Tapas…Means to Heat

By Jeanne Heileman, Yoga Teacher Trainer


We start September with a bang, Labor Day. It’s usually the day that we want to NOT work and celebrate the last few moments of the lounging summer. In the yogic tradition, teachers often use the word tapas when referring to working hard, often with the reference to sweating. Yoga isn’t all about sweating, and neither is our work. When translated from the Sanskrit, tapas means to heat, heat so much that we shine. It refers to a discipline that is so fervent, so devoted, that from our discipline we become shining stars.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us, “You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world … as one established within himself — without selfish attachment and alike in success and defeat.”

We need tapas in the form of discipline to maintain consistency in our yoga practice, especially on days when we don’t want to, or we feel like we aren’t progressing. And if we follow the Gita’s message and surrender any attachment to the results of our work/practice, what do we get in return? Perhaps the point is to find joy in the practice, which comes from the discipline to return again and again.

So if we find joy in the actual doing instead of the results from the doing, how is this work? Instead of “working” in your practice, instead of waiting for the results that the practice brings, be in the process and search to find the joy in each moment offered. And then we apply what we find to our job and all other parts of our life, making our existence on this planet much more meaningful.

By Jeanne Heileman, Yoga Teacher Trainer