not because the source of the light has diminished in intensity but simply because the grime that has collected on the outer koshas has overshadowed its brilliance. The daily practice of focusing our mind on the movements of our breath and body in yoga burns away the impurities of our outer koshas, making us clear vessels through which divine light can shine.
The yearning to become a pure instrument of light is the Tapas, or inner fire, that drives us to show up to our mat on the good days, the bad days, and the in-between days. We recognize that, not unlike the daily ritual of brushing our teeth or washing our faces, yoga practice is a purification process that requires constant maintenance. Gradually our diligence transforms into ease as we relax into the realization that there is nothing to outwardly achieve. In our yoga as in other meaningful aspects of our lives we come to discover that the journey is, in fact, the goal: The act of gardening is as joyful as the sight of a beautifully blooming plot, the act of loving is as wonderful as the thriving relationship it creates, and the practice of yoga is as freeing as the final liberation towards which we strive.
Playlist #9: Soul Flow
Dunya Salam - 1 Giant Leap featuring Baaba Maal
Om - Soulfood
Om - ShaktiSean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band
The Way You Dream - 1 Giant Leap featuring Michael Stipe
Ram - Sita RamSean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band
Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
In The Sun - Michael Stipe and Chris Martin
Daphne - 1 Giant Leap featuring The Mahotella Queens
Jai Ma - Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band
Gymnopedies - Claude Debussy
Claire de Lune - Claude Debussy