Tantra

Yab-Yum: union from body to soul

Yab-Yum: union from body to soul

You’ve seen this image before. In statues, icons or paintings, it is representative of tantra itself. A god and goddess sitting together in intimate union, the goddess on the lap of her masculine counterpart with arms and legs intertwined.
To the Western religious eye, it can look surprising or even inappropriate. Is this a form of body-worship or glorified hedonism?
Far from it, in reality. The yab-yum image represents the most profound non-dual teachings of tantra, as well as the highest potential of sexual tantric practice.

The divine symbolism of yab-yum

The yab-yum position is seen frequently in tantric art, both Buddhist and Hindu, so much that the image in itself is iconic for tantra.
Its symbolism transcends sexuality as we understand it at the human level, pointing instead towards a divine, cosmic sexuality: the union of polarity at the root, where all opposites dissolve into the totality.
And yet in this merging, the individual elements are not lost.
The word for non-duality in Sanskrit is “advaita,” heard most commonly in the context of Advaita Vedanta but equally applicable to the high tantric teachings. As in English, this word doesn’t mean “oneness” but literally “not-two-ness.”
It’s not that everything fuses into uniformity. It is a state in which there is no separation, no division, no illusion of individual identity, and yet the different elements remain as they are.
Nothing is lost, nothing is gained.
The mind can’t grasp this: it’s either one thing or many things, right?
One gift of sexual tantra is that sexual energy is powerful enough to take us beyond the rational mind, which by nature can only live in the dualistic world of one-thing-or-another, and transport us into this ineffable non-dual understanding.
The symbolic meaning differs slightly between Buddhist and Hindu tantra, but no need to be confused and try to figure out which is “true.” Just take the discrepancy as a reminder that when it comes to spiritual concepts, at a certain point they are all equally true and false. What matters is the Reality they lead towards.
In Buddhism, the feminine represents transcendent wisdom (Prajnaparamita, Mother of all the Buddhas), while the masculine represents compassion, the active principle.
The Hindu counterparts are reversed, in a sense. Here the feminine is active – Shakti, divine energy, the everchanging manifestation – while the masculine is passive. He is Shiva, the formless, unchanging point of pure Consciousness at the center of everything.
The union of the transcendent with the manifest represents the central teaching of tantra, the radical non-duality that views the manifest as a divine expression rather than just an illusion. In the tantric view, the eternal and the ephemeral are passionately in love with each other. Form and formlessness are always together, never one without the other, and yet still yearn for each other within the strange game of separation.
The world of form is so in love with formlessness that it always tries to dissolve back into it. And formlessness is so in love with form that its first primordial vibration is the pure intention to manifest as form.

The transcendent intimacy of sexual tantra

As a position for lovemaking, yab-yum exemplifies the principles of tantric sexual practice. It combines verticality with a profound sense of intimacy – interweaving the transcendent with the immanent.
Both partners are upright, sitting as if in meditation, allowing for the optimum flow of energy up their central channels towards the upper chakras. It helps the man to sublimate, and the woman to surrender as she feels supported and uplifted by her partner.
At the same time, it encourages an incredible intimacy between the partners at every level. Your bodies are entwined as close as is possible. Heart to heart, melting into each other. Going beyond the physical, beyond even an energetic or emotional union, you find each other at the point where there is no other, only union.

Recommendations for making love in yab-yum

This is a position that encourages deep intimacy and interiorization, best for later in the lovemaking session after the initial excitement has settled. There is almost no physical movement, but a fusion of the two lovers’ energy bodies taking them deeper and deeper in union.
It should be comfortable and easy to stay in for a long time, like a meditation posture (which, in fact, it is). The man might find it helpful to sit on a pillow or place cushions under his knees for support. If he has trouble maintaining the cross-legged posture, he can sit with legs outstretched.
In this posture, you can experiment with eye-gazing and with keeping the eyes closed to merge into each other, feeling how together you create one complete energetic circuit. It’s an ideal position for discovering the most profound meaning of tantric intimacy, the dissolution of the individual into cosmic principles and those principles into the Absolute, beyond name and form.

