TAPAS is the next niyama. All sorts of definitions and explanations exist, no one more correct than the other. Somewhere in the vast majority of everything I’ve read, fire is a component. That fire inside, energy, power. That fire that purifies, cleanses.
I enjoy the imagery of fire. It is powerful and vibrant. It is easily identified. Fire is dangerous, and can be used for good purpose or not. It is tangible in different ways that some of the other yamas and niyamas are not.
In the mountain forests near me there are occasionally controlled burns. From a distance it appears that the entire mountainside is alight. But their purpose is to cleanse, to give back. They assist in reducing the potential for true disaster and renew the forest itself.
Just like these fires, the fire inside can accomplish the same. What do we do with our energy? Are we disciplined in our practice and attentive to how we take care of ourselves? Rolf Gates (Meditations from the Mat) says it is “burning zeal in practice”(day 75). To paraphrase some of his writings, we strive through yoga to become free of desire, but TAPAS is the desire to be the people we are practicing to be.
You know how good it feels to break a good sweat, train hard and then hit the shower for refreshment and restoration? This is tapas. This is the fire. So, consider this the next time someone tells you to “feel the burn.” My hope is that you really FEEL it. My hope is that you have already felt it, and will continue.