Read an Excerpt
TANTRA YOGA SECRETS
Eighteen Transformational Lessons to Serenity, Radiance, and Bliss
By Mukunda Stiles
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2011 Mukunda Stiles
All rights reserved.
Lesson 1: The Energy Body and Tantrik Practice
With Great Respect and Love, I Honor My Heart, My Inner Teacher.
The secret of success in yoga is given in the Yoga Sutras I, 12: persistent and earnest effort over a long period of time and dispassion from the results of that practice. Know that these lessons are for the purpose of moving through what the practices bring up, and persistently coming home—to your own True Self. If you persist in this spiritual tradition, all forms of your energy will be experienced as spiritual energy.
The Tantrik Yoga Tradition
Let us consider the relationship of Classical Yoga and Tantra. Written around the time of Christ, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras offer this simple definition of Classical Yoga: "Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify with its vacillating waves of perception." These waves are, in essence, prana. Tantrik Yoga seeks to attain communion by resolution of the states of mind into a singular form of prana. Yoginis find and eventually live in this stress-free state. Yoga seeks this state of equanimity and peace through mastery of the myriad forms of distraction that veil the preexisting True Self.
Whereas Hatha Yoga attains this through stillness of breath as prana and Mantra Yoga through mastery of the mind as pranic sound vibrations, in Tantrik Yoga it is the polarities of Shiva/Shakti that are resolved into Communion.
Tantra has been greatly misunderstood, particularly in the West, where it is perceived primarily as sacred sexuality. This view is what I seek to transform with this book, so that the reader will not only understand but experience the wholeness of this path to communion. While Tantra does work with pranic energy, this energy is not merely sexual; it is the underlying energy of all forms of life. The key is to resolve all differences into the experience of spiritual reality. From this experience of unity arises a plethora of names and forms of sadhana that are the methodologies of communion. It is the communion that is important, not the discernment of their differences. Ultimately all spiritual practices reveal spirit as the fundamental ground of being and consciousness as the essence of the mind.
In the Vedic tradition, there are four arenas of life that must all be fulfilled in order to experience a meaningful life. The four areas are:
Pursuing righteous duties (dharma)
Abundance and wealth (artha)
Sensual and sexual pleasure (kama)
Spiritual liberation (moksha)
A balanced life depends on this foundation and leads to a peaceful existence, ultimately allowing one to meet death with contentment. Tantra as a yoga path can provide the means for fulfilling your destiny. The yoga texts point out that help is needed in three forms: reading and reflecting on a spiritual text, clarification of the mysteries revealed from that text by a spiritual teacher, and enhanced devotion to your chosen deity.
According to the first text on Classical Yoga, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the purpose of life is the dual experience of enjoyment of worldliness and spiritual liberation. This arcane spiritual classic is poignant to the level of being terse in its 196 aphorisms. The same message is delivered in three sutras; no other topic is addressed with such deliberation.
The seen world has the qualities of luminosity, activity, and stability.
It is embodied through the elements and the sense organs.
It exists for the dual purpose of sensory enjoyment and liberation of the Self. (II, 18)
For the sake of the Self alone does the seen world exist. (II, 21)
The mind accumulates countless desires, although it exists solely for the sake of being close to the True Self. (IV, 24)
Self-realization is accompanied by one of two lifestyles: the renunciate path and the householder's path. The one renounces worldly activities and is celibate, while the other engages in fulfillment of worldly desires. Regardless of the path chosen, the sattvic (harmonious) way of being is predominant. The quest for sattvic balance needs to be foremost in our minds.
Sattva is the balanced state of mind, body, and prana that we wish to promote in all our yogic practices. Within this context, tamasic (lethargic) energies need to be stimulated or expressed to become sattvic. Rajasic (overactive) energies need to be somewhat sedated or neutralized to become balanced. In the highest expression of sattva, your energies will be elevated to a higher-dimension (kosha) expression. This will lead to finding Spirit in all your activities as the Tantrik process evolves all dimensions of pranic energies; over time, they will permeate all the dimensions. More on this in lesson 3, where I explain the Tantrik view of subtle anatomy.
The details of the Tantras are given in Shiva, Shakti, and Buddhist texts dating from the 9th century. Among them are:
The Kularnava Tantra, which deals with concentration on the chakras and the supernatural powers (siddhis) that result
Satchakra Nirupana, by Arthur Avalon (published under the title The Serpent Power), a text of Laya Yoga and Kundalini Shakti that explains the chakras
Mahanirvana Tantra, which covers both socially acceptable (White Tantra) worship of your chosen deity and unorthodox or (Red) Tantrik practices
Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, a text of non-dual Kashmir Shaivism, as taught by my own spiritual teacher.
