In Sanskrit, Tantra means “to loop, to weave, and to spread.” It can be defined as a spiritual tradition found in Hinduism and Buddhism co-developed in the middle of the 1st millennium. Tantra can also be defined as a systematic quest for spiritual excellence and salvation achieved by fostering the divine within one’s own body.
The main reason why Tantra is different from other traditions is into account all the desires of a person. In life, we can only get true and everlasting fulfillment when all of life’s threads are woven according to the plan as designed in nature. Tantra is not just about sex, as most people think. It goes beyond spiritual sexuality; it is a way of life.
Types of Tantra
Some types of Hindu lineages of Tantra are Shaktism, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism. Some of those from the Buddhist lineages are Vajrayana, Tantrayana, and Mantrayana.
All these types act as individual and unique expressions of Tantra and have, in some way, influenced other Eastern religious traditions such as Daoism, Shinto, and Jainism.
Shiva and Shakti are embodiments of god and goddess who represent infinite consciousness and ever permeating creative energy.
Shiva the masculine, formless consciousness that is dry and white like the sperm; found on the right side of the body on the left side of the brain.
Shiva is yang and penetrative energy. On the other hand, Shakti is the feminine force found in all cosmic and macroscopic aspects of life.
She is moist and red like the womb, found on the left side of the body on the right side of the brain. Shiva is the portal receiving energy- the infinitely mysterious void from which all life emerges. The love between these two represents a sacred union of opposites where true cosmic love is actualized.
In Tantra, spiritual actualization is represented as the union of males and females with the goddess's primary position as the cosmos' creative force. This is so because historically, females are often more influential and powerful teachers.
Tantra's idea is to find the wholeness of the unification of Shiva and Shakti within us while letting go of gender identifications. This enables us to find the wholeness of being. The kind of wholeness that brings our focus, grace, compassion, humility, and joy is expressed as love.
Tantric Texts and Scriptures
Anyone curious to delve into Tantra's studies should begin by reading “Tantraloka,” a classical text written by Abhinavagupta of Shaivism.
The word Tantraloka means “to throw light on Tantra.” Other texts worth a read include the “Vijnana Bhairava Tantra,” which is basically a combination of different meditations ad breath works that have been translated into a series of poems in English.
Another classical ancient text that serves as a guide for practicing esoteric techniques such as Tantra is the “Tantra Sutras.” Etymologically speaking, tan means to stretch while tra means technique. The term Sutras refers to the threads that are found in these sacred texts.
The Atharva Veda is considered to be one of the prime tantric scriptures. Tantra also means the scripture by which the light of knowledge is spread, i.e., tanyate vistaryate jnanam anamna it tantram.
Basically, there are two schools of Indian scriptures, which are the Agama and the Nigama.
The Agama scriptures feature revelations, while the Nigama scriptures feature the traditions. Tantra is an Agama, and hence it’s referred to as Sruti Shakhavisesah.
In total, there are 18 Agamas, which are also known as Shiva Tantras; they’re ritualistic in nature. There are 3 main Nigamas, which include Dakshina, Vama, and Madhyama. These traditions represent Shiva's 3 powers characterized by the 3 Gunas: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
Tantra gives us a vision that enables us to take the different colorful threads, i.e., wisdom, creativity, consciousness, and spiritual techniques, and delicately weave an exquisite rainbow loom.
This loom that we use to cloak our spirits in the bliss of the sensual human experience. The loom that a person chooses to weave is based purely on their own experience.
Tantra invites us to slowly absorb the present moment as we sip and taste the many nectar notes within the human experience.
Through Tantra, we can connect more intimately with our bodies and breathe to further embody our own unique essence. In a nutshell, Tantra is the living in harmony within and without; it refers to the merging of opposites: light and dark, heaven and earth, feminine and masculine, sun and moon.
Although Tantra is expressed in different cultures and lineages, its origin is still questionable. However, the practices are believed to have been developed by people who were “Tantric cults” and did not belong in the mainstream.
Tantrism is an overarching term for “Tantric traditions” created by Europeans in the 19th century to refer to an accumulated source of practices and ideas in the Indian traditions from varied sources.
