November: creating tapas
No, you have not got the wrong page. Nor have I decided to share my culinary interests with you. Although, now that I think about it, there is a connection and both the Spanish dishes and the yogic principle are hot. But let me explain.
We are most familiar with yoga as a physical practice, but as you may (or may not) know already, the asana, the physical practice, is one eighth of yoga. Until I started my teacher training I had never heard of Yamas and Niyamas, which are the first two limbs of yoga. They are principles or rules for your relationship with yourself and others. For me they are the roadmap to take yoga with me off the mat and very useful tools to keep my physical practice focused.
Tapas is one of the Niyamas, and it literally means “to heat”, but it is often translated as perseverance, determination or commitment. I imagine it as the fire in your belly, the one that makes you get up and do the things you know that are good for you but that take a bit of effort. The fire that makes you believe in yourself, that makes you feel like hell yeah, you can do it!
Tapas make us show up in our lives every day. When it’s freezing cold and we feel like curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea instead of going to our yoga class, but we still go. When the alarm goes off in the morning and we really could do with an extra ten minutes in bed, but we get up and have a gorgeous breakfast. Or when we are in our yoga class and we don’t enjoy chaturanga but we breathe deep and we do it with commitment.
November seemed like a good time to focus on tapas in my practice and introduce my students to it. The nights are longer, the days colder, and it takes more determination to practice. Most of them signed up for their classes a couple of months ago and the novelty might be wearing off. We need to delve deep into that sense of determination and commitment and create some much welcome heat.
Send a bit of love to yourself
This month we are turning our attention to our gorgeous bellies, where we create that beautiful fire that drives us through the day. Our stomach is an area that doesn’t get much unconditional love. Socially we have an idea of what a beautiful stomach looks like and most of us long for a flat toned tummy. Because a lot of us don’t have it, we tend to send it negative messages.
We often disregard all the amazing functions that our abdominal muscles perform for us daily. They protect so many of our organs and with the lower back, they help us stay upright. When our core muscles are weak, we leave most of that work to our lower back muscles, which end up feeling the strain. By working on building the strength of your core you will be releasing the lower back muscles and improving your back health.
Core strength is also really useful for more complex poses like arm balances and inversions. Our strong abs will help us challenge gravity in those poses, and they are so much fun to have a play with!
This month I encourage you to look at your belly in a different light, to feel grateful for all the things it does for you. Whether it’s soft or toned, small or large, send it some love. Send it a message of thanks for how hard it works every day to protect your organs, your back, to help you walk up straight, run, laugh, sneeze…
Tapas is so powerful. When you cultivate self love with discipline and determination, your inner strength and ability to take on whatever comes your way rockets. You become a powerful ball of fire.
Have a beautiful day!