Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas, Pt. 3: Tapas

When I was a freshman in college, I spent many nights cramming for tests.  I have (unsuccessfully) attempted to pull all-nighters before mid-term and final exams.  Even as an adult (many years out of college), I have procrastinated getting things done because I “just didn’t feel like” doing them right away.  Tapas — which is sanskrit for “self-discipline” — is something none of us excel at 100% of the time.  We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm, and we favor rest and relaxation over hard work.  It seems that it’s becoming more and more challenging to make self-discipline the normal expectation.

As Christians, God expects to go against the norm.  It’s impossible to be a biblical definition of a Christian (more commonly referred to as a disciple in the Bible) and not practice tapas.

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
Proverbs 25:28
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Tapas applies to every part of our lives, but today, I’m going to talk about physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual aspects.

TAPAS AND THE BODY

I hate exercising.  I love how I feel after I exercise, but the part that I usually struggle with is actually getting myself started with exercising.  I’m sure this sounds very odd, coming from a fitness instructor and a yoga teacher.  I guess for me, I love being active but I don’t like to exercise for the sake of burning calories/losing weight/toning up/etc… which is why I teach fitness and yoga classes.  I used to be a member of a boutique fitness studio where everyone did 60 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).  The workouts varied from day to day, but we always did cardio on the treadmill and the rowing machine combined with various weight training and TRX work.  One of the reasons why I joined was for the discipline aspect.  I knew that each time I went, I was getting out of my comfort zone and pushing my practice of discipline which was great for my character.  The more I practiced tapas in regards to exercise, the more I found myself relating to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (second passage above) and enjoying a healthier and stronger body.

TAPAS AND THE MIND/HEART

There’s a reason why I put both mind and heart in one category:  When we’re not disciplining our emotions, our minds begin to believe the emotion to be the absolute truth.  Since 1994, I have helped lead youth and family ministries in California, Texas and North Carolina.  It was such a blessing and a privilege to have the opportunity to impact teenagers in a positive and spiritual way, but one of the constant challenges were helping them to gain a conviction that what they feel at the moment are not necessarily godly nor the reality.  I’ve seen many teenagers fall in love with the wrong person and get their hearts broken.  One thing I would hear often is, “I was convinced that he/she was the one.”  Some of them would learn from this and not just rely on their feelings; unfortunately, some would go on to make the same mistakes which ends up in one heartbreak after another, and each time, destroying their self-esteem and outlook of positive relationships.  Adults are not immune to making this same mistake.  If it’s not a romantic relationship, it could be friendships, work situations, encounters with strangers, etc.  My husband once broke up a loud, verbal altercation at our community gym which started because one guy was trying to use two workout equipment at the “same time” (going back and forth between the two).  Another guy quietly confronted him on it, so the guy (the “reserver”) apparently started yelling at him (the “confronter”) and getting really close to his face like he was going to beat the guy up.  My husband approached them calmly and gently talked some logic into the situation (“We’re all just trying to work out.  We all live in this community.  We’re all neighbors.  Let’s all back up and cool off.”)  Apparently, that’s all it took for them to back up  and calm down.  Before my husband left, he witnessed apologies being exchanged between the two guys.  Our emotions have the power to change our minds about what’s real and what’s not.  The good news is that we have even a greater power to determine what our minds believe as the truth.  And when we discipline our minds, our heart will follow suit.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9
TAPAS AND THE SPIRIT

I’ve been a Christian for 26 years, and it is still a challenge to practice self-discipline when it comes to my spiritual life.  I’m not talking about having my daily times with God; I pray and read my Bible daily, but what I struggle with is disciplining myself to practice godly characters (fruits of the Spirit) daily.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-22

I’m pretty good at practicing all of these when it’s easy for me (I’m sure that’s the case for everyone), but when I’m trying to be loving, joyful, peaceful, forgiving, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled toward people that seem to know how to push my buttons, this list becomes quite the challenge for me to live out.

And I suppose that’s why I need to rely on the Holy Spirit to practice Tapas everyday.

Come back next week as we talk about the 4th Niyama: Svadhyaya (self-study).

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas, Pt. 2: Santosha

Phrases such as “The grass is greener on the other side” and “FOMO” is a common phrase and acronym used often to describe the desire of being somewhere else other than the place we are currently at.  The sanskrit word, Santosha, means contentment.  Santosha is the second Niyama which is one of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga

Many people mistake happiness to be synonymous to contentment.  Paul states in Philippians 4:12, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Paul learned the secret of being content in every situation that he was faced with: He was a Pharisee who had a significant conversion to Christian discipleship, experienced the highs and the lows of being a missionary, and he was imprisoned twice, with the latter one resulting in eventual execution.  I’m sure there were moments that Paul did not feel happy, but he somehow remained content.

After much contemplation of scriptures and prayers throughout the years, here’s my conclusion:


CONTENTMENT IS A COMPLETE SURRENDER AND UNCONDITIONAL TRUST IN GOD

One of the things I love doing is taking long road trips with my family.  Throughout the years, we have driven to many states spanning from California all the way to Massachusetts as well as many of the states along the way and then some).  My husband prefers to do the driving through the busy cities while I prefer to take over the driving through long stretch of (what seems to be) nothingness.  Whether my husband or I are doing the driving, my daughter sits in the back and reads, plays games, naps, sings and chats with us without worrying about anything.  Even when we had to drive through a massive summer rainstorm in Alabama or in dense fog in the nighttime through the mountains in Utah, she was content.  This contentment came from knowing that even though the last leg of the trips feel like they last forever, she fully trusted that mom and dad are responsible drivers and that as long as it is up to us, we will protect her and have her best interest in mind.  This is a great lesson that I try to remember when I’m not feeling content.


