Lesson Eight | Arm Balance
Tapas means fire. It’s a heat and fire that cooks or transforms you. In the literal sense,
you can think of the way an oven’s heat transforms ingredients into a meal; or the way a forge’s
fires transforms metal into tools. You can feel a fiery heat in your muscles during a powerful
vinyasa class or while holding a strong pose for an extended time. This heat in your muscles
transforms them into fibers of strength and power. Often yoga studios heat their classrooms for
this same reason, because it is thought that the heat will aid in the transformative process of
yoga both on a physical level making stretches easier to go deeper, and on a psychological
level creating the circumstances for you to press your threshold for endurance and stamina to
Tapas is also the fires of self discipline and determination. These fires have the power
to transform us in very profound ways. An example of this type of tapas is “sticking to your
guns” or having integrity even when the going gets rough. Tapas is the discipline to do the right
thing, even when it’s a hard path and there are no short cuts. The yoga master BKS Iyengar
wrote this about Tapas in his book Light on Yoga: “Tapas … means a burning effort under all
circumstances to achieve a definite goal in life. It involves purification, self discipline and
austerity. The whole science of character building may be regarded as a practice of tapas.”
Let’s blend pranayama (breathwork) with our meditation this week to see if we can
witness the transformative properties of fire and heat in our practice. We’ll start each meditation
with several rounds of “breath of fire.” To perform Breath of Fire, sit tall and comfortably. Close
your eyes and begin with one long deep breath, then use your belly to pump your exhales out
through the nose rapidly. Set a steady rapid pace for your exhales, and continue pumping the
breath out in short powerful bursts. When your have completed the round of Breath of Fire,
close the practice by breathing in deeply and holding your breath for a moment, then releasing
the breath and breathing naturally.
On the first day, try round 1 for 1 minute of breath of fire, round 2 for 90 seconds, and
round 3 for 2 minutes.
Over the course of this week, see if you can lengthen the amount of time to 3 rounds of 3
minutes each, or 1 round of 510 minutes in duration.
Some tingling sensations or lightheadedness are normal during and after this practice.
You might also feel fiery fatigue in the muscles of your belly and diaphragm. However, if you
feel dizzy, panicked, or nauseous you probably need to set a slower pace for the breath so as
not to hyperventilate.
Follow the rounds of Breath of Fire with stillness and quiet meditation. Sit quietly and
breathe naturally for 10min and witness whether the Tapas of this practice has helped transform
your mind, emotions and energy.
Here is a short how to video for Breath of Fire:
In your journal, create a breathing and meditation log for your practice this week. Draw
two columns on your paper. Before beginning each day’s meditation, write 5 words on one side
of the columns describing your mental, emotional, energetic state. Do you feel tired? Stressed?
Anxious? Elated? Upset? Serene? Then, after performing Breath of Fire and meditating for
10min, write another 5 words in the second column describing your new state of being. We
probably already know that yoga and meditation are powerful tools, but this journal helps us
spell out exactly how yoga is transforming us on a daily basis.
Yoga Illumined studio on South Congress is having a sale during the month of June.
All props for your home practice are available at reduced pricing!
- Bolsters New are $85, and Gently Used are $45
- Blocks are $6
- Manduka ProLite Mats, Gently Used are $25
I also invite you to come practice with me at the studio on Wed, June 15th 6:30pm for a
special class to Celebrate the Journey!
It will be wonderful to practice in person with you!