If hearing the word ‘Tapasya’ brings to mind images of people fasting for days on end, walking through fire, standing on one leg for months, or subjecting themselves to other forms of self torture in order to reach self realization then please be assured, although you may not be alone in this understanding, it is definitely a mistaken view!
Although the Sanskrit word itself means ‘generation of heat and energy,’ this is not to be taken literally, but rather as a signification of the process of penance and self discipline – an act of overcoming the opposites we experience in day to day life in order to purify and strengthen the body and mind. With our ability to practise Tapasya by training the senses, refraining from temptations, controlling our desires and engaging in a practical spiritual discipline, we gain physical and moral strength and become more mature.
There are three types of tapasya, as described in the Bhagavad Gita: tapasya of the body, tapasya of speech and tapasya of the mind. While tapasya of the body involves control over the physical body through cleanliness and simplicity, tapasya of speech is about speaking the truth in a pleasant way that does not offend or hurt others. Tapasya of the mind can be practiced through silence, serenity and self restraint – by becoming a witness to the mind’s activities and maintaining purity of thought. Part of this is accepting and directing kindness towards others, as well as to our own self.
The act of going through something willingly, even if it brings a little discomfort, establishes immense strength in us. For example, when you are able to remain centered through both happy times and difficult times – without getting either too excited or depressed – then this is tapasya, the balancing of life’s opposites, and it makes you so solid and strong. Nothing can shake you!
Practicing tapasya can be especially powerful and beneficial to counteract any negative influence from Saturn. As Lord Shani (Saturn) is known as the Lord of Karma, performing penance is a way to repay your karmic debts and nullify any negative energies – Saturn loves discipline! Tapasya also helps to strengthen planets that are weak in your birth chart, particularly Mars and the Sun.
There are many ways to practice tapasya. You can look at the align27 app to find out which is most suitable for you on particular days, based on your own birth chart and the current planetary transits.
Food is so readily available these days in the shops and supermarkets that we tend to take it for granted, forgetting the long journey that each vegetable has taken, from its seed form to fruit, and then to our home and onto our plate. When we fast, we willingly go through hunger without complaining, which gives our internal system a break and an opportunity to detox. The energy that is usually used to digest the food can instead be directed to the body in a healing capacity. Doing this reminds us of the importance of food and proper nourishment, and opens our heart to appreciation and gratitude.
Fasting can be done in the form of a full, partial, fruit or water fast, and is a way to cleanse our whole system. As the stomach’s digestion and the mind are connected, by fasting we not only purify the body, but also the mind, as negativity in the mind is dropped with the release of toxins from the body. It is wise to practise inner contemplation and meditation on the days that you fast. When you eat your first meal after your fast, keep it vegetarian, sattvic (pure) and high in prana (life force energy).
A simple way to fast is to start with a light partial fast where you consume just water and fruit between sunrise and sunset, after which you can eat your meal. In astrology, fasting is one of the best remedies for the 12th house. You can use the align27 app to find out which days are most beneficial for you to observe a fast – the rituals section uses your birth chart to calculate this for you.
Practise of Yoga and Pranayama
In the Yoga Sutras written by the sage Patanjali, the niyamas are a set of guidelines for personal ethics which form part of the eight limbs of yoga. Tapasya is one of these niyamas, along with Shaucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Swadyaya (self study) and Iswara Pranidhana (surrender). Maintaining a consistent, disciplined yoga practice can be considered as tapasya. Pranayama, or breath control techniques, are a great example, and are one of the best remedies for Saturn and Rahu as they are Vahu (airy) planets. Whilst practicing them requires focus on the breath, there is also a need to ignore distractions and willingly go through any boredom or discomfort in the mind, knowing that it is for your own benefit. Instead of trying to avoid pain and unsettledness, a yogi chooses to go through it, and to turn a problem into an adventure!
If you are in an environment that is slightly warmer or colder than what you usually find comfortable, practise sitting through it without complaint. Observe what happens in your mind when you are in a situation or environment that is outside your comfort zone. Notice if you get caught up in liking or disliking people or situations, or if you get elated when someone praises you and then feel down when you receive criticism or things don’t go to plan. Choose instead to be a witness to the games of the mind, without craving or aversion. Make an effort to stay positive and centered through the ups and downs, hots and colds, happy times and sad times that life may bring.
At certain times and on certain days, some rituals and practices are more beneficial to you than others, depending on the precise position of the planets at that time. You can check out the align27 app, which tells you specifically which rituals are most beneficial for you each day.