Tantra Yoga: What it is and How to Practice
A lot of associations may come up in your brain when you hear the words, “Tantra Yoga.” Is it sexual? Is it some weird hippie stuff? What is it? You may cycle through funny ideas of the cliche yoga teacher with dreadlocks and patchouli walking through a classroom and saying things like, “harness your chi….” while you hold incredible difficult physical postures.
Whatever associations the word combinations bring up, there’s a whole lot more to Tantra Yoga than what your mind may have conjured up. In fact, Tantra doesn’t mean anything directly related to sexuality at all and was given by scholars in no later than 5th century AD as a form of meditation and internal transformation. The word Tantra is first seen in the Rigveda, one of the sacred Hindu texts and vedic Sanskrit hymns. Tantra yoga studies the brain and brings together all aspects of the human mind and human living.
Tantra means to embody a teaching and is described by Tantric scholar Rāmakaṇṭha as, “a divinely revealed body of teachings, explaining what is necessary and what is a hindrance in the practice of the worship of God; and also describing the specialized initiation and purification ceremonies that are the necessary prerequisites of Tantric practice” Tantra is neither a religion, or an “ism,” rather it is a practice that you carry through your life and your yoga practice.
“Tantra itself means “to weave, to expand, and to spread”, and according to tantrik masters, the fabric of life can provide true and ever-lasting fulfillment only when all the threads are woven according to the pattern designated by nature.”
Where Does Tantra Come From?
The root and core of the word can also be described with a mantra attached, “The word “tantra” is derived from the combination of two words “tattva” and “mantra”. “Tattva” means the science of cosmic principles, while “mantra” refers to the science of mystic sound and vibrations. Tantra therefore is the application of cosmic sciences with a view to attain spiritual ascendancy. In another sense, tantra also means the scripture by which the light of knowledge is spread: Tanyate vistaryate jnanam anemna iti tantram.
While most meditation and yoga practices are to expand the mind and come to a higher state of consciousness, Tantra Yoga’s main principle is to use the holistic approach while also drawing on sciences, astronomy, astrology, Ayurveda, psychology and sacred geometry to deprogram our brain and bring fresh awareness and an awakened state. According to Tantra, the human being is a miniature universe
In Tantric scriptures, branching from the Veda’s the deities associated are Shiva and Shakti. Shiva, “The Auspicious One,” is considered to be the Supreme God within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in Hinduism. Shive is both the restorer and destroyer, a cosmic dancer, who’s Third Eye is capable of destroying all evil. If you practice the physical asana of Yoga, you may recognize “dancer’s pose,” or in Sanskrit Natarajasana -Lord of the Dance, i.e. Shiva.
The next deity is Shakti, meaning power of “cosmic energy.” Shakti is the feminine counter to Shiva. The “Divine Mother” and divine feminine of creative power. “Not only is Shakti responsible for creation, it is also the agent of all change.” She is a multi-dimensional goddess with many names; Parvati, Devi, Durga, and is manifest energy.
In Tantra it’s also been said that, “Tantric doctrine stipulates mortal women are “life-itself” and Goddess-like, because they embody the principle of Shakti. The sages “hold women in great esteem and call them Shaktis and to ill treat a Shakti, that is, a woman, is a crime.” A Tantric synonym for “woman” was Shaktiman, “Mind of Shakti” or “Possessor of Shakti.”
You’ve Got me Interested, What Should I Read?
If you’re curious and want to study Tantra yoga, there are several books that you can check out that help you dive deeper into the history and practice. Start by getting familiar with the Veda’s and ancient Hindu texts and scriptures, as Tantra is rooted in Hindu philosophy. The Atharva Veda is considered to be one of the prime tantric scriptures.
- Tantra by Osho
- The Serpent Power by John George Woodroffe
- Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy by George Feurestein
- The Great Book of Tantra by Indra Sinha
- Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving by Charles Muir
- The Yoga of Power by Julius Evola
- Kundalini Tantra by Satyananda Saraswati
- The Tantric Way: Art, Science and Ritual by Ajit Mookerjee
So How do I Practice??
Yoga has various different forms, there’s the physical Asana practice of yoga, probably similar to what you practice in a gym or studio, there’s Bhakti yoga which is the practice of devotion, often through kirtan or service work, Karma Yoga which is the act of selfless service, etc. In Tantra yoga you practice the balance the four elements, earth water, fire, air, through the fifth element, akasha. Akasha is the element that is the binding force between all elements. It is the source of all energy, all balance and the connection to our divine and our soul.
It is the moving balance between Shiva and Shakti, Yin and Yang, male and female. Often, Tantra Yoga is practiced between a couple to connect their souls on a higher vibration or frequency. The male/female aspect makes the practice of tantric principles within a partnership a stronger bond and deepens the connection between two people.
Learn some practices to help you exercise and heighten your Tantra Yoga:
- Meditation: Meditation is essential to the cultivation of Tantra Yoga. Practice the visualization of your life force energy, or your Prana and direct it through your spine, down through your tailbone. Connect to the inner light body and feel it spreading out into the world around you. Consistent meditation will help you cultivate the living tantra in your mind and body.
- Practice with a Partner: if you are interested in deepening your connection to another human soul, your lover or partner you can practice tantric meditation and connection with poses like boat, Dancer’s pose- while connecting palm to palm, Hand to Heart- seated across from one another and looking into eachother’s eyes.
- Dance: The energy of movement in your body awakens the Shakti and Prana energies. To do this before or after a meditation is especially helpful.
- Breathwork: Practicing Kundalini breathwork is a direct connection to your Tantra. Kundalini uncoils the dormant energy that sits at the base of your spine and rises through all of your major energy centers, up through the crown of your head. With breathwork and awakening of that energy, you enter a new state of bliss that is pure tantra.
- Through prayer and mantras– whether you are dancing, singing , or sitting in silent prayer, the directed focus and concentration is powerful energy that heightens the connection to your Tantra Yoga
What the Gurus Say
- “Yoga is suppression with awareness; tantra is indulgence with awareness.” Osho
- “Tantra is the hot blood of spiritual practice. It smashes the taboo against unreasonable happiness; a thunderbolt path, swift, joyful, and fierce. There is no authentic Tantra without profound commitment, discipline, courage, and a sense of wild, foolhardy, fearless abandon.” – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
- “You don’t meditate to experiment with altered states of consciousness or whatever else. You meditate only to perceive by yourself that everything is within us, every atom of the universe, and that we already possess everything we would wish to find outside of ourselves.” Daniel Odier
- “When you understand who and what you are, your radiance projects into the universal radiance and everything around you becomes creative and full of opportunity.” -Yogi Bhajan
- “Tantra says that before you make love to a woman or to a man, first pray — because it is going to be a divine meeting of energies. God will surround you. Wherever two lovers are, there is God. Wherever two lovers’ energies are meeting and mingling, there is life, alive, at its best; God surrounds you. Churches are empty; love-chambers are full of God. If you have tasted love the way Tantra says to taste it, if you have known love the way Tao says to know it, then by the time you reach forty-two, love starts disappearing on its own accord. And you say goodbye to it with deep gratitude, because you are fulfilled. It has been delightful, it has been a blessing; you say good-bye to it.” ~Osho
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