Niyamas – Tapas

In the second book of the Yoga Sutras, sutra no. 43 it says:

“By austerity, impurities of body and senses are destroyed and occult powers gained”

The direct meaning of tapas is ‘to burn’. By the physical tapas of fasting, we burn away excess fat along with other toxins the body has accumulated. At mental tapas, we burn old impressions. By verbal tapas, to observe silence, we control speech. When we burn, we feel some warmth and pain. We go through suffering. So tapas also means accepting suffering. When a person suffers, he or she can be considered blessed as he or she cleanses himself of impurities. If we are to create a clean and stable mind, we must accept pain, suffering and poverty. We get even more utilization if we can accept pain at the same time as we bring joy to others. Even a cloth must go through tapas to be clean. First it should be washed in warm water with soap, while it spins around in the machine, then it is dried in a dryer and then it may even have to be under the iron. We do not do this against the cloth out of hatred, but from a loving place where we just want to get the cloth clean again. In this way we can see that pain can also be a result of love. In the same way, we have to go through pain to be clean, and if we can adopt the same understanding of the cloth for our own pain, we can more easily accept it. When we can think like this we are true yogis. By this we meet pain and embrace it. By fully understanding this, we will never find fault with others who abuse, scold or insult us. If beautiful words make us happy, while insults make us sad, we know that our minds are not yet strong. Insults help us see our weaknesses. It is said that the highest form of sadhana (spiritual practice) is to bear an insult or injury with a peaceful mind. Anyone can repeat a mantra a thousand times. The power of controlling the mind and senses comes from practicing tapas.

Once upon a time there was a man who wanted to make a saint angry. He began to insult him. “Do you see how many lives you destroy with your teachings ?!” The saint smiles at the man. “Do you not understand my language ?!” Asked the man. “Yes,” replied the saint. “How can you be so calm ??” The saint replied, “What if you had come and given me a gift, but I did not want it. What would you do? ” “I would take it back,” the man replied. “Yes,” replied the saint. “In the same way, I do not want the insults you have given me. So you can have them for yourself. ”

Dealing with a situation in this way requires enormous strength and courage. A person who only attacks physically can be physically strong, but mentally weak. Mental strength comes from tapas, accepting pain. The pain is no longer painful, but fun because we have realized the benefit of it.

It is important to add that even if you change your view of pain, it does not mean that you should inflict pain on yourself or others.


Willpower is the muscle of the mind

In the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the sixth limb is Dharana, which means concentration. Concentration is a vital ability in your yogic practice. In fact, it’s a vital ability in anything you do in life. One of my many teachers- Dandapani, defines concentration like this “Concentration is the ability to keep your awareness at one point for an extended period of time”. He also says that if you water your garden, both flowers and weeds will grow, because water does not differentiate the two. The same way energy does not differentiate between positive and negative. Our awareness is energy, and whatever you want in life, it requires some energy. Your ability to concentrate your energy on something determines how fast and well it will grow.

If the mind had a muscle it would be called willpower. Whenever you try to meditate and your mind drifts off, it is your consciousness that notice and your willpower that draws is back to your point of focus and keeps it there. Concentration is therefor a product of willpower.

Let’s say you watch a movie. The producer of the movie wants to take you on a journey. He takes your awareness to different places that makes you happy, sad, angry, annoyed, compassionate and so on. With great willpower, you don’t need a movie to take you on such journeys. You can use your willpower to get to those same places by yourself.

Just as it takes willpower to do something we don’t want to do, it is the same muscle that brings your awareness away from stressful places to peaceful places. When we’re anxious our minds are drawn to everything that may go wrong, but with willpower we can take back control and calm our minds simply by changing our place of awareness.


Concentration is the ability to keep your energy flowing in one direction for an extended period of time.

Within the 8 Limbs of Yoga we find Dhyana as the sixth limb. Dhyana means concentration, and it’s an essential part of your yoga practice. Without it, you won’t get far. Concentration is a huge challenge for many, and its no wonder when we look at how we live. Instead of practicing concentration, we have become experts in distraction.

When we talk about concentration, we’re really talking about our ability to keep our awareness at a certain point for an extended period of time. We achieve this by using our willpower. When we talk about distraction, it is letting an external force control our awareness. For instance, when you watch a movie, the producer of the movie takes your awareness on a journey. When we concentrate we are conscious, but when we’re distracted we are not.

Most people practice distraction most of the day. We spend our time and energy trying to create a life that will make us feel a certain way. Looking for ways to have our awareness placed at a joyful place. We eat to feel better, we watch movies to feel better, we hang out with friends- and family to feel better, we have sex to feel better and the list goes on. But with this approach the happiness only last until we’re distracted again, and this is why most of our happiness is temporary. With willpower we can get there by ourselves and with concentration we can stay there.

It is really about having a mind that controls you or you being in control of your mind.