Yoga Niyamas: Tapah, or Burning Enthusiasm

Yoga is both the goal and the steps you take to get there.

That is, one practices yoga in an effort to achieve yoga.

The word yoga has many definitions. It means to yoke or to unify, to become one with the object of concentration. To fully understand and to be completely absorbed in wherever you place your focus. 

The third niyama is essential in order to stay focused on your efforts: tapas (tapah). 

Tapah: Burning Enthusiasm

Continuous effort. Willpower. The heat that burns up the impurities.


Tapas is something you’ll hear a lot about in yoga classes, since many are asking you to exert a physical effort that requires focus, strength, and a sense of your edge.⁠

Tapas is the effort one needs to keep going when the going gets tough. ⁠

It’s dedication, fire, ambition. ⁠

Tapas is doing the thing you don’t really want to do but know you need to do to get where you’re going.⁠

You know the feeling of establishing a healthy habit, or breaking a bad one? ⁠

At first it’s SUPER HARD. ⁠

It’s tapas that gets you there. ⁠

Day by day, tapas gets you there.

Ways to live in the spirit of tapas

-Keep practicing whatever it is you’ve chosen to help yourself grow, when it’s easy, and especially when it’s hard. Wake up earlier if you have to. Set an alarm. Ask your friends to hold you to it. Don’t give in, don’t give up.

-Recognize that life is bitter and sweet. Accept the bitter, see if you can learn from it. Know that there is never a time in life where everything is and always will remain good and light and pleasant. Even as we develop samtosa (contentment), there is still pain…there’s just a sense of being okay with the truth of that, okay with the feelings of pain.

-Find the silver linings. The greatest growth comes not from times of ease but from times of challenge. Life’s sorrows and pains teach us so much. We are resilient, we persist, and we thrive.

-Practice in the easy times for the hard times. If you’re doing yoga regularly, the techniques you practice will be there for you automatically when you need them the most. 

Sutra 2.43


For more on tapas and the other niyamas click here

For the yamas click here