Lack of vitality? How to recharge your yogic battery

Lack of vitality? How to recharge your yogic battery

Do you often feel tired, dull or weak? Do you often get sick? Do you have enough energy for long lovemaking or tend to lose your drive early on?
These are all signs that your vitality, your basic life energy, is low.
Since tantra is a path of energy, it’s extremely important to run on full power. Vitality is important to feel good and stay healthy, but also so you can practice tantric lovemaking and powerful sublimation.
The yogic tradition provides a clear understanding of where this raw vital force comes from and how we can amplify it. Keep reading to learn cultivate your vitality and enjoy more energy, health and spiritual power.

Let’s meet muladhara chakra

Muladhara chakra is known as the “root chakra,” the psycho-energetic center connected to the earth element within a human being. Located at the base of the spine, it provides vitality and stability, like a battery powering the rest of your system.
Some people are born with a great muladhara: lots of vitality all the time! Some not. So it goes.
But if your muladhara isn’t natural strong, you can develop it with hatha yoga. There are asanas, pranayama techniques and other practices that will build up your root chakra and allow you to channel more vital energy through your being.
Men are more prone to a weak muladhara, so tantric men will work a lot on this chakra to develop the raw power needed for sexual practice.
So as a yogi, muladhara chakra is where you look first whenever there’s a lack of vitality. Besides the yogic approach, through asana and pranayama, here are some areas to consider:

Connection with the earth

Nothing replenishes the earth element in your being like connection with the actual earth.
Most people in Western countries these days live in a way that’s very cut off from this basic energy source. Living in apartment buildings, getting around in cars, walking with rubber and concrete between our feet and Mother Earth…
So get out there in nature. Touch the ground with your bare feet. Lie down in the sand. Find somewhere quiet and sit naked on the dirt. That’s right, put your root chakra right on the ground! The Earth will always replenish us, it’s her gift.

Diet

Muladhara chakra loves food. Are you eating enough? And more importantly, are you eating the right things?
So much food today is actually not nourishing at all. Packaged, processed food is not only bad for your body, it’s deficient in prana (life-force). No matter how many chips you eat, you never feel satisfied, right? That’s because they aren’t giving you any of the vital energy you really need.
Eating a balanced plant-based diet of simple, whole foods will do wonders for your vitality. Get plenty of raw fruits and veggies, since these contain the most prana. Avoid overcooking and leftovers, where the prana is depleted.
Root vegetables in particular can support in recharging muladhara, your own root.

Sleep

Sleep is essential for your vitality. If you skimp on sleep (especially if your astrological sign is air or your Ayurvedic constitution is vata dosha), this feeling of vigor and wellbeing is the first thing to go.
It is of course important to get enough sleep, but even more important to sleep in periods that correspond to your sleep cycles. Each cycle is roughly 90 minutes, varying by individual. Waking up in the middle of a cycle will leave you more tired than if you had woken up between cycles, even if it means getting up an hour earlier.
It also matters when you sleep. Going to sleep before 10pm is ideal, since during this time kapha energy (nourishing earth/water energy) is predominant. After 10pm, the energy goes to pitta (fire/water), more active and using up energy rather than replenishing it, and to vata (air/ether) late in the night.
This is why many creative people love the night – so much mental openness and creativity! – but it’s healthier to tap into the revitalizing kapha field when possible.

Stagnant energy

Sometimes a feeling of heaviness or tiredness isn’t caused by a lack of vital energy, but by the fact that your vital energy isn’t moving.
Energy stuck in the lower chakras, especially muladhara, can bring a sense of inertia. You’ll see this often in people with a lot of vitality (especially earth signs) but without so much of the fire element. This is just part of the nature of the earth element: solid, heavy, immovable… both its charm and its challenge!
The solution is to bring the fire! Working on manipura chakra, connected to the fire element, turns up the heat in your system and gets everything moving. It’s the element of dynamism and transformation, that will burn all that heavy energy and turn it into activity or send it upwards to the higher chakras. (Hence why it’s so important in tantric yoga.)
Asanas for manipura and sublimation practices like uddiyana bandha or nauli kriya are perfect for this.

