Austerity or Tapas – the fourth Niyama

School of Yoga explains Tapas (Austerity), the fourth Niyama

Austerity or Tapas is the exercise of increasing awareness of the Self by practice of austerities. Austerities come from self-denial of wants and suppression of desire.  Consequently, this deprives the senses of stimulus which allows one’s cognition (buddhi) and logic (manas) time to reflect on itself. As a result, there is increased awareness of one’s Self.

Tapas requires 2 qualities: Denial and Redirection.

Denial – The world has the ability to continuously engage us. However, to increase self control, material interactions needs control. This includes;

  • Reducing all interactions, including social media, parties etc. Consequently, this reduces distraction / mental clutter.
  • Reducing personal possessions such as clothes, jewelry etc. As a result, this reduces attraction to ephemeral possessions.

Redirection – Time and energy saved by denial is redirected internally;

  • Increasing homeostasis by auto-suggestive relaxation and silence.
  • Increasing self awareness and reducing fear by meditation.

Anecdotes, experiences and situations to help understand austerity…

(Wikipedia extract) – Harriet Tubman was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian and Union spy during the U.S Civil War. After escaping from slavery, into which she was born, she made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves using the network of anti-slavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.


Harriet Tubman

As a child, Tubman was beaten and whipped by her various owners. Early in her life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when she was hit by a heavy metal weight thrown by an irate slave owner, intending to hit another slave.

In 1849, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, then returned to rescue her family. Slowly, one group at a time, she brought relatives with her out of the state, and eventually guided dozens of other slaves to freedom. Traveling by night and in extreme secrecy, Tubman (or “Moses”, as she was called) “never lost a passenger”.

When the American Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then as an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided a raid on the Combahee River, which liberated more than seven hundred slaves.

She was active in the women’s suffrage movement until illness overtook her. She died in poverty.

Tubman, widely known and well-respected while she was alive, became an American icon in the years after her death. She inspired generations of African-Americans struggling for equality and civil rights.

  • How do you think Harriet found the strength to sustain?
  • She obviously had no resources and worked in adverse conditions. It must have been very lonely. How might she have managed?
  • What can you say about her drive and patience? Would she have been patient all the time?

Points to ponder on austerity

Internal Tags: Dharma (conditioning)Stress and Situational AwarenessStress and pranaAwareness measuresHatha Yoga PradeepikaPatanjali Yoga SutraBhagawat Geeta

External Tags: Consciousness

  • What is the essence of austerity?
  • How we increase our ability to face adversity and keep moving towards the goals?
  • When we demonstrate sincerity, what happens to others?
  • Can we be patient and sincere all the time? How do we keep our spirits up in all situations?
  • Should we stay invested in all projects at all times?
  • How do we decide when to let go a project which is not going anywhere? What impact does such a decision have on our sense of identity?
Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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