Tantrism is a systematic quest for salvation that gives its followers the freedom to combine Tantric with non-Tantric aspects.
The main elements of Buddhist and Hindu Tantrism are:
- Geometric Temple Layout
- Symmetric Mandala
- Bija Mantras
- Ritual Diadem
- Kundalini Yoga
The above-listed elements are not universal or compulsory. The variants depend on the lineage and text from which one is born.
When most people hear about Tantra Yoga, they just think about sex. On the contrary, Tantra yoga is far beyond mere sex. It is a branch of yoga representing the universe's dynamic and static principles: Shiva and Shakti.
Tantra yoga seeks to balance human instincts to understand the continual play between these two principles to reach enlightenment.
This form of meditation is believed to have originated from India in the 5th century AD. It’s built on the principle of wisdom, true knowledge, and awareness of oneself and all worldly concepts.
Through Tantra yoga, we can attain a wider scope of vision, opinions, and understanding. Tantra yoga opens up our minds, bodies, and souls to a whole new level of peace and serenity.
This ancient practice is a powerful combination of rituals such as:
- Breathing Exercises
- Visualization of deities
- Physical and Ritual Cleansing
All the above-listed rituals are used to build strength, clarity, and bliss to help us move through the world in our everyday life with more contentment. These rituals encourage its participants to build up kundalini energy in the top chakras, so it “spills from the top.”
Tantra yoga helps people to get in touch with their own body and energy. As a result, their sex lives are improved.
This type of yoga helps us explore the subtle energies within our bodies to enhance spiritual growth and physical well being. Working on these energies helps us to understand the purpose of life in a new dimension.
The 3 main reasons why we practice Tantra yoga are:
- To thrive
- To Prosper
- To bring merge the spiritual and material worlds.
The main idea behind Tantra yoga is to weave together the different yoga practices and spiritual teachings to connect with others and the universe.
When we practice Tantra yoga, we can get in touch with who we are, achieve what we want, and deepen our relationships. The practice takes the whole body into account and focuses on 5 different bodies:
- The physical body
- The energetic body
- The mental or emotional body
- The wisdom body
- The bliss body
Every one of these bodies has its own weaknesses and its own strengths; these are often buried deep down.
Through Tantra yoga, we can bring them all to the surface and, therefore, stop responding unconsciously and gain control over our desires.
What’s The Point of Tantra Yoga?
Tantra enhances one’s sex life since its practices are founded on the principle of intimacy.
Considering that intimacy is not entirely physical, it wouldn’t be right for the word “Tantra” to conjure up sexuality scenes alone.
The main purpose of Tantra yoga is to improve a person’s emotional wellbeing and, at the same time, aid their spiritual and physical health. Tantra yoga also shows us exactly what is blocking us from thriving; it then gives us solutions to attain spiritual and material prosperity.
Tantra yoga may be practiced individually or together with other people. In both scenarios, the relationship between the self and others is improved.
Neo-Tantra is also referred to as Navatantra or “American Tantric Yoga.” The word refers to a westernized version of Tantra that is usually associated with new religions.
This includes both New Age and modern Western interpretations of traditional Hinduism and Buddhism Tantra.
Neo-tantra is believed to have been spun from ancient and traditional principles that have been fused with western relaxation concepts and meditation techniques.
Also, not all Indian tantric elements are used in Neo-Tantra, particularly the reliance on a guru. As Tantra's interest has grown in the West, its perception deviates remarkably from the Tantric traditions. It is now seen as a “cult of ecstasy” that combines sexuality and spirituality to correct Western repressive attitudes towards sex.
The creators of Neo-Tantra have come up with a wide range of pyramids that are used for meditation. These pyramids are based on sacred geometry and often feature a focal point in their design.
As Tantra and Neo-Tantra became more popular in the West, it has become identified with Western culture's sexual methods. As a result, its essential nature as a spiritual practice is overlooked.
The roles of sexuality in both Tantra and Neo-Tantra are quite different, although they are, to some extent, related.
