Tantric Yoga is much more than a set of stretches and deep breathing. It is an holistic approach to studying the universal issues that affect us all, from the point of the individual. It draws on all the sciences, from physics and chemistry to astrology and numerology, to create a practical means through which we can achieve the highest heights of philosophical thinking. However, instead of putting each aspect of human existence into different categories and analysing them separately, Tantric Yoga throws them all together, preferring to study it as a whole, rather than as different strands. This is a method of creating an inner microcosm which, through study, allows us to perceive the greater mysteries of life. Tantra believes that all the different aspects of life are governed by a unifying law known as dharma. Tantric Yoga is thought to bring us closer to understanding that law.
Removing obstacles from your path
In order to achieve this aim, Tantric Yoga is used to expand our consciousness in all its levels – whether we are awake or asleep. In order to do this, we need to reprogram our consciousness; a method of facilitating inner and spiritual change. Buddhists believe that our environment and heredity provide us with our primary outlook on life. As a consequence, if our lives are untroubled and we are happy in ourselves, that outlook is enough.
However, the moment that we are faced with difficulties, that outlook becomes more of a hindrance than a help and it becomes necessary to alter it. Tantric Yoga provides us with the tools through which we can begin that process, teaching us to identify the various factors that influence our thoughts and feelings. Once we have given a name to those, they lose their power over us and we can remove obstacles such as ignorance, anger and arrogance from our path towards spiritual evolution. In learning to free ourselves from these constraints, we are freeing our consciousness and allowing it to expand beyond the confines of our immediate surroundings and concerns.
Weaving the spiritual with the physical
In Sanskrit, the word ‘Tantra’ means ‘to weave’. With Tantric Yoga, the point is to try and weave the spiritual aspects of our lives with the physical aspects, rather than keeping them separate. In practical terms, Tantric yoga weaves the practice of yoga postures, breathing techniques, meditation, chanting and astrology to bring the spiritual sides of our nature into closer contact with the physical. The underlying message is that each and every aspect of life is sacred – not just the practise of Tantric Yoga – and that we should try and find the spiritual aspect of everything we do, whether it’s housework, how we interact with others in the office or the attention we pay to our partners in our relationships.
While this might sound incredibly serious and laden with gravity, Buddhists believe that the sense of joy we can achieve through tantric Yoga can be communicated into our daily lives which, in turn, helps us to free our conscious minds. Life should be fun, but you’ve got to work at it.
Tantric Yoga and Sex
Mainly thanks to pop stars and celebrities such as Sting, Tantric Yoga has become synonymous with sex. There is some substance to this, as aspects of Tantric Yoga suggest that orgasm and sexual energy are sacred and an important part of the path to spiritual enlightenment. At the moment of orgasm we reach a state in which we have no concept of past, present or future. In that instant, we are living completely in the moment, removed from our thoughts, fears and other constraints of consciousness. As a result, Tantric Yoga practices the delay of orgasm, so that when it does arrive it is a more intense experience, both spiritually and physically. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Tantric Yoga sessions are grunting, sweating orgies. Some branches of the practice believe that sexual contact is better as a visualised experience, rather than a physical one. In these situations, orgasm is often absent, but the flow of sexual, consciousness-expanding energy is increased.
Before intercourse, a couple practicing Tantric Yoga must meditate. Sexual union is seen as an aid to meditation, but it isn’t intercourse as we might think. Instead, it is the conjoining of two people who then meditate their way to orgasm, using breathing techniques, thought processes and orgasm-restricting processes. When the couple does reach climax, it is thought to achieve a spiritual intensity that unites us with the higher forces of the universe. In order to improve their spiritual experiences, many Yogis practice certain exercises that are designed to improve their control during union. These exercises tone the sexual muscles and organs, improve circulation to these areas and improve the practitioner’s suppleness and flexibility. Combined with a strict vegetarian diet, many of those who practice Tantric Yoga have been reported to undergo Yoga of this sort for hours, without achieving orgasm.
Admitting your desires
However, although the media might have us believe otherwise, Tantric Toga is not all about sex. That is merely one aspect through which we are encouraged to try and achieve a state of Nirvana. Other forms of Yoga use sound, vision and bodily control to achieve that state – without any form of sexual union involved at all.
Where other philosophical practices teach us to deny our physical desires, Tantric Yoga teaches us to embrace them. The energy it takes to try and pretend we don’t have certain feelings is enormous; it’s far better to allow those desires to have their say. We are human beings and it would be foolish to pretend that those aspects of ourselves don’t exist. Instead, Tantric Yoga suggests that the energies within those desires can be put to better use, as long as they are admitted in the first place. We often become slaves to our instincts and Tantric Yoga encourages us to dismantle what we think we know, before rebuilding the structure with a greater understanding and placing greater priorities on some things and less on others. Ultimately, it is a practice designed to help us achieve spiritual perfection, however fleetingly that may be.