Tapas: I do not think it means what you think it means

6 Sep

Tapas. In Spanish, it means fun, little, yummy meals–frequently involving pork products. In Vegas, people frequently mistake it for “topless” (of course). In Sanskrit, it means the fires of hell!!! OK, “heat” and purification—I’m so dramatic. Quote from Kino MacGregor on tapas, yoga and healing injuries:

“It is not the physicality of hatha yoga that transforms, but the state of presence cultivated by a conscious effort to heal the body and train the mind that heals. It is actually higher awareness itself that brings about great changes in practitioners’ experience of reality. One of the biggest challenges along the road to the discovery of presence is pain and injury. Paradoxically every yoga practitioner owes a debt of gratitude to each injured body part and all the accompanying emotions brought up. Most people, me included, have relatively strong egoic minds and need to be pushed to the precipice before they are ready to change. According to the Sanskrit “tapas” that defines accepting pain as help for purification, yoga defines pain as your teacher, but not in the most obvious way. It is not enough to feel pain and push through; actually pushing through some types of pain is pure insanity. Instead pain is your teacher on a much deeper level that forces you to dig deep into the heart of yoga.”

Since I am thinking about tapas in terms of food (as usual) lately, I happened to stumble across some David Garrigues youtube videos on food this weekend. This was the one I found to be the most interesting/disturbing:

Interesting points from this David Garrigues video:

“Some people are humbled immediately {by practice} and it feels awful” (that would be me)

“You feel like you are battling against something…and that’s when you have to start refining it and looking at all the possibilities…to look at your diet and to reign it in and look at it, that’s an avenue of progress…start looking and seeing where the junk is…and those you start eliminating…it’s actually not that much of an experiment. It’s a reduction, a reigning in, it’s just like the other forms of tapas.”

“If you take up yoga practice and you continue to eat bad food, you won’t make progress. You won’t.”

I am torn on this one. On one hand, I know he’s (partially) right. Much of this is in line with the Ayurvedic principles that have worked so well for me, especially the lighter meals at the end of the day for Kapha peeps. On the other hand, part of me is screaming, ” noooooo f@&k that, no way, hell to the no!!!”  No food is really “bad” or “good”…I can’t handle the making food a moral issue thing. And the idea of finding “legitimate”, yogic reasons to starve myself? No bueno. Been there, done that. My yoga practice is about healing, not furthering my ED. The Wicked Stepmother (or Eating Disorder Bitch Voice, if I am in a saltier mood) started perking up after watching this so I had to check myself before I wrecked myself. Take what I need and leave the rest.

The take home message? Something is rotten in Denmark right now. I am disturbed, and it is definitely something going on with me. In the past, I’ve had drinking dreams or bingeing dreams or even running dreams when I am really stressed. I’ve had dreams twice this week about gorging on monstrous, Alice-in-Wonderland sized cakes and washing it down with gallons of beer.

From bigfatcook.com, I kid you not

My weight is stagnant, my practice is stagnant, I am so tired and lethargic and I just want to eat everything that is not nailed down. My body feels unhappy and stuck. Kapha derangement, anyone? If I am honest with myself, my weight is not just stagnant it is trending up. There’s lots of vegan convenience foods sneaking in lately, and I want to eat nuts or nut butters with every single meal. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee with coconut milk, and coconut milk is a no-no for Kapha dosha. “But Jillian Michaels drinks it!” whines my inner rule breaking, I-want-my-damn-coconut-milk voice.

I am not Jillian Michaels. I am a 42 year old, injured Ashtanga practitioner who happens to be vegan, in recovery from addiction/eating disorders, hypothyroid and sits at a desk researching crazy shit about methylfolate, schizandrins and phosphatidylserine all day. I don’t really need the coconut milk every single day, several times a day. And hello, I’ve been going through like 4 containers a week by myself. There’s plenty of other things to eat that would make my body much happier. It’s time to reign it in and look at the possibilities. As an experiment. The concept of eating to properly fuel my practice is new to me. Food has always been either a reward or a punishment; a drug or a curse.  But with this being said, I have to walk the line of the Middle Way and not get too crazy and go into Restriction Land.

In any case, the only kind of tapas going on over here these days are the tapas that make me blinded by sweat during downward facing dog, not the tapas that consist of bacon-wrapped dates and marcona almonds.


4 Responses to “Tapas: I do not think it means what you think it means”

  1. Dezzie September 10, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    I can totally relate to this post. I relapsed these last few weeks into eating dairy again. I’m certain it’s due to all the stress over the past few weeks. I was so angry with myself for not being disciplined enough and then the thoughts of starvation started. It was extremely hard reeling in all the crazy ED thoughts. Weightloss for me has been an uphill battle and occassion I ask myself “Why am I fighting so hard, when next week I’ll still be fat?” So needless to say I’m starting over again. I plan to juice fast for a few days and try to get my mind back on track.

    My yoga practice has suffered some, but I’m hanging in there. I’m not ready to attend classes yet though. Social anxiety and general fear of failing in front of people doesn’t seem fun to me. I’ll get there one day though. Keep up the good work, your blog is like a life line for me.

    • hellbentforpleather September 11, 2012 at 2:56 am #

      Don’t give up, Dezzie!!! If it can happen for me, it can happen for you. It’s still happening for me; recovery and growth are a slow and (um, annoyingly) organic process. Thank you so much for your kind words and for reading my blog.

      • Dezzie September 11, 2012 at 8:45 am #

        I’m hanging in there. Hopefully this reboot will get me back on track. Dairy…cheese is so addictive and a comfort food. Which is crazy since I’m allergic to dairy. It’s truly sad when you have to take a benadryl in order to have cheese. I guess it’s my body way of screaming “No” to me..lol. You’re very welcome. I love your blog. It’s very informative, encouraging and it always makes me laugh.

  2. kenajos September 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    Thanks for sharing all of this. Food is such a trigger for all of us, ED or not…I know for a fact that what I eat and the way I eat it is directly tied to my own practice and yes, it is extremely difficult to turn my back on tangible aspects of the personality I have been creating since childhood. But the more I do it, the more I am able to do it. I appreciate your description of tapas as the heat of purification, which is a much different than I ever would have described it but is the same nonetheless. I immediately thought of the following quote, which could serve as the perfect combination of what you have said here and what I have previously thought tapas to be:

    “If a man gives way to all his desires, or panders to them, there will be no inner struggle in him, no ‘friction,’ no fire. But if, for the sake of attaining a definite aim, he struggles with desires that hinder him, he will then create a fire which will gradually transform his inner world into a single whole.”

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