One way in which Neo-tantra differs from Tantra yoga is that the former is more modern and less physically challenging. It’s, therefore, less risky for a person to sustain injuries.
One major similarity between these two differ is that they both encourage techniques that allow couples to work together to build a more fulfilling relationship.
Tantric Sex Tips
Tantric practices not only improve one’s love life but their overall health as well. It helps one channel all their sexual energy into a focal point so that none of it escapes from the body during orgasm.
Here are some tips to guide anyone who would like to try out this ancient art of sexual intimacy:
1. Design an Intimate Space
The area should create a comfortable setting where you can relax. Ensure that the space is clean, decorated with flowers, and scented with natural oils like rose or jasmine.
The bed should have comfortable sheets with cozy pillows. In addition to all that, play some soft music in the background to set the mood.
2. Breathe Each Other’s Breath
One of the easiest ways of getting in sync with your partner is by harmonizing your breath.
Inhale your partner’s breath when they exhale and vice versa. By breathing each other’s breath, you are sharing all of yourself with your partner.
3. Keep Your Eyes Open
Keeping your eyes open during lovemaking is a great way of maintaining a deep connection during intimacy. Sharing glimpses during the act creates a profound experience.
4. Take It Slow
Foreplay is an essential part of Tantra yoga. It helps men to control longevity and piques women’s arousal. The more time you spend on foreplay, the longer the session will last, and the more energy will build up.
Tantra Yoga Poses
Tantra yoga poses are a good way to expand one’s capacity for intimacy and union. It doesn’t really matter whether you practice by yourself or with your partner.
Tantra yoga helps us to conquer any behaviors that hold us back from the intimacy we desire.
Below is a list of 12 popular Tantra yoga poses that help individuals and partners achieve a deeper connection. Hopefully, these poses will increase your partner's bond, and you can communicate in a nonverbal way.
You can modify the exercises depending on your level of flexibility. Alternatively, you can start with the simpler poses as you progress to the more complicated poses.
This pose helps in stretching and strengthening the core muscles, i.e., those in the lower back and abdominals.
To perform the boat ride, you sit on the floor while facing each other with your partner. Your arms should be outside your legs and reaching out for your partner’s hands. Start with bent knees and lift your legs to place the soles of your feet against the soles of your partner.
Try straightening your legs as you move them up. As you do this, make sure that the soles of your feet are connected to those of your partner. While the feet are still touching, try and move the legs apart in a straddle.
Feel free to modify the pose, depending on your flexibility and comfort level. The most important things that you should focus on are touch and eye contact. Breathe in and out slowly.
To perform this pose, bring your knees wide to the edges of the mat. You should then fold forward so that your forehead rests on the mat. Extend your arms outstretched overhead but make sure that they’re still resting on the mat.
When performed with a partner, your heads should be pointed towards each other. You can connect your palms with your partner to share your essence with your partner as you inhale and exhale.
Start in a seated position with your legs crossed. If you’re practicing by yourself, ensure that your index fingers' tips touch the tips of the thumb while the other three fingers remain extended. The palms should face upwards and be resting on your knees.
If you are practicing with a partner, sit in a back to back position with each other so that your spines align. Take deep breaths as you focus on smoothing out the length of the inhale to match the length of the exhale.
The dancer’s pose focuses on balance, eye contact, and touch. Start in a standing position as you face each other and hold hands.
Your other free hand should either reach out for your ankle or shin and bring your leg up. Slowly lean your upper body towards your partner, all the while maintaining eye contact.
If the balance is an issue, you can have one of you do the pose while the other person holds them to assist with balance.
The Yab Yum pose helps couples to keep their energies aligned. The larger partner (usually the man) sits with their legs crossed on a comfortable mat while the other person sits on their thighs and crosses her legs behind the partner’s back.
While in this position, ensure that your foreheads touch, and you breathe slowly and deeply in a synchronized manner. Both your backs should remain as straight as possible.
You can do the Yab Yum pose with your eyes closed or open to connect on a whole new level. It all depends on what is more comfortable for you.
Start in a standing position on the yoga mat. If you are by yourself, you can practice in front of a mirror; if you’re with a partner, you can either practice standing side by side or facing each other.
