9 a.m. Monday morning on the first day of the Tantra Immersion at the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park.
Tantra goes right to the heart of the matter. It went something like this from Gary Kraftsow, “Suffering comes when we cannot accept change, and our sadhana (practice) is preparing us for the very moment of death.” He went on to say, “We cannot determine how we die but we can influence our condition. Don’t wait, die now to your attachments.”
This is a timely teaching for me, as I lost three great friends this past summer and had the profound experience of realizing my own impermanence. This teaching is easier said than done, of course, which is why we have ancient practices to help us with this process of letting go. Gary’s lecture helped me review the bigger picture of Tantra before going into the practices themselves in the breakout sessions.
Next was a master class with Rod Stryker called Tantric Vinyasa. The focal point of the morning was on cultivating Agni. Agni means fire and the root of the word Ag means to move forward, to act, stimulate. Rod explained, what stimulates our agni the most is heartache, loss or pain. I know in my own life, my most rapid cycles of transformation and growth have been when I’ve had my heart broken or suffered deep loss. We spent a good portion of the class cultivating Agni in the lower chakras, weaving Udiyanna Bandha (navel lock), and mantras into the asanas.
After a short break, I went back for Yoga Nidra with Rod which he described as “sleeping on the cloud of yoga.” The experience for me was just that; hovering in a state of awareness and cultivating effortlessness. I left feeling awake and clear with a heightened sense of awareness.
Lastly, a practice with three of my favorite master Yogini teachers; Shiva Rea, Sally Kempton and Sianna Sherman. Sally began the class with a mantra I learned from her many years ago that is a seed mantra of the Goddesses. “Om Aim Hreem Kleem Chamundaye Viche” literally planted the seed for the whole class.
Shiva continued to weave this mantra through the asana practice with a focus on energetically riding the Goddess Durga’s tiger and using kriyas—often explained as cleansing techniques—to cut through negative energies that don’t serve our highest. Very Powerful! Sianna finished the last part of class with a mudra (hand gesture) and a beautiful visual of breathing and taking in the elixir of the moonlight, called Soma, which to me felt very healing and nourishing. We then went from a big circle, to coiling inward in a spiral, to expanding back out, all the while chanting the mantra.
All in all, this class was a beautiful co-mingling of teachings awakening both sacred masculine and sacred feminine energies!
I am full to the brim and it is only day one.
Alison Litchfield has devoted the last 22 years to being a student and teacher of Yoga. She first came to yoga after losing her mother at a young age to cancer in 1990, here in Boulder with her primary Teacher Richard Freeman. Yoga became an essential part of healing her grief and has been the guiding point in living life with more joy and gratitude. She weaves many styles and modalities into her teaching, including Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, and Iyengar/Alignment based yoga as well as Tantric based philosophy. She also uses her understanding as a Certified Rolfing Practitioner of Structural Integration to help people discover ease of movement and a greater connection to joy and peace in their bodies. Her passion is in helping people, primarily women discover a deep sense of well being through awakening to the radiance and power within themselves.
Editor: Jennifer Spesia