HAPPINESS IS A TEMPORARY FEELING BASED ON TEMPORARY THINGS

Growing up in the United States has great benefits such as freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, opportunities for wealth, many colleges/universities as well as numerous restaurants, shopping centers, recreational facilities and events such as sports and performing arts (although they are currently limited due to the pandemic).  It’s an entertainment paradise.  But in the midst of all the opportunities that we have access to, it’s quite easy to become unsatisfied with what we have.  When we get what we want, we feel happy; but then six months down the line, we see that there’s an upgraded version of what we have… so we become unhappy with what we bought.  Happiness generally seems to be tied to something temporary.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe one can be both content and happy.  I think happiness can be a byproduct of contentment, but it’s the state of contentment that will last even long after the feeling the happiness is gone.

I can honestly say that I’ve been both happy and content.  I can also truthfully admit that I’ve been sad but content… but because of my commitment to striving for contentment, the sadness doesn’t last for too long.  When I feel (emotional) pain, I make every effort to not push it away but rather allow myself to feel it and find contentment in the middle of that pain.


For me, my contentment comes from knowing that God knows exactly what He’s doing with me and that I just need to sit back and enjoy the ride with complete trust that God’s got my back.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas Pt. 1: Saucha

Today, we start a 5-part series on Niyamas which is sanskrit for “observances.”  The five Niyamas are qualities to practice in our personal lives for not just the betterment of ourselves, but it also serves as a way to get closer to experiencing our authentic selves.  The first Niyama is Saucha (pronounced “sowcha”) which means “purity.”  I’ve heard people also define saucha as “cleanliness,” but I feel that purity is a much more accurate definition.  Cleanliness generally refers to our outer bodies, decluttering our living spaces and anything on the outer parts of an object.  Purity on the other hand, refers to cleanliness as well as something deeper.  Purity can refer to one’s mind, one’s internal body systems, emotions, and even one’s soul.

“Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish,
and then the outside also will be clean.”

Matthew 23:26

The scriptures are clear on the importance of having a pure heart:

“The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright.”
Proverbs 21:8
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Matthew 5:8
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 1:5
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,”
1 Peter 1:22

So how does one practically practice Saucha?


PURITY OF THE BODY

Purity of the body includes cleansing techniques such as Jala Neti (also known as nasal irrigation), a short-term detox diet and fasting to get rid of any toxins that you have accumulated throughout a span of time.  I think it goes without saying, that keeping the outside of your body (your skin) clean is also important, but without purifying the inside of your body from time to time, the toxin-buildup will start to come out through the pores of your body by creating odors and skin issues.

I started a modified intermittent fasting about a month ago.  I eat for 8 hours, and for 16 hours, I fast.  I also fast from solid foods once a month, but that’s more for spiritual reasons (which I will talk about towards the end of this blog).  One of the reasons I started intermittent fasting is because I noticed that as a woman in her mid-40’s, I’ve been experiencing a change in my body composition.  It is much easier to accumulate fat in my midsection, and I was finding myself feeling bloated more often than I wanted to admit.  I have gotten a food allergy test before, and other than being lactose-sensitive, I don’t have any food allergies.  I eat a plant-based diet, and for the past 5-6 months, I’ve been eating more of a vegan diet.  I generally don’t eat a lot of junk food, but ever since I started my intermittent fasting, I don’t have junk food cravings.  I feel a lot cleaner on the inside with less bloating, so it helps my mind to be more onboard with observing Saucha of the heart and mind.


PURITY OF THE HEART AND MIND

There are so many layers to the purity of the heart and mind, but for today, I will only focus on one aspect:  Seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

Children are awesome.  They laugh unapologetically when something is funny, they don’t hold back tears when something makes them sad, and they forgive quickly and literally forget what they were mad about.  They’re able to live this way because they haven’t yet been tainted by the toxins of life.  When they play, they are fully in that moment.

How great would our lives be if we were willing to let go of insecurities, bitterness and anything else which are preventing us from living a life of freedom to be in the moment without any cares and worries of the next minute?  I know this is so much easier said than done, but God has blessed us with many ways of chipping off these layers that we build around ourselves that prevent our hearts and minds from experiencing complete purity.  Some of the ways that I’ve personally utilized for heart and mind purification are counseling, yoga, (biblical) meditation, life coaching, and of course, reading the Bible and praying.

“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom to cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”
1 Peter 2:16

PURITY OF THE SPIRIT

Purity of the Spirit can not be achieved by human effort.  There is nothing we can physically do to obtain a pure spirit.  This is only possible with Christ.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

We don’t achieve purity from obeying the Word of God (as in, we can’t make ourselves pure); We become pure by the God’s grace and mercy.  He purifies our spirit; however, in order to stay on the path of purity, we must live in obedience to God’s word (the Bible).

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.”
Psalm 119:9

Of course, there are so many other facets of Saucha that I did not cover in this blog because that could literally take an entire book to write about… but I hope you were able to at least get a glimpse of Saucha from a Christian Yogi’s perspective.

 

With Gratitude,
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