Tapas literally means heat.
Tapasya is an act, that is generally self-inflicted and makes one endure tremendous difficulties to promote ones spiritual growth.
Sages are known to stand under the scorching sun, or in freezing conditions, for hours on end. More close to home, one hears of people undertaking difficult fasts. Some include, not having even a drop of water, for days on end. It is believed that the discipline that is the result of ‘tapasya’ gives rise, to spiritual growth.
Maybe the belief is that after one ‘breaks’ one can build oneself anew. Or it could also mean that you would like to atone for your past karmas at your pace. Or maybe you would like to acquire spiritual powers. It could also be a subtle ego game.
In all fairness, discipline is the first lesson in Spirituality.
I would not advise to give up the ‘discipline part’ until one has learned to live in a ‘state of tapasya’.
My 1st Yoga teacher Shali Chandna taught me something that I shall never forget. She said, that we could term, the frustrating situations that one faces in life, as Tapasya. Just change what you are able to, and then surrender to the rest of the situation!
The Bhagvad Geeta teaches: Do your best and leave the rest! Don’t fret about the outcome of your ‘hard work’ For Kalyuga, this is the tapasya required, to flower spiritually.
Avoid the 3 Cs in life. No Complaints. No Criticisms. No Comparisons.
Accept the vicissitudes of life with grace.
Speak, what is necessary and what is true.
Do not hurt others. Kisika dil na dukhaao.
Eat, as much as is required to survive in a healthy state.
Perform ‘tapasya’ by denying yourself (once in a while) unhealthy food and pleasures. No need to torture yourself.
Gautama Budha tortured his body for years. Eventually he came to the conclusion, that to lead a spiritual life, the middle path was preferable.
So, What do you think? What is easier?
Standing in freezing waters or accepting gracefully, what in any case, you have no other option, but to go through?