Tapas translates to "purification through discipline," "commitment," or "internal fire." Through the performance of regular tapas we learn to be the master of our body and mind.
On the mat cultivating a sense of Tapas in our physical practice could mean trying poses we usually avoid or find difficult, or leaning mindfully into our edge within a tough asana. Realising that it does take time to get into a more ‘advanced’ version of a pose doesn’t have to be discouraging at all; having the discipline to practise consistently and the humility to admit when we’re not perfect are both essential to reaping the rewards that ‘discipline’ has to offer.
Off the mat we learn control over ourselves. We tend to act on instinct. When the feeling of anger washes over us, we yell and lash out at others. When the feeling of hunger creeps into our bellies we eat. Through practicing tapas, we learn to have control over ourselves so that we can choose whether or not to act. Tapas does not mean only doing japa or fasting. It extends into every area of our lives. Tapas is being nice to someone you don’t care for. It means not shouting back at someone who is angry. Tapas is the practice of tolerance.