The third Niyama: Tapas refers to dedication, consistency, straightforwardness and self-discipline. In its purest form it has been described as ‘determined effort under all circumstances to achieve your goal’. It is often associated with the concepts of energy and fire. In traditional yoga, Tapas is the conscious effort to achieve ultimate union with the Divine and to burn up all desires that stand in the way of this goal.
It is no accident that Tapas follows the niyama Santosa (or contentment). It is the balancing of these opposites of burning desire and contentment that allows for sustainable growth in our yoga practice, but also in life as a whole.
“At any given moment, we must find the perfect balance between effort and grace; between striving for an idealized future, and enjoying the present moment. Those who only know Santosa dream their lives away. Those who are slaves to Tapas may blaze brightly but soon burn out. Yoga helps us to harness these two opposites so that we might both discover and give form to our dreams. (Paraphrased from Charles MacInerney)
On the Mat Every yoga pose requires both Tapas and Santosa. While practising your yoga, use the idea of strong, quiet, determination in the challenging poses, rather than pushing yourself. Acknowledge that feeling of wishing to build up do more next time.
In a Tapas yoga practice, you will be generating some heat in the body BUT, to maintain the energy generated in the poses, remember to keep coming back to your Bandhas or energy locks: Mula Bandha and Uddyana Bandha. Check in with yourself every so often, is my lower abdomen slightly engaged?
You could try using Ujjayi breath during the poses where it seems to come easily as it increases focus and clarity.