1. Tapas – The Sanskrit word meaning fire, discipline and action. It refers to one’s attitude of pursuing goals, making things happen, striving for improvement and progress. Any Yogi or Yogini would know it is impossible to progress on your practice without hard work and effort. For example, if you wish to master a specific advanced asana like Hanumansana (split), you need to set aside time to stretch the hamstrings, loosen the hips and strengthen the lower back.
2. Svadhyaya – ‘Sva’ means self, ‘dhyaya’ means study. This is the Sanskrit word for self study. So many commercial Yoga studios never even touch the importance of observing oneself’s conduct in their classes. This is in fact, one of the precepts under Niyama – which is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Svadhyaya means to always study and introspect ourself. During an Asana, where it is painful, emotion shows up – watch to see if the pain or tension is moving or easing off in any particular angle? Keep observing and breathing into the pain, and become aware to the relief, and how different it felt when you last did the same Asana.
Outside of Asana, it also means to maintain awareness of ourself, our thoughts, words and actions, our impact on others. And then scrutinise them closely. Did we say something uncalled for today? Is there any area which we could have demonstrated more balance in our actions? These are all necessary in daily action including those times when we are not in a Yoga class.
3. Ishvara Pranidhana – This means to surrender to a higher Divine, or God. Besides the first 2 points highlighted, this is equally important in ensuring progress. Tapas MUST be balanced with Ishvara Pranidhana, and Svadhyaya is more effective when it is done in dialogue with God. Humans are imperfect, that’s the beauty because we can strive towards perfection and make that our practice.
Ishvara Pranidhana includes the process of detaching from the outcomes. It does not mean we should adopt a sloppy careless attitude. We must still practice Tapas to move towards our goals and purposes, but after we done our best, then its time to let go and let God.
Ishvara Pranidhana is even more necessary for Yoga/Meditation and spiritual teachers. There is a higher power behind our existence and awareness, and the burden of the world does not fall on your shoulders.
(C) Linda Loo