Tapa's this Autumn


When I mention Tapas we all think about the glorious colourful small dishes with an array of ingredients and flavours, delicacies and delights. However, this Tapas Im going to shine a little light on is different, it's the third Niyama from Patanjaji's guiding principles which we can use within our daily lives on and off the mat. We can still enjoy the flavours that come within our yoga practice, those moments of sweetness when you enjoy a posture, the mind is clear and you're floating in the moment and those moments of bitterness and discomfort when you find something challenging, that plank is lingering on a little to long or you suddenly experience the world of Yin. Don't forget your practice is all about balance! The word Tapas is derived from the root Sanskrit word ‘tap’ which means ‘to burn’, and inspires a sense of ‘passion’ or ‘discipline’. Tapas can mean cultivating a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage in order to burn away ‘impurities’ physically, mentally and emotionally, Tapas doesn’t have to mean being serious and punishing the things we enjoy doing, this fire is what gets our heart pumping, heightens our desire for personal growth and reminds us of how much we love our yoga practice. Tapas is an aspect of the inner wisdom that encourages us to practise even when we don’t feel like it, even though we know how good it makes us feel! It’s that fiery passion that makes us get up and do our practice for the love of it, and by committing to this, the impurities are ‘burned’ away. Making the decision to go to bed a little earlier so you can wake up early is Tapas; not drinking too much or eating unhealthy foods because you want to feel good is Tapas; and the way you feel after an intense yoga class, the Relaxation, the deep rest, that’s Tapas too - ‘burning’ away the negative thoughts and habits we often find ourselves consumed by. The discipline we learn on the mat is a wonderful lesson to take off the mat and in to every day life. When we breathe through challenging postures in a yoga practice, such as a difficult balancing pose, or when we find the strength to lift up in to an arm balance we previously thought was ‘impossible’, we can take these lessons with us and learn to be strong when facing challenging life situations. Having the courage NOT to listen to the voices in our head that tell us we’re ‘not strong enough’ or ‘not good enough’ to attempt a more demanding pose or go for that new job opportunity is also an element of Tapas that ‘burns’ away those ‘impure’ thoughts, and leads to more self trust and inner strength. Working with core strength is the path to start igniting that inner fire or ‘Agni’. The core is where our Manipura Chakra lies, and this energy centre governs our sense of self confidence, inner strength, willpower and self discipline. The element of fire - which both the Manipura Chakra and Tapas link to - is also the element of ‘transformation’, and we can see this for ourselves as we take on those challenges we’re faced with. Transformation generally happens when we allow change to happen; stepping outside of our comfort zone and practising poses we’re not confident with or may be a little afraid of is when we begin to grow and learn about ourselves. If things are too easy all the time, we don’t tend to learn the life lessons we need to make us stronger and more rounded people. The lessons we learn from facing challenges and fears are the ones that tend to have the biggest positive impact on us. As we embrace the season of Autumn learn to love and recognise the transformation that happens within the natural world, year by year, shedding the old and creating the new, and this happens over months? It's okay to find frustration when we want change to happen now, but practice and time, learning and understanding the process we can become more stable within ourselves, an inner knowing that all the hard work and discipline has paid off. You will start to notice that as the evenings become darker earlier, it gets colder and the trees lose their leaves there can be an energy, but this energy can be translated by your perception. It's easy for us to become low, comfort eat and find ourselves knee deep in hibernation mode, this is normal and will become more apparent with your Dosha (more on Dosha constitution coming soon!) So to find balance, the Yin to your Yang we can embrace a subtle change in diet, exercise, mindfulness and adapt our yoga practice. It's cold outside! You'll find lots of lovely ways to warm your body through this Autumn and winter. I'll be sharing warming recipes over the next few weeks, but let's start with your physical yoga practice shall we? - Check your posture - You will notice those winter aches and pains may have started to appear, the shoulders and upper back are already feeling tight and uncomfortable. When you're out walking or doing the shopping just notice if you can catch how your holding yourself. The colder it gets your shoulders will creep higher to your ears! Get a big cosy scarf, extra jumpers and relax into those shoulders when you can. - Take your time - Your yoga practice is always reminding you to feel into your body and work with it, even when it doesn't do what we want it to! This season its time to slow right down, take your time to get out of bed, set the alarm a little earlier so your body isn't tired from rushing the school run, be mindful of how many activities you're trying to achieve in your day, Autumn and winter within the world are slowing down and so should you. Slow yoga practices, Yin practices especially are wonderful this time of year. - Open up - Opening the heart, shoulders, chest and twists will be great postures to explore over these next few months. Twists will keep the spine lubricated as well as the digestive system in check. Opening the shoulders chest and heart will free up space within the lungs boosting the immune system, it will also keep those aches and pains at bay. + Child's pose + Seated twist + Twisted table top + Reclined Butterfly pose + Supported Fish + Puppy pose + Wind relieving pose + Eagle arms + Seated side bend + Bridge pose - Don't be afraid to rest - Last but certainly not least is rest. I cannot stress enough how important it is to rest each day, don't punish yourself for wanting to sit on the sofa and watch films, get in bed early to read, these moments are all times where your body can recuperate, as I said previously its all about perception and where you are putting your energy towards. Work hard, play hard, rest equally as hard. Life is all about balance and it can be very easy to tip the scales with such busy lives and social distractions. Take your time, eat well, rest and enjoy the changes that come within this season. Enjoy the changes that come within your mind, your thoughts and your body. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. Change is beautiful!! V x

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