Hatha Yoga becomes more tantric by its mastery as the physical disciplines are transformed into energetic disciplines; this is expounded in texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gheranda Samhita, and the Shiva Samhita, which date from the 14th to the 18th centuries. These texts are very Tantrik in nature, citing the ways in which the physical and subtle bodies may be transformed to create an experience of your Self as being made of an energetic blissful body, flowing with amrita, or nectar.
Tantra is complementary to Ayurveda and Classical Yoga practice. While Ayurveda is mainly a science of health, and Classical Yoga is a spiritual science, Tantra is a bridge between the two. The word Tantra comes from the word's root tan, meaning "energy," and tra, which means "to transform." The foundation practices of Tantrik Yoga heighten awareness of your energy body, elevating your prana to spiritual consciousness. Tantra's teachings focus on the energy body (emotions and mind), which is composed of the chakras. Distinct from neurological plexuses like the solar plexus, the chakras are the energy centers of desire.
Yogic anatomy depicts five dimensions. Most contemporary yoga practices only incorporate asana, which is one limb of the comprehensive eight-limb system. These practices serve wonderfully to transform the physical dimension, the first kosha. Tantrik Yoga is a spiritual practice for the transformation of each of your koshas, or multi-dimensions (see Stiles, Structural Yoga Therapy, pp. 43-46), through yogic energy practices. In contrast, Classical Ashtanga Yoga's teachings described in Yoga Sutras II, 28-55 focus on transforming the two most subtle of these dimensions (the wisdom and bliss body). Tantrik Yoga focuses on the next two dimensions (mind and pranic body). Ayurveda, the traditional medical system in India, emphasizes optimal health and longevity through lifestyle. An integration of these three systems, as described in my book Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy, can create optimal well-being and a spiritually empowered Presence.
Ayurveda describes a biological energy system composed of three doshas or primal elements that are fundamentally unstable. They are vata (a combination of the elements of air and ether), pitta (water and fire), and kapha (water and earth). While Ayurveda seeks to harmonize these doshas, our efforts are unlikely to produce long-lasting benefits due to the fact that the doshas—by their very nature—do not retain stability. Therefore, our efforts need to be daily and seasonal, adapted to the individual's constitutional makeup, so that the efforts made produce an underlying stability over time. Then, instead of reacting to stress with more resistance, the resulting deeper stability will not interpret life as stressful.
Vata is the gross substance from which Yogis develop prana (life force). Similarly, the gross material for creating tejas (spiritual luminosity) is pitta, and from kapha we develop ojas (spiritual juices). These qualities, when refined, contribute to human evolution. In all these three systems—Ayurveda, Yoga, and Tantra—to advance is to sustain the experience of the all-pervasive prana, as its stability purifies our experience of the serene mind encountering its Lord, the inner Self. In a similar manner, we speak of refining the mind through the development of insight and discrimination, so that we can use the physical body more efficiently.
Tantra has two major forms; the primary form is for deepening the connection to your inner Self (White Tantra) with personal practice. The other forms build on that foundation of self-transformation. From a consistent personal practice, you can share your evolving spiritual and sexual energies with your spiritual partner to help bring you both into better relationship with your beloved via Red or Pink Tantra. Red Tantra encourages fulfillment of sexual energies with prolonged intercourse. In contrast, Pink Tantra promotes prolonged energy expression without intercourse. With grounding in the former (White Tantra), the latter (Red or Pink Tantra) becomes more accessible. These practices are appropriate only for people who are courageous and committed to enhancing their spiritually focused lives through developing meditation and intimacy skills.
Seeking Energy with Yoni Mudra
The hallmark experience of Classical Yoga is slowing the mind, gradually bringing it to a still point. The key is the practice of pranayama, the literal meaning of which is "regulating the movements of prana." In the Yoga Sutras, third limb (or anga), asana is described as a means to "stilling the body" and being free of the disturbances the body has due to duality (II, 46-48). By becoming indifferent to moderate changes in temperature or not manifesting their desires quickly, Yoginis discover that subtle physical and psychological changes leave them serene (sattvic). This serenity evolves from balancing prana; when stabilized and consistent, a subtle form called mudra is generated. Pranayama evolves from prana into a more stable form of mind or mental energy. Similarly, as we deepen that stability to create a mudra, a durable form of prana awakens. This generates mudra, which are the techniques for the fifth anga, pratyahara. Pratyahara is the withdrawal of prana from the sensory objects so that the mind rests in the True Self.
