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Yogi's Tapas

Understanding what the yogis mean by "Tapas" + exploring a fun little connection to Tapas in it's Spanish form.

When we hear the word 'Tapas' most of us conjure up visions of delicious food served in Spanish restaurants. The word "tapa" translates as "cover" in Spanish.  In the English dictionary 'Tapas' means the conditioning of the body through the proper kinds and amounts of: diet, rest, bodily training, meditation, etc., to bring it to the greatest possible state of creative power. In Sanskrit it relates to penance, heat, purification...
Tapas is taken literally to mean "burn" or "purify". In a higher sense it is an attitude that allows us to embrace all of life's experiences as a means for purification, be they pleasant or unpleasant. – Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga © 2007
We can think of Tapas as a little flame inside of us that motivates us and keeps us on track with anything of importance in life, most especially when we don’t feel like it. That inner fire motivates us to make changes when we know we need to.
There are some days when it’s just hard to get even out of bed, especially in Winter. As the days get shorter, we can find our motivation a burning out. What happens to us, then, on those days – or even months, when the fire seems to go out? Haven’t we all, I am sure, been through periods of time when the motivation to do what we know we need to do seems lacking?  Feeling stuck and resistant can be a starting point to ignite Tapas. All things change – this is one of the physical laws of the universe, even a state of inertia at some point will shift. 
Tapas has been practiced for millennia by spiritual aspirants of many traditions. It has been harnessed to achieve stunning self-discipline and even self-denial in some of the more intense spiritual practices, such as fasting, meditating for hours at a time, and even extreme and exotic acts, like standing on one foot for a number of years!
In fact, Tapas, or self-discipline, was so revered by Patanjali, one of the ancient masters of yoga philosophy, that he considered it essential (along with intense self-study and self-surrender) for the practice of Kriya yoga. Kriya yoga is the yoga of “action” – encompassing all the active practices which take us towards the state of yoga, or oneness.
When we undertake the practice of yoga, the flame of Tapas needs to burn brightly within us if we are to achieve anything more than a little light exercise. Tapas helps us through the uncomfortable sensations, motivates us to try difficult maneuvers, and also pulls in the reins when we become a bit full of ourselves or risk injuring our body. Without that inner discipline and determination, we’d be unlikely to look at the finer practices of yoga that, through rigorous self-awareness, bring inner peace.
Being Mindful and attentive in our day to day life and in our yoga practice, we will see, hear and feel things we would ordinarily miss, this detail will help ignite the fire of Tapas within us... the energy, enthusiasm and discipline to help in those days when we can't be bothered, don't have the answers or motivation to do what we know deep inside we should do.
And so we go back to Spain... where did the idea of all these lovely dishes start from?
Well, the story goes, the Tapa was born when, due to an illness, the Spanish king Alfonso the 10th, the Wise, had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals. Once recovered from the disease, the wise king decreed that no wine was to be served in any of the inns in the land of Castile, unless accompanied by something to eat. This was a wise precaution to counteract the adverse effects of alcohol on those people who, through lack of money to buy a nourishing meal, drank alcohol on an empty stomach.  Tapas traditionally was a complementary piece of sliced ham, olive, or piece of cheese served on a little cover (tapa) on top of a glass of wine. However, the wise King, might just have been implementing Tapas amongst his people by encouraging a little more mindfulness and self-control with their wine.
By Bunty
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