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Mardi Gras and the Yogic Tradition of Tapas

The day before you start a cleanse, head out to a yoga ashram or decide to diet can feel much like a Mardi Gras celebration, as Mardi Gras is also the day before restrictions, deprivations and abstinences begin. The hours leading up to long stretches of time without participating in any guilty pleasures seem to be the hardest. Binging on alcohol, candy, and junk food, because we know we’re not going to have it, is what hurts us more than eating or drinking in moderation.

Some lively yogis who like to party believe in the ‘detox-retox’ cycle. It means you sweat the toxins out in your hot yoga class so you can party like a rock star later, and then go to yoga to detoxify again. If this were true, no one would suffer from the consequences of living an unhealthy lifestyle no matter how much we ate or drank. Unfortunately, the ‘detox-retox’ cycle contributes to health and well being about as much as binging on alcohol on Mardi Gras aids in the benefits we might gain from the following forty days of abstinence called Lent.

However, there is nothing wrong with celebrating. Everyone loves a party and parties are an exciting part of life. Mardi Gras is a day to enjoy, have fun and go wild because we know we will be giving up a lot in the days to follow. In the yogic tradition, the Sanskrit word Tapas is used to describe the discipline and restriction needed to gain spiritual insights and wisdom. It is interesting to note that there is no word that describes the day before Tapas is observed. Nothing in the yogic texts, as far as I know, tells a story about yogis going wild before they embark on a fast or set out to experience days of solitude in meditation. This is because yogis don’t embrace Tapas as something they are just going to do for a while, as in the forty days of Lent. Tapas is an ongoing process of limiting self indulgences so contentment can be gained through practicing discipline and self control.

So whether you participate in Mardi Gras festivities, observe Lent, or ‘detox-retox’ like an enthusiastic yogi, be mindful of the swings between ‘too much’ and ‘not enough.’ Finding a balance in your lifestyle habits will provide you with the sanity that is needed to stay healthy. Know that it is not a crime to imbibe or indulge in moderation once in a while, but please don’t punish yourself as a result with drastic restrictions that only make you want to binge even more.

Also Read:

Healthy Recipes for Your Mardi Gras Celebration

5 Ways to Use Lent to Clean Up Your Diet

Yoga for Christians

February 16th, 2012

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