Yoga and Tantra
What is yoga?
The word yoga comes from Sanskrit (Sanskrit: युज) and means unity. Yoga is a system of physical, mental and spiritual exercises that originated in ancient India. The first mention of yoga comes from the Bhagavad Gita (200 BC) and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (300 to 200 BC). This system of exercises was traditionally passed down from teacher to student, but since yoga became popular in the Western world, it has traditionally been taught in groups as well.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, and many traditions, branches, and ways to achieve balance between body, mind, and soul have been developed. Every yogi strives in the union of the microcosm and the macrocosm, freedom from suffering and thus reaching the state of Samadhi (Sanskrit: समाधि) the state of bliss.
In the modern world, yoga is often perceived as practicing positions, but its effects are much deeper and lead primarily to inner knowledge, harmonizing the body, mind and soul. We use breathing exercises, postures, concentration and deep relaxation to practice yoga. By combining these techniques, we purify our body and mind in order to tune in to our deeper essence.
In everyday life, yoga will enrich you above all with inner balance, peace and joy. On a physical level, it will help you move your body. Practicing yoga will help you identify which parts of your body need your attention. The exercises will connect with your mind and this will lead you to your inner center, where you will detach from everyday worries and thus gain a higher perspective on life.
The eight pillars of yoga according to sage Patanjali
1. Yama or self-control - The Yamas describe the ways in which we can control our actions and reactions. That is, he advises how to practice yoga outside our mat. It is divided into 5 Yamas: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (sincerity), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (restraint), Aparigraha (modesty).
2. Niyama or self-realization - Niyamas show how to deal with your life, how to behave and feel. It is divided into: Shauchá (purity), Santosha (satisfaction), Tapas (spiritual purification), Svadhyaya (study of oneself), Isvara Pranidhána (faith in a higher power).
3. Asana or position - Asana is a physical exercise of yoga with the body. It's the poses, such as tree or cobra, that lead us to stretch and strength.
4. Pranayama - breathing exercises This is purely about working with the breath. There are many types of yoga breathing. One of the most common and easiest is to learn to breathe slowly and deeply into the belly. Making a conscious effort to fill your lungs with air can calm you down and reduce your stress.
5. Pratyhara or withdrawal of attention from external senses. Our whole life is about 5 senses. Drive, taste, sight, hearing and feeling. And pratyhara teaches us to disengage from the outer world and turn inward, where we experience our inner state of being.
6. Dharana or concentration. Dharana is the ability to concentrate on one thing and forget everything else. Attention is like a muscle - the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
7. Dhyana or meditation. It is simply the ability to turn off the mind from everything else and focus on one single thing. Most often, people focus only on their breath during meditation, and whenever their thoughts wander, they immediately return to only that breath.
8. Samadhi or state of bliss. Samadhi means perfect balance in which the mind is calm and the body is in a state of inner stability. It is the one already mentioned here and now.
So from these eight pillars, the instrument of yoga practice is the breath, which is the bridge between the body and our soul, the position that connects us with the body to make the mind, through concentration, be here and now. After some time of practicing postures and breathing exercises, you will be able to create a so-called inner space where it is possible to connect to our deeper essence (soul).
What is Tantra?
The word Tantra (Sanskrit: तंत्र) means to weave and this ancient teaching serves human development. Yoga and Tantra are two interconnected systems. Unlike yoga, which is more about purifying the body and mind, tantra focuses on the one-material body and uses the breath, mantra, yantra, and kriya to transform heavy, cloudy energies into cleaner and more balanced ones. It transforms common human characteristics such as lust into deep love for a happy and contented life. Tantra leads to happiness, love and ecstasy when deeply understood and properly applied.
Although the word tantra has many meanings, each of which has its own specific meaning depending on the context, its most significant definition remains: it is a tool to expand the level of consciousness. Although we cannot assign a definite date to the beginning of Tantra, it is worth noting the great influence of Tantrism on all the great spiritual traditions of India, including Shaivism, Buddhism, Vaishnavism and Jainism. All these traditions developed a tantric dimension.
In tantra, the universe is alive, not illusory. It represents the manifestation of joyful, free Divine Consciousness in various forms. All manifestations are simply the interplay of Shiva and Shakti, the male and female principles.
In tantra, the body is seen as a living temple and sexual energy is seen as divine energy. The body with all its energies is considered a divine instrument for spiritual transformation. We can say that the broad approach of Tantra is that all ordinary activities are sacred.
Tantra is not witchcraft, black magic or strange practices. Most tantric texts are full of arcane expressions, metaphors, and allegories that present obstacles to the uninitiated and can lead to misunderstanding and misuse. The texts were written in highly symbolic language to protect the uninitiated from their misuse or selfish use. Unfortunately, this has led to many misinterpretations. As an example of the symbolic language used in tantric texts, the ida, pingala and sushumna nadis (the three most important subtle energy channels) are referred to as the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati (see below).
Tantra is not sex
In the western world tantra generally means sex. The term tantra is strongly associated with superlative, ecstatic sex, even though the vast majority of tantric teachings do not refer to sexuality. Indeed, in left-hand tantra (a path that uses sexual energy), love rituals are used to transcend the mind and enter higher states of consciousness. However, this does not define tantra. Tantra is not concerned with sexuality or its suppression. Sexuality and making love are seen as divine means for spiritual growth. Tantra does not promote them for ordinary gratification.
So why is tantra commonly seen as great sex in the West? The answer is simple: the so-called Western Tantra was not introduced by Tantric sages, but by Western travelers who encountered Tantric practices on their travels to India. Of course, after centuries of Christian domination and suppression of sexuality, encountering a system that sees sexual energy as normal as any other energy and offers practices that strengthen and harness this energy was something very valuable and tangible. Unfortunately, sexual practices have been removed from the devotional and ritualistic context of the Tantric tradition and have acquired the materialistic touch of the Western mind. However, Tantra has retained the dignity it deserves
Our life energy, Prana, flows through energy channels in our entire body. The three most important for Tantra practice are Sushumna, Ida and Pingala. In tantra, it is essential to collect this energy as much as possible in our main Sushumna channel with the help of pranayama, so that the Kundalini life force (which is dormant in our root chakra) can begin to rise slowly up to the crown chakra.
Tools of Tantra
Pranayama (breathing exercises) - as in yoga, Tantra uses the breath as a tool to connect the body, mind and soul. Using various breathing techniques, it is possible to stimulate the life energy Prana so that we can clean our energy channels and get as much energy as possible for our body.
Asana (position) - Tantra primarily uses asanas from traditional Hatha yoga to connect more deeply with the one-mass body.
Mantra - Mantra is literally a tool for the mind, (man=mind tra=tool). It heals, increases the vibrations of our physical body, thereby having a beneficial effect on our health. Chanting mantras opens our hearts, clears our minds of negative influences and balances our chakra energy centers. Thus chanting sacred mantras in Sanskrit opens us to love and abundance and heals us at the same time.
Yantra - A yantra is a shape that materializes cosmic energies into physical form. It is an arrangement of shapes like circle, square, triangle etc. Each Yantra has its own characteristic, its own meaning, vibration and power. It helps us tap into cosmic forces here on earth.
Kriya - is an action, a deed, a technique that clears blockages in us and thus supports our spiritual growth. Tantric kriya practices are technically used to open the chakras and purify the nadi system.
Meditation - It is simply the ability to turn off the mind from everything else and focus on one single thing. Most often, people focus only on their breath during meditation, and whenever their thoughts wander, they immediately return to only that breath.