I would like you to begin and end each Tantrik and yoga practice session with the yoni mudra, done by placing your palms downward, flat on your lower abdomen, so that your thumbs align straight across, with fingers together so that your forefingers touch, making a downward-pointing triangle in the space between your hands.
The pelvic bones resemble the physical shape of the yoni mudra. For self-healing and as a foundation for connecting with your prana, I recommend you deepen this energy pattern by placing your hands frequently in the yoni mudra. It is especially beneficial to do this after Hatha practice, as it evolves into Tantrik energetic bodywork. (In lesson 6, you will learn this technique to heal yourself and others.) Focus on directing your energies to come home from the extremities to this sacred shape (yoni, or Source) beneath your hands. This shape is the archetype of the feminine energy of receptivity. Follow your sense of the energy for some time, connecting to your energy until it feels steady. Then lower your hands to your four pelvic bones (the two iliac bones at the outer upper pelvis and the two pubic bones at the lower center) with a moderate pressure to receive the rejuvenated energy and store it into your pelvic bones and cavity. You may find that, in moving the hands lower, you need to support your elbows with pillows or a yoga block for comfort. Others find that bending their knees works best. Practice asking for guidance; it will surely awaken if you persist. Follow what comes and if you wish feedback from me as a spiritual mentor, you may email me with me the results of your experience.
The optimal time for this practice is at the beginning or end of your day, just on awakening or getting into bed. It can be done seated in bed or lying down. The morning practice will charge you up for an active day and the evening practice will help you dive into a deeper state of rest to rejuvenate you more thoroughly. It is especially beneficial at night if you are fatigued or have difficulty getting uninterrupted sleep.
Yoni Mudra Practice
Do a body scan by sending your breath's wave throughout your torso (for details on this breath, see Structural Yoga Therapy, p. 53). Continue this for some time, then ask yourself to identify what are the strongest sensations that you notice. Place your hands there to feel the "currents of sensation" that may arise. Whatever you experience is your energy body. There may be an emotional, mental, or kinesthetic component to the sensations. Disregard analyzing it; just feel it and be with it.
If the current feels to be moving, identify the direction of the movement and encourage it to go the way that is most naturally arising. Follow the "currents of sensation" with your mind. Normally in yoga class, we end with savasana, hands and legs wide—a "posture of letting go." But now I encourage you to put your hands on the area of your body that you are breathing into and narrow or close your legs to assume a "posture of receptivity." As the sensations move, let your hands follow prana, the "currents of sensation." Continue as long as the energy pattern is moving. At first, do no more than five to ten minutes of this practice. Once you develop a consistent regular practice, it can be longer. Learn to both give and receive your pranic energy. This can be done from torso to hands, and vice versa.
If the sensation is not moving, identify how large an area it encompasses and get a three-dimensional perspective of its height, width, and breadth. Breathe with the intention of directing your attention throughout this area. Find out whether factors like pacing, volume, or intention of the wave-breathing pattern create a change in the sensation of this region. In doing this, let your whole body participate in the breathing, so that the subtle waves of sensation reach your inner skin. Open all you can without effort. Always remember to relax your effort until you find a naturally arising level, then you will be moving to deeper levels.
When the sensations feel complete, bring your hands to your heart while encouraging your heart to open and receive the currents of pranic sensation. When that calms and settles, place your hands in the yoni mudra where it feels most natural to conclude the session. Remain here until you feel a rejuvenation of your energy.
Remember to persist in your practice, yet stay detached from expecting specific outcomes. Tantra is a personal spiritual practice. When you feel complete with this lesson, read the Dialogue with Mukunda that follows before moving on to lesson 2.
With Great Respect and Love, I Honor My Heart, My Inner Teacher.
Dialogue with Mukunda
Student: I understand that we begin with our hands in yoni mudra placed on the lower abdomen. When the exercise states to drop the palms down to where the pelvic bones meet, do we keep our hands in the yoni mudra or overlap our palms so that the center of the palm is directly over the "actual yoni"? If so, is a certain palm better than the other energetically to have against the yoni? I find that keeping my hands in the mudra is more difficult than just doing the palms.
Mukunda: Yes, let your hands stay in yoni mudra in all placements if at all possible. There may be a need for a cushion under your elbows to help you maintain the hand position. In some cases, the hands just don't stay together when reaching for the lower placements. If you find it convenient to place your hands on top of each other, that is fine; just keep the intention of forming a yoni triangle shape with your hands or energy field. Best would be to keep your left hand on your body if they are overlapped.
Excerpted from TANTRA YOGA SECRETS by Mukunda Stiles. Copyright © 2011 Mukunda Stiles. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.