When I was registering for the Yoga Journal Conference in Colorado, I decided I would sign up for classes that would push my boundaries a little – take me out of my comfort zone. I know from experience lately that dancing along the edge of the comfort zone is where the true magic happens in life. So along with a few other boundary-pushing classes (like an arm balancing workshop…eek), I signed up for an all day tantric yoga intensive with Rod Stryker and Sianna Sherman. Not really sure why, except I know absolutely nothing about tantra and felt kind of nervous about it, so I just made myself go.
When we hear of “tantra,” most people think it’s about sex, because the principles of tantra have been popularly applied in the West to “spiritual sexuality.” But what I learned in this workshop is that the principles of tantra themselves are not about sex – it’s about harnessing energy, which can bring a deep presence and sensuality to all areas of life.
“Tantra is being present with everything without judgement or agenda, nor past or future.” -Kevin James Carroll
According to Sally Kempton:
“Most tantric practices are not sexual at all, but consist of mantras, visualizations, rituals and postures that work with subtle energy within the individual…practices for integrating physical and subtle energy systems in the human body so as to deepen spiritual growth as well as physical rejuvenation.”
So, sorry – this isn’t a blog about sex. That would be way out of this little Virgo’s comfort zone… :)
I’m going to tell you what I personally got out of the tantric yoga workshop. I have to give the disclaimer that I’m a total newbie to this information, completely 101. For most of the workshop, I was thinking “WTF is going on right now?” I wasn’t even going to write this blog, because I felt like I didn’t “get it” enough, but just bear with me as I give you what I can without getting too heady.
From what I could gather, here are some of the insights of tantric yoga:
Tantric yoga is about being at home in yourself, relaxing in your body exactly as you are – relaxing into the experience exactly as it is, and the mind is the obstacle to relaxing into the present moment.
According to Rod Stryker, When you completely relax into the experience of life, you can let spontaneous things occur instead of trying to control everything on your life. In this state, when things feel right, you’ll know, and you’ll act. When you live in this consciousness, you’ll spontaneously do the right thing in the right way, without any precalculation. This way, Rod said, “your most glorious nature will be expressed.”
Tantra is about present moment awareness – a greater degree of clarity and insight. It’s also about adaptability – responding fluidly to whatever is happening in the moment.
Your thoughts and desires all rise from past experience. Through present moment awareness, stripping away the past and future stories, you can refine your perception of what is actually happening.
Tantric yoga is about waking up the dormant parts of ourselves, dissolving the parts of ourselves that are asleep…converting dormant energy to awakened energy. The “sexiness of tantra” is the cultivation of this awakened energy (prana). Once the energy is cultivated through deep present awareness, you can channel it anywhere.
To get started on a basic level, practice being extremely present to whatever is going on in your life. Notice the times in your life where you’re zoning out, fantasizing or worrying about the future, replaying the past, judging, wishing reality were different, or not paying attention. Someone in the workshop gave the example of paying very deep attention to people who are talking to you or telling you stories, instead of thinking about other things. Try it. :)
A friend of mine told me about a very simple way of practicing present moment awareness when she’s getting caught in her crazy thoughts. She simply stops, looks around, and notices everything her senses can pick up – the colors, textures, smells, sounds, etc.
Yoga asanas (the physical practice of yoga) are a big part of tantric yoga – check out Sianna Sherman’s yoga classes on YogaGlo.
Ok. So there is a LOT more to tantra than I’m mentioning here, but I liked those little insights…and for me, the information was a lot to handle at once. I have so much to learn, this is only my very vague understanding of the tip of the tantric iceberg. To go deeper, check out these resources:
Here’s a video with some of the teachers from the Yoga Journal Conference explaining a little bit more about tantra.
So, overall I’m glad I opened myself up to learn more about a subject I felt pretty clueless about.
Do you know anything about the practice of tantra? Feel free to share any insights!