Tantra seems to be the new buzzword in the yoga world.
But then again, there’s rarely anything truly new in yoga, being a centuries old practice. Nonetheless, as our Master Teachers delve deeper into their personal sadhana, ancient texts, traditions, lineage and history, concepts fresh to our virgin ears continue to emerge.
Attend any conference, teacher training, workshop or festival and you’re likely to be offered a class on the subject, have a panel discussion dedicated to it, or at the very least have a teacher attempt to dispel its sexual connotation during the course of a class.
During a recent teacher training immersion with Shiva Rea, we spent hours and days on end with Christopher Tompkins, PHD candidate in Sanskrit and Tantric studies. I noticed a shift from my immersion three years prior, away from structural asana and towards the more esoteric concepts of tantric mantra, chanting and meditation.
During San Francisco’s Yoga Journal Conference, my husband, a non-asana practicing yogi, casually dropped his definition of tantra over dinner after attending a class earlier that day with Rod Stryker.
It was something like this: “Tantra is the fact we are all born with limitations but we are able to manifest as our deepest desires.” I’ve heard no two same definitions of tantra since it hit the mainstream scene.
After realizing tantra had literally ‘hit home’, I turned to an authority on Tantric studies, David Frawley, and read Inner Tantric Yoga: Working with the Universal Shakti, Secrets of Mantras, Deities and Meditation. In his book, he gives practical although technical ways to work with the art and science of yoga, including tapping into Shakti, or universal energy, and Jyoti, or universal light.
The idea of non-duality in central to his teaching of Tantra and Yoga as he quotes from the Isha Upanishad (6-7), “He who sees the Self in all beings and all beings in the Self henceforth has no disturbance. In the Knower for whom the Self has become all beings, where can there be any delusion or any sorrow for he who see only the Oneness”.
Tantra teaches Antar Yoga, inner yoga, which is the union of divine energies within ourselves. The modern world has predominately focused on Bahir Yoga, outer yoga, which focuses on physical and psychological aspects of yoga.
Frawley teaches the concept of Deity Yoga, or tapping into the different faces of Shakti, by choosing your own Ishta Devata or personal inner divinity. He guides you in the process by listing the most common deities and leading you to listen to your heart’s knowing.
Practical meditation and mantras are taught to work with the Earth, Cosmic and Universal elements such as time, space, karma, light, lightning, magnetism, solar, lunar, fire and water. These simple one-syllable mantras can chanted internally during meditation or aloud during an asana practice.
More often during master teacher or advanced yoga classes, you’ll find mantras being taught to chant with an asana to enhance the energy alignment and connection.
Although Frawley’s Inner Tantric Yoga may seem overwhelming at times to a tantra novice, it will allow you to begin absorbing basic concepts so you’re “in the light” when a festival comes to a city near you. For advanced practitioners, this book will give you hands on tools to immensely deepen your practice.
So as the yoga community continues to compost, bringing fresh air to its old roots, I stay grateful to those who are going before us to study, record and disseminate as we as a whole, non dualist yoga community move steadily forward, practicing and sharing a tradition we love.
Editor: Hayley Samuelson