If you ever come to a point in your fitness journey where you are not that happy with your results, it’s time to take a deeper look at your motivations. Because here is a truth that will help you anytime you’re going after something new:
When you change your motivation, you change your results.
Not so sure that something as intangible and squishy as motivation can make that much of a difference?
Yoga actually has a lot to say on this subject. In fact, motivation and desire play prominent roles in some of the earliest yogic texts, including the Yoga Sutra (written approximately 1500 years ago) and the Upanishads (written more than 2500 years ago). It’s easy to think of yoga as something gentle and low-stress, but when you start reading these ancient guidelines, you see it has a lot more intensity than that.
In the Yoga Sutra, the sage Patanjali outlines five guiding moral principles, or niyamas, of yoga, the third of which is called tapas. Tapas translates as “burning desire” – or, put another way, the fire in your heart that lights the fire under your butt.
The first two niyamas are cleanliness and contentment. And they are lovely and important, and even lead to satisfaction. I think of cleanliness as cleaning up those thoughts that lead you to resist the things that you know to be good for you, and contentment as accepting and appreciating where you are so that you can grow from a place of love (“I want to feel more at home in my body”) and not a place of judgment (“I hate my thighs”).
But tapping in to your burning desire, or tapas, is where the rubber starts to really hit the road and you start to truly transform into more fulfilled and awake person. Meaning, you can follow all the rules you like of how much to work out and when, but if you don’t know why you’re doing it—if you aren’t totally clear on what you want out of it–you won’t really challenge yourself to do the inner and outer work that’s necessary for true transformation.
In more contemporary terms, Gina Nelson, yoga programmer for AcaciaTV (pictured above), describes tapas this like this:
People first come to yoga for many reasons, often to reap the physical benefits of a “good stretch”. We then begin to realize that our entire being has benefitted from this “good stretch”. As the physical body starts to open, the subtle body begins to soften, allowing one the space to tune into our deepest desires and motivations. These motivations, or Tapas, are very powerful in that we are able to get very clear about our personal goals and not those placed on us by others. Once we know our personal motivation, only then we can truly begin to get “unstuck”.
So how do you turn up the flame on your motivation? Get in touch with what you truly, madly, deeply want. That’s not always easy—it can take some real drilling down to find the root of what’s underneath your goals. Wanting to lose 10 pounds, for example, isn’t really the kind of desire that’s going to keep you consistently working out when your life gets hectic. Why do you want to lose the weight? Or complete the race? Or insert your own fitness goal here?
To inspire you to do some investigating, I’ll leave you with a quote from the Upanishads:
“You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.”