Bring palms to meet at the center. Alternatively, you could place one of your hands on your heart and the one on your partner’s heart.
As you take deep breaths, extend your arms overhead and bow forward. Keep your heart open as you gaze forward and release your head into a forward fold.
To practice this pose, lie on your back and have your partner do the same next to you. Alternatively, you can both sit facing each other with your legs crossed.
Then place the palm of your hand over each other’s heart and feel the heartbeats. While in this position, assume slow and harmonized breathing.
Modified Side Plank Pose
Start with your wrists aligned under shoulders, hands spread wide, and hips stacked over knees.
For this pose, lightly touch the crown of the head with one another. Then extend your right shins to your back, toes curled under as you root right hand into the mat, and open your chests towards one another.
If you’re practicing by yourself, bring your left hand to rest over your heart as you stack your left shoulder over right, so your heart is wide open.
The hips should also be stacked to create a beautiful opening for our more vulnerable energetic centers: hips and hearts. If you are practicing with your partner, connect left palms overhead.
Before you get started on the Pelvic Tilt pose, gently place one of your hands over your tailbone area.
Inhale and then lift your tailbone towards the ceiling. While at it, tuck your pelvis towards the ground.
Hold the position briefly, exhale, tuck your tailbone towards the ground, and slowly lift your pelvis towards the ceiling. Again, I briefly held the position and repeated the sequence.
When you have mastered the movements and can do the tilting without too many problems, remove your hands from the tailbone area and continue with the motion.
While you inhale and lift your tailbone, open up your chest region towards the ceiling and draw your shoulder blades together. During exhale, tuck the chest region and draw your shoulders together in front of your chest.
The seated twist pose improves your partner's connection and warms up your spine and enhances flexibility.
You and your partner should sit with your knees touching and your legs crossed. Together, move your right arms towards the front and bring your left arms across your backs towards the front.
Now hold each other’s opposite hands. To achieve this position, bend sideways facing opposite directions. Hold the position for a while and change positions.
This restorative pose with your partner in Child’s pose with their arms extending out and relaxed. Sit on their hips while facing away from them.
Lean back and allow your spine to follow the curve of his. Then raise your legs in the air and hold the position. Switch positions with your partner and repeat.
Downward Facing Dog
To practice the downward-facing dog, bend backward in such a way that you have your hands slightly in front of your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips.
Then spread your palms wide and turn your toes. As you exhale, extend your feet up so that your tailbone faces the ceiling.
The downward-facing dog pose is quite relaxing and stimulates blood flow to the brain. While practicing, have your partner support you. After a while, switch positions with your partner.
How to Ensure You Get a Great Experience While Practicing The Poses
Here are some of the things that you should keep in mind when practicing the poses listed above:
- Communicate beforehand; tell each other what you’re both comfortable with. Be open and share your feelings with your partner.
- Establish a strong non-verbal connection with your partner
- Always be supportive and patient with each other.
- Explore and try out new things together
- If you’re struggling with flexibility and balance, it is okay to modify the poses a little bit
- Always choose quality over quantity. Spend whatever little time you have together well.
- Don’t have any expectations or perceived notions.
- A consistent mental presence is mandatory.
- Lastly, never jump to conclusions or assume anything.
Benefits of Practicing Tantra Yoga and Sex
Practicing Tantra yoga not only improves a person’s intimate life but also has numerous health benefits.
Having powerful sexual orgasms coupled with a strong connection between the body, mind, and spirit increases hormones' secretion by the pineal and pituitary glands.
Tantric sex has a rejuvenating effect that gets rid of stress and depression. It alters body chemistry and empowers the endocrine glands to secrete more HGH, DHEA, serotonin, and testosterone.
It also improves blood circulation, detoxifies the body through breath, and strengthens the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems.
Tantric meditation is a type of meditation that awakens an individual’s consciousness enabling them to achieve purity of the body and soul.
These meditations are dynamic and high-energy powered; their main goal is to release Shakti energy to flow up the spine to the crown chakra. Freeing the dormant energy (known as Kundalini) through Tantric meditation awakens the entire body and consciousness.
