This winter, feed your fire for vigor and vitality.
During the coldest months of the year, it can be tempting to cozy up next to the fire and not venture out again until the weather warms. For many of us, our internal flame of motivation can begin to burn a bit low this a time of year. However, since hibernation is not a natural state for humans it is important that we feed our fire, so that come spring we don’t regret those hours of chillin’ the winter away. The yogic principle of Tapas supports us in cultivating the inner flame that motivates us.
Tapas is one of the Niyamas, or observances, of yoga. The literal translation for tapas is “heat” or “fire.” In the yogic context, it is self-discipline or the determination that fires us up to attain our goals and dreams. You can think of it as the inner flame that keeps you moving forward even when don’t feel like it. It makes you floss when you’d rather not. It encourages you to keep going, or to change course, to help cultivate the life you want. Without Tapas or self-discipline, we might simply slow down to a grinding halt and hibernate our lives away.
So, how will you keep your fire, or tapas, burning brightly this winter? Here are six steps for fueling your fire: (I have included examples for promoting a greater sense of ease and peace in my life.)
1) Visualization – Visualize your heart’s desire or the next step to fulfilling your life’s purpose. Don’t be shy or timid, think big!
My heart’s desire is to reside in a place of peace and ease when things outside of my control are stormy.
2) Intention – Set an intention, a clear course of action that you plan to follow to realize your heart’s desire or life’s purpose. It may be helpful to write your intention down or share it with someone.
To support greater peace and ease in my life, I will foster a daily meditation practice.
3) Affirmation – Affirmation is a powerful tool that can support action and actually result in changes in the activity of your nervous system. Formulate a simple, positive statement in the present tense supporting your intention. Write it down and post it somewhere where you will see it every day, and repeat it to yourself at least daily for 30 days or more.
Through daily meditation, I experience peace and ease in all parts of my life.
4) Acknowledgement – As you set out to do the work to fulfill your intention acknowledge the challenges that you may face, and make a plan to avoid or address temptations that might keep you from following through. Pratipaksha-bhavana is a yogic discipline of cultivating the opposite and can be helpful in shifting our negative mental attitudes to positive action.
In the winter months, I like to stay in my cozy, warm bed reading longer and later, which can disrupt my morning meditation practice. Before going to bed I will set up my meditation cushion in a warm, inviting part of the house with a comfy blanket, set up a teapot and cup to start warming on my way to my cushion, and I will place any books away from my bed before falling asleep.
5) Tolerance – Practice tolerating emotional discomfort. Positive action is not always fun or comfortable, and it is easy to change courses as soon as you begin to experience resistance or discomfort. Practice being comfortable with uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. As soon as you experience discomfort around carrying out your intention, take a moment to come back to your visualization, intention, and affirmation, and reignite your flame for positive change.
I dislike the feeling of being cool after getting out of my warm bed in the morning. I will practice inviting thoughts and feelings of warmth and comfort as I get out of bed coming back to my intention of experiencing ease and peace.
6) Repetition – Self-discipline and positive action are all about repetition. Whatever your intention or planned course of action is, repeat, repeat, repeat. If your flame starts to sputter, or you stray from your intention, exercise compassion. Recognize what may have dampened your fire, use this as a learning opportunity, and move on perhaps with even greater resolve!
I will commit to my morning meditation practice five days a week. When I skip a day, I will compassionately explore why I was unable to keep my commitment that day and make an action plan to refuel my commitment.
The yogic practices of asana (postures), pranayama (breath work), Tapas (self-discipline), and meditation are all high-grade fuels to feed your fire. What other fuels can you use to feed your fire?
“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.