- This article is not about sex. Okay, maybe just a little. –
Hot bodies, throaty breath, long pauses, deep flexing. Sounds sexy, right? Most people hear “tantra” and think “kinky” but that’s not where I’m headed with this. Really.
In the most traditional sense, tantric yoga is about using fully embodied sensual experiences to bring about deeper meditative states. Culturally, we have a tendency to equate all things sensual with the realm of the sexual, but in this case the focus is as broad as everything of the senses, all pains and pleasures of the body.
While I have been learning about yoga since a young age, it was my recent training in Hridaya Yoga that brought the truth about tantra into the forefront of my understanding of meditation and movement.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French philosopher and Jesuit priest said, “Fuse the powers of the sacred heart with the energies of the body, and you can transform everything.” This simple statement can be relevant in virtually any kind of asana practice, but it is at the core of Hridaya teachings.
The number of ways that the sensual body can be put to work as an instrument of enlightenment is nearly infinite. Not quite, but close. I encourage you to try as many different methods of embodied meditative practice as you can, and highly recommend the work of OSHO for discovering how varied these practices can be.
This is just a small sampling of some techniques I learned during my most recent retreat to help you get started on this sensual journey.
Walking Meditation A moving meditation like this one is great for getting grounded, calming your breath and your mind. In the Hridaya Yoga practice, the technique is simple:
- Begin with a very slow walking pace, each step deliberate, with the eyes soft and gazing downward. Breathe in and step forward with the left foot. Pause and bring attention to the spiritual heart. Breathe out and step forward with the right foot. Pause as before, focusing on the center of the chest, one finger-width to the right, over the sinoatrial node where the spiritual heart Teillhard described.
- If you find yourself in a comfortable pace with the walking paired with breath and meditation on the spiritual heart, you can add intention to your step. As each bare foot touches the ground, feel yourself kissing the earth. Acknowledge the way the earth supports you.
- When the breath and kissing the earth are both comfortable, add a bit of fertility back to the earth. Visualize a white lotus blossoming up from the ground as each foot leaves it to move forward. Feel the energy of manifestation.
The Meta Asana Perhaps the most powerful concept I’ve picked up along this journey is the idea of the long-form asana. The idea of approaching each specific yoga posture as an opportunity to enter a meditative state wasn’t new to me, but I would often find myself distracted, shuffling my feet and darting my eyes around the room.
But when my teachers suggested that I approach the entire 90-minute class as one long asana, things shifted for me in a big way. Eyes closed, deep breath, moving with a languid ease from one immobile posture to the next, feeling the pulse of the group and the rhythm of the sequences. Complete mind shift.
Chakra Changes The system of chakra energies is a fundamental aspect of tantric practice, allowing us to work directly with the physical and emotional forces in the body. Meditating on the chakras and their attributes offers a powerful way to heal any problems you might be experiencing on your meditative path and emphasize your strongest points.
In my practice, the easiest way I’ve found to work with the chakras is simply through mindfulness during asana practice. Each posture in your yoga practice corresponds with one or more of the chakras. You can find this information out in the Internet world, but the most authentic practice is one of self-awareness.
When you are meditating, practicing postures, or working on your sense of mindfulness in other ways, take the time to really pay attention to your body. If you are feeling strong emotions, or having racing thoughts, tune in to wear you sense those experiences inside your body. Do your feelings, ideas, or movements resonate with particular chakras?
What is your favorite way to embrace your body in meditative practice, or boost your meditation during yoga postures?