Tapas

And I don’t mean small portions of supposedly inexpensive food that you can mix and match for a complete meal. Oh no. By “tapas,” I mean both “heat” and “austerity.” Tapas is the third niyama, or observance, in the yogic system. In all honesty, tapas ranks up there with shaucha in terms of how poorly I observe this observance. Austerity is not my friend.

My training manual from India suggests some ways to practice tapas: “taking time to meditate before every meal…and [delay] sense gratification,” “waking up early to do yoga…especially if you are not a morning person,” and, finally, “fast twice a month.” Why would you do these things? “Through this kind of uncompromising strictness, one’s yoga practice blossoms, and bears fruit.”

Those of you who know me know that I really enjoy eating and sleeping. The above list suggest curtailing both. Yes, tapas and I are not intimate. But perhaps this blog post will change that.

All kidding aside, my stumbling block with tapas is the precisely the notion of “uncompromising strictness.” I don’t like to be strict with myself for reasons that reach way back into my personal history (and as such, will not be explored here). Suffice it to say, I’m scared of breaking or falling apart. This is one of the stories I tell myself. And it probably needs to stop being told.

In contrast to my fear of pushing myself and thus breaking myself, practitioners of tapas attest that the practice “cultivates confidence and willpower.” This sounds nice, doesn’t it?

In the back of my mind, I thought about tapas this morning. I got up at 6am to go rowing on the Ohio river with a club that I’m a part of. The row was coached, and as the coach coasted next to my shell and repeated instructions and offered strategies and tips in the new daylight, I thought about tapas. I thought about how much more I could push myself. And I wondered about those fruits.

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