It happens every January 1st. I wake to a brand new year, exhausted from the holidays, but also grateful for a fresh start. I’m anxious to make a plan to do more, to be more, and to feel my best in the year ahead. As the morning unfolds, I remember that I indulged more than normal lately, and I think, “I need to make a resolution!”
And then I remember that, in over two decades of striving to lose weight and get in shape, resolutions have not helped me achieve my goals. They feel like a quick fix at the time, but I eventually find myself back where I started–struggling with my weight, not sleeping well, feeling fatigued all the time, and battling the headaches that have plagued me for decades.
I wrestled with resolutions and chronic health problems for years, and always wound up feeling ashamed by my inability to get it right. I kept making the same mistakes over and over again, and gained and lost a lot of weight, until I discovered the value of tapas. Not the small plates you find in Spanish restaurants, but tapas, the yogic observance that teaches us to get healthy by enduring resistance on a daily basis.
For yogis, tapas means discipline, and refers to seeking and overcoming that which is difficult. By observing tapas, we cultivate better health and happiness. It usually implies asana (poses), meditation, and pranayama (breathwork), but it can refer to anything which challenges us. When we continuously lean into that which we resist, and allow it to refine us, we grow stronger and happier, every single day. Tapas helps us become all that we can be.
There is power in the overcoming. For example, when we push past our barriers to challenge our muscles, they tear before they grow back stronger. When we increase nutritious foods in our diet, we lose our taste for sweets, and crave more fruits and veggies. These are just a few ways that the practice of tapas leads us to build a healthy life, one hard choice at a time.
Choosing tapas (the path of resistance) might sound incredibly uncomfortable, but I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We can do so much more than we imagine! And what happens on the other side–empowerment, contentment, and joy–is absolutely priceless.
Like everything in yoga, the meaning of tapas is open to interpretation. For me, embracing tapas means I meet my yoga mat daily without fail, eat mostly from the earth, and strive to live in the moment.
Observing tapas inspires me to practice yoga for at least 20 minutes every day, even when I don’t want to. That way I can go to bed each night knowing that I at least did something to honor my body.
Tapas helps me choose a salad, when I would rather order pizza. It stings a little when the food arrives–that’s the resistance–but I quickly forget the pizza craving as I relish the energy I feel in the hours that follow the meal.
Valuing tapas is also helpful in my family life–it reminds me to stop and play games or read books with my daughters, even though my to-do list is a mile long.
My favorite thing about tapas, though, is that it gives me something to be proud of, as I look back on the year that just passed. No one is perfect (I certainly am not) but I did try overcome resistance every day last year. Not to lose weight, or look a certain way, but because I wanted to be the best version of myself that I could be. Thanks to tapas, I can look back on 2014, knowing that I did my best to be healthy and happy.
I’m not saying that new year’s resolutions are bad, just that they never worked for me, and I have found something I value much more. Tapas has taught me to make small, daily investments in my health and happiness, trusting that they will all pay off somewhere down the road. It’s a faith walk for sure, but it brings peace and continuity to my life.
As we begin another year, consider tapas as a path to a healthier life. Be disciplined, and do the things that you resist the most, every single day. Trust the struggles, and remember that getting healthy is hard on purpose…that’s what makes it worthwhile.
Happy new year, friends, and thank you for joining me in this journey!