Tantric meditation techniques are intended to raise energy and invite the energy centers along the spine to open, bringing tangible benefits.
Tantric meditation can take different forms to take you further on your personal and spiritual development journey.
Let us have a look at the two Tantric meditation techniques:
1. The Third Eye Meditation
The third eye meditation allows the free circulation of energy along the spine by increasing heaven's awareness without losing the earth's connection. It enables the Crown Chakra and the Third Eye Chakra to open up so that sanctified power may get into the body.
Third Eye Meditation Steps
- Sit comfortably and lengthen your spine as you inhale *
- Picture your head as though it’s being pulled towards the sky in a straight line
- Picture your head as though it’s being pulled towards the sky in a straight line
- While keeping the spine upright, exhale and push your tailbone downwards
- Maintain a regular breathing pattern and keep your chin parallel to the floor
- Position your tongue at the roof of your mouth and picture a bright ball sitting at the middle of your forehead, representing your third eye
- While breathing in through your nose, spin the ball to the top of your head all the way through the spine up to the tailbone. All along, recite the word “hung” in your mind.
- Again, breathe out and let the ball come up your spine, over your head to the middle of your forehead. All along, recite the word “Sau” in your mind.
2. The Light Meditation
This meditation technique focuses on light and relies heavily on one’s imagination. The light meditation technique borrows many of its aspects from Nyasa, which is an ancient tantric custom. The technique allows you to either touch a certain body part or feels it using mental imagery.
- Sit in an upright position and focus fully on your breathing motions and bodily sensations.
- Visualize your left foot forged from a warm, golden light. Move towards the light and perceive its feeling with the brightness getting all over your body from the sole to the toes.
- Feel both your left ankle and your right ankle
- As you walk, make sure that your steps are synchronized with your breathing.
- Imagine that the light has filled the left calf up to the bone. After, switch to the right calf.
- Let the light rise and perfectly brighten up your midriff. At this point, whisper that “My gut is made of light.”
- Feel the light rise up from your lower spine as it brightens up your heart, lungs, and rib cage. Whisper that, “my chest is full of golden light.”
- Allow the light to creep into your arms all the way to the fingertips.
- Feel the golden light illuminate your face and allow it to get into your mouth and ears to light up your brain
- Chant, “I am light.”
Tantric Buddhism is also known as Vajrayana (diamond vehicle). It is considered to be one of the three main vehicles (yanas) of Buddhism alongside Mahayana (great vehicle) and Hinayana (small vehicle). It mainly focuses on mystical practices and concepts as a path to enlightenment.
According to Tantric Buddhism, deities are not spirits to be worshipped but are representatives of the yogi’s inner form. For this reason, Tantric Buddhism is also referred to as Deity yoga. The yogi uses rituals, meditations, mandalas, and other practices to realize himself as a deity through which enlightenment is manifested.
Buddhist Tantra is believed to have been expounded by the historical Buddha by teaching how to transform pleasures into transcendent realization. It’s also speculated that Mahayana teachers in India developed tantra.
Some of the symbols used in Tantric Buddhism are quite confusing to people who see them for the first time. Here are some of the major symbols:
1. The Vajra
This symbol features a combination of a weapon and a scepter. It represents the quality of indestructibility. The Vajra is held in the right hand during rituals.
2. The Bell
This symbolizes insight, emptiness, and the female aspect. It represents the sound of the Dharma and is used to offer sound in rituals. The Bell is held in the left hand during rituals.
Other Tantric Buddhism Symbols
- The mala/rosary which is used for concentration
- The skull-cup symbolizes disengagement from the world
- Swords which represent knowledge and intelligence
- The curved knife symbolizes impermanence
- The ritual dagger symbolizes the transformation of negative powers on the path to enlightenment
- Hammers/mallets which represent the crushing strength
- The bow and arrow represent single-pointed concentration. The arrow on its own is a symbol of longevity and prosperity.
- The lasso which represents constraint of negative forces
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Originally published at https://east-asian-cultures.com/tantra-yoga/ on February 5, 2019.