top of page

Tapas: The Yoga Sutra's Path to Self-Discipline

Beth Bradford

Apr 3, 2023

Do you want to be more disciplined in your yoga practice? Or have trouble sticking to a resolution? If so, tapas, or the Yoga Sutra's path to self-discipline, might be the answer.

Tapas is about self-discipline and perseverance. According to the Yoga Sutra, tapas is an essential component of maintaining a healthy spiritual practice. It entails going beyond your comfort zones in order to cultivate inner strengths and purify your body and mind.

By engaging in activities like yoga asana, pranayama, meditation, and self-study (svadhyaya), we can challenge ourselves and develop mental discipline that will support us both on and off the mat. In this article, we will explore how tapas can help us deepen our yoga practice and develop spiritual strength. We'll look at how tapas is essential for cultivating mental toughness.

What Is Tapas - A Definition

Tapas is one of the Niyamas, or ethical practices, outlined in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. This important concept in yoga philosophy roughly translates to "heat" or "austere discipline," but it is often translated as "self-discipline." Tapas is about being devoted to your practice and applying effort and energy into completing any task you undertake.

It encourages you to develop discipline in both the physical and mental realms by pursuing your passions and clearing away obstacles that could lead you away from achieving your goals. Tapas inspires transformation — both in yourself and in life — through dedication and determination. Your discipline can manifest itself as a lifestyle, a habit, a ritual, or an attitude—the idea being to stay true to yourself no matter what.

Understanding the Benefits of Tapas

Tapas is the third of the five Niyamas, part of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, which provides a framework for life. It’s a Sanskrit word that literally means “heat”, or “intensity” and is often translated as “self-discipline” or “self-control.”

This concept seeks to encourage intentional practice and dedication, with the intention of transforming our inner fire from mere fuel for passion into a source of discipline and strength.

The idea behind tapas is that when we are able to finally summon our will power to practice something regularly despite obstacles, it builds discipline which then yields to other positive qualities like clarity, contentment and better health.

Tapas helps us to become increasingly mindful in both daily moments and in times that test our strength—by providing us with an opportunity to practice self-discipline as well as overcome difficult obstacles and restrictions we might create for ourselves. When combined with an open and loving attitude towards ourselves, it can be a powerful way to improve our sense of wellbeing.

The Yoga Sutra & Niyama Tapas

Tapas, or "burning enthusiasm," is the third of the Yoga Sutra's five niyamas, which translate to “observances.” It is a discipline that focuses on cultivating an inner fire to move closer to one’s highest self. The goal of tapas is to practice conscious self-discipline and create an inner drive that will result in spiritual growth.

When practiced correctly, Tapas can help practitioners to:

  • Develop mental fortitude

  • Push through physical and mental barriers

  • Foster a sense of focus and clarity

  • Help practitioners better understand their own needs

  • Increase feelings of control over their own lives

The practice of Tapas takes patience and dedication – but with consistent effort, it can serve as an amazing tool for growth and change. By pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you can use Tapas to unlock your own potential and work towards your highest goals.

Tips for Applying Tapas in Everyday Life

Tapas is a yoga sutra's ancient concept focused on cultivating self-discipline, patience and physical strength. It has also been interpreted to mean "heat"—just like the sun creates heat and light, this concept gives us the energy to take action and bring positive change into our lives.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take severe austerity practices to apply this fundamental yogic moral code in our everyday lives. Here are some tips to help you make tapas part of your yoga practice:

Start Small and Build Up

Rather than jumping right into an extreme regimen, start small and slowly build up your capacity for self-discipline. For example, if you’re trying to get more sleep at night, start by going to bed 5 minutes earlier each night and gradually increasing that time until you reach your goal.

Take Notes

Write down your goals and the steps required to achieve them. This will help you stay focused on your task and provide motivation when times get tough.

Find Your Internal Fire

Tapas can be used as a tool for self-reflection. Pause for a moment before taking any action in life to ask yourself why you are doing it—is it because it aligns with your values or because it will please others? When you actively consider what you value most in life, you can use that passion as fuel for action.

By incorporating tapas into your everyday life, you are tapping into a greater source of power within yourself—power that will help cultivate discipline and lead to meaningful change in all aspects of life!

Yoga for Self-Discipline With Niyama Tapas

Tapas helps to transform internal unrest into positive energy through intentional self-discipline. This practice does not focus on punishing ourselves for our mistakes, but rather on burning away our negative habits until only the good remains. This process is like an internal purification, a clearing out of all that no longer serves us in order to create space for new growth.

We can cultivate tapas by committing to specific practices such as setting clear boundaries or saying no when necessary, meditating or journaling each day, even if only for a few minutes every day or week –– anything that helps us to keep ourselves accountable and remain on track with our goals and intentions.

By consistently engaging in these activities we can develop strength and openness so that we can better navigate whatever life throws at us with grace and ease.

Keeping Up the Motivation During Times of Challenge

Tapas is the practice of self-discipline and staying motivated, even during times of challenge. It’s a simple idea, but you may find yourself asking—how do I maintain my motivation when things are tough?

The concept of tapas is actually quite straightforward: it’s about developing the ability to stay focused on your goals, no matter how difficult things may seem. This could include sticking to a healthy diet plan or dedicating yourself to learning a new language. The key is to push through, as even small successes can lead to greater progress in the long run.

Here are some practical tips for staying motivated with tapas:

  1. Set realistic goals - Start small and build up your momentum over time.

  2. Break down big tasks into smaller parts - Divide bigger tasks into more manageable chunks.

  3. Track your progress - Keep track of your successes to remind you that you are making progress.

  4. Have an accountability partner - Share your plans and progress with someone who will help keep you on track.

  5. Celebrate your successes - Make sure to give yourself a pat on the back for reaching each milestone along the way!


Tapas, or self-discipline, is essential to developing our spiritual practice and discovering our true selves. With regular practice of tapas, our minds and bodies can become stronger and more capable of taking on any challenge. Tapas can be both disciplined and creative, prompting us to find new ways to enter and keep the fire of dedication burning in our hearts. Keeping the Yoga Sutra's path of tapas in mind, we can stay focused on our goals and make progress in our spiritual practice.

bottom of page