HOW DO YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT?

 Practicing  tapas  helps you create healthy habits.

Practicing tapas helps you create healthy habits.

Seven minutes and thirty seconds.

During his talk at the Southwest Institute for Healing Arts in May, master yogi Mark Whitwell asked us to commit. Do a simple, short yoga flow routine every single day for three months, he said. “If you give it seven minutes a day actually, naturally and not obsessively, I promise it will change your life.” As we drove home from the event that Tuesday night, Jamie and I agreed we both would do it.

For years, I’ve wanted to establish a committed, daily physical yoga practice. Don’t get me wrong. I practice frequently and have for many years. But when it came to a daily home practice, the Terrible Triplets — laziness, procrastination, and rationalization — had a powerful pull.  I’d wake up with the kind of intention the devil loves to pave with, and the Triplet’s mellifluous voices would sing out a sweet persuasion. “Look at your calendar! The To-Do list! What a busy woman you are. Practicing right now will take too long. You can do it later. Tonight. Tomorrow!”

Seven minutes and thirty seconds a day seemed manageable, and would be a perfect precursor to my meditation practice. Honoring my commitment to Mark Whitwell would unplug me from the power of the Terrible Triplets and give me a double-dip return — enhancing my asana routine and the opportunity to practice tapas.

In Sanskrit, tapas translates as heat. It is the practice of discipline or zeal. For the things i like and need to do anyway, such as working, writing, and reading, tapas comes easier. In other areas of my life, lack of tapas creates self-imposed barriers to personal growth and developing good habits.

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My daily 7.5 minutes is reminding me that “tapas is as tapas does.”  It requires getting past the discomfort caused by friction created by  “going against the grain” of my tendencies to succumb to procrastination and rationalization. This friction generates the heat of tapas, burning off habits that don’t serve you. The heat generates strength and stability, and the Terrible Triplets wither in the face of such fire.

Since Mark’s talk, we have practiced every day for more than two months, except for a couple of days lost to travel and illness. Now when I get on the mat, the seven minutes and 30 seconds often expands. Seduced by the meditative rhythm of breath connected to movement, I find myself adding a few lateral stretches here, a balancing pose or some extra twists there — whatever my body is calling for. I get lost in the ocean sounds of my breath, the delicious dance of muscle and bone. Meditation flows  naturally at the end of my practice. When I open my eyes, 20 or 30 minutes have passed. This makes me smile.

Fueled by tapas, I am eating an elephant — one bite at a time. Take that, Terrible Triplets.