Yamas in the 21st Century. Yama #8 Tapas: Discipline

‘There are no secrets to success. It is the result of hard work, preparation and learning from failure.’ Colin Powell
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Sounds nice doesn’t it? Inspirational even. You’re already heading for the work gloves to tackle the weeds that have been accumulating over the winter. But why is it that something always seems to get in the way? 

As much as we know in the back of our minds hard work is required we still somehow assume that maybe we are that special someone who can get there faster than everyone else. That perhaps there is a loop hole or a short cut that can get us there faster, less sweaty and with half the effort. That after a couple of yoga classes we will be achieving the 3rd series of ashtanga postures or mastering hour long meditations after only trying it twice. It pretty hard to learn about hard work when all we ever see on social media are picture perfect images of people achieving greatness. What doesn’t make the cut are the hundreds of attempts, face plants and failures. Somehow those don’t get the same amount of likes and hit peak algorithm as the others.

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Tapas is commitment. There isn’t a way to dress it up or make it pretty. It is sweat, it is setting your alarm early, it is saying no to certain social gatherings, it is sometimes making the boring decision, it is working hard. We celebrate those who work hard, those who achieve more than those who came before and those who torture themselves to get there. Tapas can tread a dangerous line between discipline and obsession. 

This is where you need to be careful and make sure the intention is right. If you have the intention there hard work is balanced and provides santosha (contentment) but if there isn’t the intention this can quickly lead to obsession and torture. Let’s reflect back on ahimsa, non-harming, when you are working hard and showing self discipline it’s also making sure you aren’t harming yourself. Are you staying hydrated? Are you committing time to self care? 

Are you using negative talk to push yourself on or are you hyping yourself up in a positive way? This is especially true of exercise. Moving your body should never happen as a punishment or because you ate something you ‘shouldn’t’ have, instead we do exercise because of the positive impact it makes and move from a positive place. Exercise is not self-torture and your body doesn’t need punishing. We also have off days, we have days when we feel sick, days in our cycle where energy levels just aren’t there and days where we need to take care of emotional and mental well-being more than lifting weights or doing another vinyasa.

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The purest form of self discipline for me is self practice. That’s right getting out your mat, in your house not a studio, and dedicating that time to doing some yoga. It seems so easy but let me tell you it is not! The distractions that exist in the house are endless. The cheerleading that comes from a yoga teacher or gym instructor has never felt more important. The temperature isn’t right. The floor makes too many noises. 

The lights are too bright. We are so accustomed to the environment of doing yoga in the yoga studio that practicing at home becomes almost impossible. The amount of times I have put my leggings on, put my playlist on, put my mat down and accomplished less than 1 downdog and a vinyasa before I am distracted by my phone or the dog is endless. 

Tapas isn’t easy and it takes a Lot of practice. Thing is tapas isn’t a fun thing to work on. Hard work is just that…it’s hard! You need a tool belt of tapas support to help you, no matter what it is your working towards. Have an accountability buddy, this is someone who knows what you’re trying to achieve and the things that might be a block to you. They will check in and be a support to keep you in check. Set yourself a routine. Things are easier to follow if there is routine to them, the second routine gets knocked out of place the first thing to go is the thing that takes the most effort. Set alarms, passwords and messages around your house and work to remind you of what you’re working towards. Get the environment right. Know how and where you work best and try to recreate that. Take away distractions and make the setting as positive for you as you can.

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In the wellness world, which yoga is a part of, you will hear about manifesting, visualisation boards and affirmations. These are all great and I have done and still do them all. BUT nothing will happen without action. You can pin up as many beautiful pictures of the new bathroom you’re going to get when you get that promotion but if you aren’t taking actionable steps towards the promotion your bathroom will remain on the wall and not in 4D. Big to do lists can be daunting and have an adverse affect to someone’s mental health. 

The 5 minute journal has been a great way for me to build tapas but also make sure that I am not creating anxiety in myself by piling my plate too high! In the morning I write 3 things that would make today great. They don’t always have to be physical things, sometimes they are emotional or mental as well. At the end of the day I tick them off if I achieved them and write my grateful list. I enjoy this part of the day and it spurs on my tapas, discipline, as it has a positive impact and helps to fight anxiety from the pressure I can put on myself. Let the vision boards, the visualisation and the manifesting all happen but do them with some action too.

Fear of failure is another thing to address. We’ve gotta let it go. Tapas is not about working hard and getting it right every single time. You’re gonna fail whilst working hard and being disciplined. This is just how the world works and how we learn and grow. I have failed at SO MANY things since starting a business. I’ve wanted to give up, i’ve wanted to go back to a salary and I’ve wanted to run away and hide…but I haven’t. I’ve accepted my mistakes. I’ve apologised to those I needed to. I’ve read more books. I’ve put in the time with coaches. I’ve taught myself techy things I never thought would be possible. I’ve grafted. But my intention was to always help others through yoga, to enjoy what I do, to spend more time with my family and to live a life that felt fulfilled. Over the years I’ve slowly started to balance the hard work out with self care, more sleep and rules to keep my mental health in check.

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I’ve learnt to practice: 

  • Ahimsa – non-harming. What I do and how I live towards to myself and others.
  • Satya – non-lying. Being brutally honest about myself, my yoga and the choices I make.
  • Asteya – non-stealing. I know I take from the earth and the universe but try to give back, lead with intention and reduce my carbon footprint.
  • Bramacharya – resisting distraction. There have been some serious rules put in place and some serious looking inward to identify my distraction, their impact and how to best combat them.
  • Aparigraha – non-greed. Why do I want things and what do they bring to my life? Saucat – cleanliness. My mind is the most important thing to keep clutter free-especially of negative and limiting beliefs
  • Santosha – contentment. Comparison will achieve nothing. Strive but be present.
  • Tapas – discipline. Everything comes back to balance. Work hard but remember the yamas, the niyamas, balance and intention!

No effort is ever wasted as long as the intention behind it is good and that you can smile along the way!

Meegan Bradley

Meegan Bradley

Yoga Trainer & Wellness Coach

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