Mostly when I have spoken in classes about the Yoga Sutras teachings on Tapas, or burning effort, I have talked about it as a practice applicable to wherever it is that we need more of SOMETHING; that could be savasana…or restoratives, and not necessarily anything difficult in an obvious sense of physical exertion. Having just finished a five day intensive workshop with John Schumacher here in Bellingham at Yoga Northwest, I am acutely aware of what it means to practice with zeal on a physical level, where I am at my “outer edge”, and am thus contemplating this particular expression of Tapas. I worked hard, and had moments of joy and moments of despair in this time of study, as is generally the case in these very focused and concentrated experiences of yoga for 5 plus hours per day, for days in a row! I have noticed over years of practice, that my sense is that I am continually learning deeper levels of capability to be present with challenge through this kind of work in yoga. I am quite certain this kind of potent work teaches me how to stay more present and steadier in times when I am needing “inner strength” in the everyday challenges of being human. There is also a gift of profound quiet that comes in the asanas that we can hold with ease and grace for longer periods of time—- there is a Tapas in holding dog pose or mountain pose for 5 minutes at a time, but an inner experience that can’t be achieved through doing a pose for shorter intervals.Unless we work with tapas, at least most of us would not be able to hold poses for long without strain and struggle. Tapas has a purifying aspect physically, mentally and emotionally; see for yourself, as you challenge yourself to work more deeply, in the physical challenges of your own practice, working with both self reflection and care, and of course discipline. There is a Tapas just in practicing with intensity with no teacher present, nor a class to help uphold you and carry you energetically— class and community serve us in this “upholding”, but ultimately we must also learn to discover the sources of internal energy that charge our individual selves and make intensive practice possible for the solitary practitioner.