Tantra yoga is often misunderstood in many societies today even though it is the root of where many schools of yoga come from. Tantra is an integrative system of yoga where many different yogic practices and techniques are combined to purify the gross body, the energetic body, and the mind. Tantra leverages many different techniques that are combined to help purify the practitioner in a multifaceted way that inspires devotion to God. This Introduction to Tantra Yoga will consider techniques of yogic practice including ritual, mantra, yantra, visualization, and worship.
In Sanskrit, the word Tantra translates to weave or woven. By weaving everything within us with everything outside of us, Tantra helps us discover our deeper intelligence to ultimately unlock our inner power. An expanded definition would be that which allows us to safely expand or grow beyond limitation. There are three branches of Tantra yoga: Kaula, Mishra, and Samaya. In an Introduction to Tantra Yoga, it has to be said that there are two paths of Tantra, the right-hand path and the left-hand path. Samaya tantra is the highest form of Tantra Yoga because it reinforces Self Actualization by turning the awareness, energy, and focus on the Divine embodiment rather than externalizing the Divine. The right hand path of Tantra Yoga embodies the masculine qualities of compassion and willfulness, and relies on the schools of Tantra Yoga to purify the yogi physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The left hand path of Tantra Yoga focuses on the aspects of the Divine Feminine including wisdom and emptiness.
While many online yoga teacher training programs teach on Tantra Yoga, a tantric sadhana or practice combines many tools and methods from many schools of yoga: Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jñāna Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Laya Yoga. An Introduction to Tantra yoga class may have differences from a typical yoga class for the general public. The yoga class/sequence would probably include rituals or ceremonial worship in addition to pranayama and asana. The rituals could include specific mantras chanted for deities and offerings, although this is not always included. The objective or direction of Tantra teachings and practices is to help us unlock our inner power by finding the following in the play of life:
- Bhoga – fulfillment; joy in life
- Apavarga – freedom (mokṣa)
- Bhukti – worldly accomplishment
- Śakti – increased capacity of energy or power
Tantra lends itself to the creative interpretation of the practitioner while honoring the divine essence in all beings, in all aspects, in their unique and individual wholeness, yet indescribably one – not separate. There are many paths because there are many perceptions, and each one is valid and provides a steady path to arrive at truth. Below are several ways you could integrate an introduction to Tantra yoga into your daily life, many you may be doing already in your current yoga practice:
- Kirtan or singing to the Iṣṭadeva (the deity in your heart)
- Attending church or temple
- Karma Yoga for Seva (self-less service)/Volunteering
- Yoga Nidra
- Offering certain services you provide for free or on a sliding scale
- Knowledge through Jñāna Yoga(reading studying scriptures
- Sravana (hearing) – traditionally listening or discussing idea or concepts with a teacher
- Manana (thinking) – contemplating these ideas or concepts based on your own personal svadhyaya from the sravana (discussion)
- Self-realization through Raja Yoga practices
- The eight-limbed path of yoga
- Prāna Shakti( the energy through perception) through Hatha Yoga
- Pratipakṣa Bhāvana practice.
Hopefully, some of the information resonated with you and helped shine a light on some of the misunderstandings surrounding Tantra Yoga. If you are curious about some of the practices, My Vinyasa Practice offers an Introductory 200-hour Tantra Yoga Teacher Training that is taught by Ana Pilar Cruz and Michelle Young that guides you to integrate the practices into your current style of yoga and is rich in the history, practices, and philosophy touched on in this article.