Discipline, otherwise known in yoga circles as “tapas” (although I suspect the first thing I’ll always think of when I hear that word is patatas bravas and ham croquetas). Because I like to know things, I did a bit of research into what tapas is and how it fits into yoga as a whole. There’s what seems like a great article on it over at EkhartYoga. Essentially, on the mat, tapas is the discipline that brings us to practice every day, “that fiery passion that makes us get up and do our practice for the love of it”. Off the mat, having cultivated that discipline means that we are more easily able to get through challenging situations as we would challenging poses, or to be strong when facing difficulties as we would find the strength for a balancing pose.
This concept is absolutely key to what I’m trying to achieve with this 300 Days project. It’s about showing up every day and experiencing the journey, rather that just doing a practice when I feel like I need it. There’s the physical discipline of doing the work, holding the poses and strengthening the muscles, but there’s also the mental discipline of coming to the mat even when I may not feel like it, or when I think there’s no time. Carving out that time whenever possible is part of that discipline. That’s a mindset that I think could have such a positive impact when taken off the mat. If the mind becomes used to being disciplined in respect of one thing, then surely it can do so in respect of others. I do feel that the more regularly I practice yoga, the more I find myself just wanting to get things done as efficiently as possible. That could be a coincidence, as I’m trying to distract myself from the waiting game I’m playing at the moment in respect of my next career steps, so I need as many activities as possible with which to fill my time. Coincidence or not, though, it has to be a good thing.
I love that today’s practice started with breathing techniques (Kapalabhati Pranayama, or skull shining breath – love that name – which it’s pretty much impossible to do without focusing 100% on the breath!) and ended with what was essentially a short meditation. The former set me up for the practice, and the latter set me up for the rest of my day. The practice was challenging at times, particularly as I’m still a bit wobbly on my new, thicker yoga mat. The Warrior I-high lunge-one legged Tadasana-eagle legs-high lunge transition was great for focus and having to really move the whole body from the core. I did feel a brief moment of sadness in that I used to be able to do eagle legs properly, but then managed to bring myself back to appreciating where I was today. The most challenging moment by far was lifting one leg and arm in plank. I managed a leg, both hands on the ground, for short bursts, which I probably wouldn’t have been able to do even a relatively short while ago. Most importantly, I didn’t judge myself as eternally useless for not being able to lift an arm and a leg, but actually managed to smile at where I was (even if that smile very quickly became a grimace…).
“Yoga is a practice. Something we commit to returning to again and again.” So said today’s accompanying email. It will be good to move forward with this project with a more conscious awareness of tapas/discipline and how my regular commitment is benefiting both my yoga practice and my life off the mat. I’m also thinking that I should start reading into the teachings and philosophy of yoga. I’m not entirely sure where to start with that yet, but am hoping that I’ll be able to find a handy reading list somewhere online. I want to supplement and expand my practice rather than just confuse myself, so I’m going to try very hard to resist the standard urge to just buy all the books. Who knows, it might even happen…