Burn Baby, Burn

Fire at CoachellaGreetings.  Hope you’re enjoying these last few days of summer.  I’m always amazed at how quickly the warm days fly by.   Before I know it, fall is here and I’m bundling up and watching the leaves change.  Until then, I’m soaking up the sun and loving the heat.

So, New York City gets REALLY hot at times … and this past week was one of these sweltering weeks that reminded me of my childhood in sunny Florida.  As I was walking the streets of Manhattan, sweating up a storm, I started thinking about what heat does to our body, mind and spirit.  Then I remembered this fascinating concept of tapas.

What is tapas?

I’m not referring to the yummy appetizers you may order in your favorite Spanish restaurant, I’m talking about the yogic concept of using intense effort to burn through life’s distractions. Tapas is all about using a disciplined approach to work and self-sacrifice to burn away the negativity that separates us from our Higher Power (God, the Source, etc.).

I first learned about the concept of tapas during my yoga teacher training a few years ago.  Tapas is one of the Niyamas (observances of self-control) described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (an enlightening book about the philosophy of yoga).  Tapas implies a self-discipline willingly expended both in restraining physical urges and in actively pursuing a higher purpose in life.

Through tapas, you can “burn off” or prevent accumulation of negative energies, clearing a path toward spiritual evolution. The fire of your focus can burn through obstacles, leaving only ease and lightness.

Cool, right? Or might I say: hot, right?

It’s an amazingly interesting idea.  Let’s explore this some more and see how you might apply this fiery concept to your life …

What is tapas and why is it so hot, hot, hot? Tapas is:

  • Discipline, as well as the fiery ability to overcome the obstacles in your path.
  • The ability to stay focused on your highest aims in life, as well as the burning up of the ego and its distracting desires.
  • Very powerful and intense. Even in the face of distractions and obstacles, tapas reminds you about what is most important… and gives you the motivation to stick with your practice through thick and thin.

A word of warning …

Because of this fiery nature, tapas can nearly burn you up if you aren’t careful. Tapas can be overtaken by the ego, and a your practice can become full of extreme measures that are unhealthy and ego-driven.

How do you prevent getting burned by tapas?

Keep contentment (santosha) close at hand. Contentment gives you the ability to accept the current state as it truly is… and to work with the resources available to you, rather than forcing or pushing to achieve the goals of the ego. We’ll talk more about santosha (the practice of being content) in a later post.  It’s one of my favorite concepts and one that has major life implications.


  • What is most important in your life?  Put your priority list in a place where you are reminded of it on a daily basis.
  • What do you do when problems arise?  How might you use the concept of tapas to help you scale the walls of the obstacles that are in your path?
  • How do you prove your level of commitment to a cause?  On a scale of 1 – 10, how disciplined are you in creating a life that you love?
  • The next time you’re sweating, think about what you’re “burning” out of your system.  What are you leaving behind?

So … as summer winds down, do yourself a favor: turn up the heat. See what happens when you feel the burn.



P.S.  The picture in this post is of a really funky, fiery piece of art at Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Palm Springs, California.  If you’re into hearing live music in a beautiful setting, I HIGHLY recommend checking out this festival.  Great acts, cool crowd, magical vibe.  Plus, the weather can’t be beat.

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