The Niyamas: Tapas - Inner Fire and Selfless Love
by Wessel Paternotte
Inner Fire & Selfless Love
Tāpas, the third of the niyamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, has been translated into English as heat, spiritual austerities, self-discipline and inner fire. Through Tāpas, mastery of the body, mind and senses can be achieved. Think of Tāpas as a flame inside of you, which motivates you and keeps you on track with what is really important in life. Without that discipline, determination and inner fire, we’d be unlikely to look at the finer practices of yoga, that open us to greater oneness and bring inner peace.
On the physical level, Tāpas is inner heat that is generated by our yoga practice. A hot, sweaty and challenging asana practice, builds up heat that literally burns away toxins and purifies our body. It helps us to remain connected with our breath and stay with whatever arises when holding an asana for a longer period. When Tāpas is applied to the practice of yoga, it becomes a powerful tool for transformation.
On the mental level, Tāpas is about cultivating self-discipline, a sense of passion and courage to burn away impurities. It makes you do your yoga practice when you don’t feel like it, but still do it because you know it is good for you. It makes you go deeper into meditation and sit for longer periods, also when it becomes uncomfortable. Having the discipline to practice every day is considered to be the foundation that carries you towards transcendence.
We are more than our body and mind. We are a part of a higher being, of one love, one heart, one Divine Self. To discover this Divine self, we have to let go of our small sense of self. The ego. Letting go of our ego is not easy, as our whole life revolves around it. All we seem to think about is me; my needs, my wishes and my desires. We are like the seagulls in the movie Finding Nemo, eager to get what is ours. But we want to be like Nemo’s father, who sacrifices everything for Nemo’s wellbeing. This transformation - from a self-absorbed seagull to a selfless fish - is not easy, but the practice of Tāpas helps us. With Tāpas, we sacrifice through unconditional love and selfless service to others. In this sense, the practice of Tāpas is actually quite simple. Just think: “is there someone I can help in the smallest way this very moment?” You will be surprised how much you can do for others.
When we practice Tāpas consistently, something happens over time. A purity of mind develops. Contentment arises. A feeling of compassion and infinite love for all beings comes over us. We become liberated from our small sense of self. We are no longer like those seagulls, yet free as a bird.
“A worthy aim makes life illumined, pure and divine. Without such an aim, action and prayer have no value. Life without tapas is like a heart without love.” – BKS Iyengar
Wessel, born and raised in Amsterdam, found peace in the hustle and bustle of the big city. From childhood on, he was interested in spirituality and martial arts. After years of practice and study, be became Reiki Master in 2006. That same year he opened Delight Studio, a space for healing, meditation and yoga.