Last updated on December 7th, 2023.
For thousands of years, yoga has calmed the minds and improved the physical conditions of millions of practitioners around the world. The art of yoga is actually a diverse collection of specialized disciplines, each with its own unique attributes and benefits. One form of yoga with a loyal and enthusiastic base of followers is tantric yoga. But thanks to the Western influence, it is also one of the most misunderstood.
Contrary to a common perception among yoga laypersons, tantric yoga is not an inherently sexual practice. It is a centuries-old platform for self-healing that combines elements of different yoga disciplines, such as Yoga Nidra, along with meditative techniques and even a sprinkling of the mystic arts.
Compared to other forms of yoga and meditation, tantric yoga is an eclectic collection of attributes that are taken from other yoga styles. Compared to the rigid practices of certain disciplines, this form of yoga is a free spirit. But make no mistake, getting the most out of tantric yoga requires the right mindset and a commitment to freeing oneself of all constraints. All the essentials of this wonderful form of yoga are below, so read on.
What is tantric yoga?
The word tantra means “to weave or expand” and this quite accurately describes the quality that sets tantric yoga apart from others. What makes it so unique (and immensely popular with its followers) is that it is a hybrid of multiple specialties, bringing together various elements of yogic, meditative, and even mystic, arts, into a dynamic, multi-faceted discipline.
These are the different practices and beliefs that lend the eclectic elements that make up tantric yoga:
Thus, while the ultimate objective of tantric yoga runs parallel to other disciplines of yoga in that it seeks to enhance the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of a practitioner’s well-being, it does so by drawing on an expansive range of practices and disciplines and weaving these different elements into a cohesive platform.
But just as important as appreciating tantric yoga for the dynamic practice that it has become is recognizing what it is not. Contrary to how it is portrayed in mainstream media and pop culture, tantric yoga is not inherently sexual in nature. Its introduction to western cultures coincided with the widespread sexual liberation that occurred in the 60s and 70s and this resulted in this ancient art being mischaracterized as a platform for sexual intimacy.
Where did it get started?
The roots of tantric yoga can be traced to 6th-century India where tantra began as an ideology springing from ancient Sanskrit scriptures. What began as a fringe philosophy centering on the interaction between the Hindu deities Shiva, god of destruction, and Shakti, the omnipresent power binding the entire universe together, spread to Hindu and Buddhist monasteries dotting the Indian landscape.
The early development of tantric yoga was most deeply shaped by Hinduism but its modern disposition is the result of multi-cultural influences. At its core, the primary objectives of tantric yoga have remained consistent throughout its long history, and those are:
Tantric yoga today may be a far cry from the original version that emerged in India over one and a half millennia ago, but modern and ancient practitioners alike have sought to reap its life-affirming benefits.
What’s different between regular yoga and tantric yoga?
In modern times, there are no less than a dozen different disciplines of yoga and each caters to the unique needs of its own loyal base of practitioners. But there are common threads running through every form of yoga and those are:
- To clear and calm the mind
- To find one’s emotional center of gravity
- To achieve a higher state of being, on mental and physical planes
So what is the difference between regular yoga and tantric yoga and why would someone opt to practice this form of yoga over the regular version? The answer lies in the degree of spirituality that one seeks from the type of yoga undertaken.
Tantric yoga revolves around a strong spiritual theme and it is this attribute that draws in practitioners seeking to experience an awakening that runs far deeper than the mental and emotional realms to which most other forms of yoga are confined. Equipment could still be used in this practice as any other type of yoga. Find one of the best yoga bolsters on Amazon to accompany your practice.
What is the goal?
With its underlying spiritual theme, the primary goal of tantric yoga can be simply stated as achieving spiritual fulfillment to the highest degree. But there are a host of secondary benefits that by themselves are reason enough to get involved in this ancient practice. These include:
- Alleviating stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression
- Increased self-awareness
- Boosted morale and confidence
- Improved sleeping patterns
- Greater happiness and quality of life
- Enhanced intimacy and better sexual relations
With improved well-being on multiple levels, tantric yoga has served as a life-changing endeavor for its legions of followers, and for the most devout followers, it has led to spiritual salvation as well.
How do you practice tantric yoga?
Although all forms of yoga require a certain mindset going in to fully reap their benefits, this is particularly true when it comes to practicing tantra yoga on your yoga mat. And attending a session is a yogic experience like no other for the approach to teaching and learning this discipline is quite different from other forms of yoga.
As far as practicing tantric yoga, the first and most important step is to get into the right frame of mind – one that promotes mental and physical readiness. But most importantly, practitioners must be fully engaged so as to enter into the deep meditative state that is essential for practicing tantric yoga. Here are additional techniques that are essential for embarking on a meaningful tantric journey:
- Practicing tantric yoga requires a clear mind that is free of mental and emotional clutter
- Tantric yoga sessions are done in complete silence to promote deep contemplation
- All expectations relating to physical achievements should be discarded
- Find pleasure in the mental and physical aspects of tantric yoga
- Each practitioner must find their own path to follow
It is said that when participating in this style of yoga, practitioners do not do tantric yoga, they become tantric yoga. What is meant by this is that there are no constraints on the practice of tantric yoga – there are no set sequences, no predetermined agendas, and no preconceived playlists. There is great freedom and this affords practitioners the opportunity to experience unparalleled spiritual liberation.
Concluding Thoughts on Tantric Yoga
Perhaps no form of yoga is more misunderstood and mischaracterized than tantric yoga. It has been branded as a discipline that focuses on enhancing sexual pleasure and nothing could be further from the truth. It is at its core, one of the most spiritual experiences offered by any discipline of yoga, and in terms of personal fulfillment, no form of yoga sets the bar higher than tantric yoga.