Tantra Yoga: What’s Sex Got To Do With It? – Part 1: Hatha and Tantra Yoga

“Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.”

Before reading the above comment by William J. Broad in a recent New York Times article, I thought of the Times as a resourceful newspaper with trustworthy articles that were well researched. That quickly changed, and I reminded myself that reporters are mere mortals who do make mistakes.

I wrote about Tantra in a previous blog entry, as it is a long-standing interest and integrated part of my life. I felt called to share a bit more on the topic in response to the article linked above.

Quantum physics tells us that the “I” we hold onto so dearly is just an illusion. It tells us that in reality, everything is interconnected, not separate as we perceive it to be. It says that our life is more like a creative projection than hard, factual truth.

These thoughts are not the propriety of modern science, but are at the root of mystical traditions world wide, and at the heart of Tantra, a spiritual tradition that, not unlike its offshoot Hatha Yoga, is greatly misunderstood today.

Tantrism, which made its appearance around the middle of the first millennium AD, pioneered the view, that quantum physicists now support, that the body is not the source of defilement, nor the enemy of spirit, as some ancient religions preach, but part of a continual flow of consciousness.

As with many Sanskrit words, there are various meanings of the word Tantra. Some understand it to mean “to weave”, though more commonly, it is understood as derived from the word “tan” meaning to extend or to stretch. As such, Tantra is generally interpreted as “that which extends understanding” (“tanyate vistaryate jnananam anena”, Buddhist Guhya-Samaja-Tantra), promoting a continuum of reality.

This is also seen in Mahayana Buddhism’s famous Tantric phrase “samsara equals nirvana”, which means, the temporal world of phenomenon is equal to the transcendental state of being-consciousness-bliss. Enlightenment is not then about leaving the world or suppressing natural impulses, but an interconnection of a lower reality contained within a higher reality and a higher reality guiding and transforming the lower.

Tantra then is about the integration of the temporal self with the eternal Self. This is done through powerful spiritual practices and rituals that purify the body/being so yogis may experience oneness with the divine. Hence, the flowering of Hatha Yoga, a practice designed to purify the subtle channels within the body/being so that the divine may freely express itself through us.

Just as Siva, the Nata-Raja (Lord of the Dance) who is eternally dancing the universal rhythms, is the master weaver of time and space, Tantrics see life as an interweaving of spirit and matter as one continuum, not a collection of separate pieces of form that are set apart from the divine. Matter and the Divine are one. This viewpoint was quite unlike a popular point of view at the time of the birth of Tantra that saw the body in direct opposition to spiritual goals.

The Kularnava-Tantra, an important Hindu Tantric text, highlights the importance of the body:

“Without the body, how can the [highest] human goal be reached? Therefore, having acquired a bodily abode, one should perform meritorious actions. (I.18)

Among the 840,000 types of embodied beings, the knowledge of Reality cannot be acquired except through a human [body]. (I.14)”

(Continued tomorrow with Hatha Yoga, Sex Rituals and Tantra’s Shadow)

 

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Although I have been practicing yoga for the last 15 years, after I tuenrd 50 I had to adapt my asana practice to fit my changing body and energy level. I still go for a physical workout but with more emphasis on flexibility, balance, strength and breath-work. Power yoga is a thing of the past (never really enjoyed it anyway!) I teach a class of older adults, most of whom are over 50, and they really enjoy a Yoga Nidra for the savasana at the end. It is so restorative!Keep up your practice and you will enjoy the results

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WHY YOGA IN THE NIGHTCLUB

I am often asked what inspired me to bring yogic expression into the club scene. I answer easily. Yoga In the Nightclub is a natural expression of who I am as a musical artist and dedicated yogini. Yoga is not a physical practice but a way of life. It is about learning to be present in all one does, to see the divine here, now, in this moment. As such, yoga is everywhere. It is about feeling connected to something much greater than our limited ego or will. It is about being in service to life, feeling interconnected to that very life force. Yoga In The Nightclub is a celebration of life and a reminder that we can find awakened presence everywhere.

Yoga in the West is mostly known as a series of bendy physical exercises. Yet there is much more to it than fitness. Yoga’s systematic breath and body exercises, designed to clear the subtle channels in our energy system, prepare us for meditation, through which we may experience a life inspired by our interconnected, multidimensional true nature. Our body, that once was seen as “mine”, is no longer our identity, but a gift on loan from the divine. We care for it, but we are not attached to it. The practice of yoga offers us the opportunity to experience the transmutation of matter into pure light, embody the multidimensional and rest in the eternal.

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WE ARE ALL CONNECTED

Hatha yoga, the physical practice of yoga, is just one of many aspects of yoga, which range from selfless service to astrology and prayer. The Sanskrit word “yoga” most simply translates to “union”, implying that the practice of any yoga will bring together our perceived sense of separateness. As a whole, yoga is an ancient science of life. It is a practical method of shedding excess and bringing us back from the self-delusion of separation from the divine so that we may realize our inherent interconnection to and ultimate oneness with it.

As we begin to understand that yoga is everywhere, we come to see how we are all connected in vast ways far beyond the limitations of our personal will and ego. What I do affects you, and vice versa. We are one earth family. At the heart of it all, we share the same heartbeat. Breathe to be. We are one.

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AWAKENED LIVING

When we are open, life blossoms, just as a flower opens to welcome the morning sun.  We see that the sun, though it is millions of light years away, has a tender yet powerful relationship with the flower, as do the rain and the clouds. From this perspective we see that we are part of the whole. Life is a symphonic masterpiece with which, when we are open, we are completely resonant.

As we come to understand our oneness, we can revel in it with wonder and joy. We can consider in awe how immense it all is. We can let go of the idea that an illusory, isolated sense of self could possibly be in control, and open to an exquisite unfolding of life in absolute perfection. Our actions become not about “me” but about the whole. Each moment is integrated within the whole. No one decision is separate.

When we begin to see that each decision we make affects not just ourselves but everyone and everything on the planet, we act with more compassion. When we have more compassion, we realize the impact of our actions and we naturally want less and practice more kindness. As stewards of the Earth, we each are called to learn to live in harmony with ourselves, each other and our planet. We all breathe the same air and live on the same living organism, our planet. Varied in race and creed, we are all one family, children of the same mother, the planet Earth.

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THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GRACE

In each moment, there is infinite grace. By becoming more conscious as we practice yoga on the mat, at work, at play or in the nightclub, we let go of the unnecessary and develop greater internal spaciousness which blooms throughout our lives. In this space new life and possibilities arise.

As we rest our awareness on the simple purity and grace of the breath, we realize - we are alive! We let go of wanting things from the future and the past and open to what is here and now. We feel as vast as the sky and rooted in the richness of this moment.

When we “breathe to be”, we understand our interconnection. We see that we are not the doers but a part of the whole, the same energy that is in the flowers and in the stars. We know that our essence is divine - from which we have come, to which we return.

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Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gone, gone beyond. Oh what awakening!
Gone, gone beyond. Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
I am the light, liquid gold light
I am in delight! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

I am the light (gate gate), liquid gold light (paragate)
I am in delight (gate gate) transforming the night (paragate)

Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Oh what awakening! (paragate) (I am)
Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight
I am light, dancing through the night
I am light, in delight
I am light, dancing through the night

I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (gate gate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (paragate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light

I am light!

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