Enthusiasm

Another possibility not related to muladhara is that your lack of vitality is actually a lack of enthusiasm.
Can you remember a time in your life when you were all fired up about some project? You maybe had so much passion to channel into it, you almost didn’t need to rest at all to feel vitalized and full of energy.
So if now you’re feeling dull, check if there isn’t something more significant missing in your life – some greater cause that moves and motivates you.
That greater cause doesn’t have to be saving the world all by yourself. It’s whatever sparks a fire in your heart, whatever gives you a reason to feel joy getting out of bed in the morning. Each of us has our own dharma, our own role to play in this great drama of life.
These days, when most of the world is on standby, it’s a better time than ever to look inwards and discover your most authentic calling. When you’re following this, you’ll always have the energy you need. It’s like instead of running off you own little battery, you plug yourself straight into the power source.

If you want to dive deep into the authentic teaching of taditional hatha yoga take a look at our 4 weeks Yoga Immersion Teacher Training Course starting November 18th in Mexico.

Can a relationship work if only one partner is on a spiritual path?

Can a relationship work if only one partner is on a spiritual path?

The spiritual relationship: what a thing of beauty! Two people on the path together, practicing together, loving and supporting each other in their journey towards realization…
Many people dream of this, especially in the world of tantra, where there is so much emphasis on sexuality. However, it’s not a reality for everyone. What happens when someone who is already in a relationship discovers spirituality on their own?
We’ve seen this so many times in our tantra workshops, usually with the woman catching on first. She’ll come to one workshop, fall in love with the practice and show up at the next one leading her boyfriend by the hand! (If he gets this far, it’s a good sign the relationship is already heading in a spiritual direction.)
But sometimes, the boyfriend (or girlfriend) just doesn’t feel the calling. In that case, is it possible for the relationship to work?
It is indeed possible, if the love between the two is strong. However, the dynamic will pose some complications and challenges, for both partners. Here are a few pointers to keep the relationship healthy and continue growing spiritually.

Don’t push
For romantic relationships as well as friendships and family: don’t push the other person into spirituality!
It’s very tempting to do this, especially when you’ve just started on the path and everything is so new and exciting. When you have experienced for yourself the life-changing power of spiritual practice, it’s natural that you want to share this with everyone, especially the people you’re close to.
Seeing someone else caught in drama or anxieties, it’s easy to say, “Just meditate! Come to yoga class with me, it will fix everything!”
The problem is that you can never, ever force another person in their spiritual growth. It has to come from within, from their own inner longing and desire for transformation. Pressure will only create resistance, plus tension in the relationship.
Remember that everyone has their own path and everyone is evolving in their own way, whether or not you can see it. Your partner’s path might not look like yours, it might not look like you want it to, but its all theirs to walk.

Focus on your own practice
No matter what, keep practicing.
I know, it sounds so beautiful to meditate side by side with your partner and do tantric rituals together, and it is. But if that isn’t on the table, keep going on your own. Your practice is always your own, no matter what external factors are there or aren’t.
Your practice will give you the love, compassion and equanimity to relate to your partner as they are, without expectations. It will allow you to see your partner as a teacher and learn from your relationship. Being strong in your own practice, you’ll have a spiritual relationship whether or not your partner knows it.

Find your sangha
The sangha (spiritual community) is one of the most important elements of a spiritual life.
Spiritual friends provide a mirror, inspiration and support. Especially living in materialistic Western culture, where you’re mostly swimming against the tide, it’s essential to have a like-minded community.
In an ideal case, as in the tantric relationship, you and your partner form a sangha of two.
If this isn’t happening, find your sangha outside of the relationship. Join a community, go to meditation groups or yoga classes, or even connect with others over the internet. This allows you to have support in your practice and worldview, while taking the pressure of this role off your partner’s shoulders.

Lead by example
The best way to teach someone about spirituality is not to teach at all, but to live.
You can talk your partner’s ear off about the benefits of yoga and meditation, but why not show them instead?
When they see the transformation in you – when they see how you become more calm, more loving, more joyful and comfortable in your own skin – they might get curious. They might even ask, “Hey, so what about that meditation thing you’ve been doing?”

Knowing when to grow together and when to let go
Love is the strongest force in the universe. Love is always the most important, no matter what the relationship looks like.
That said, it is important to be aware that the dynamic of your relationship can change when you start on a spiritual path.
When one partner becomes serious about their spiritual practice and the other is not interested, this can create tension within the relationship. The non-spiritual partner may feel insecure and even threatened by their partner’s practice, sensing that they might not have the same place in their partner’s life anymore.
The spiritual partner might start to resent the other, especially if there is a pressure to sacrifice their practice or “tone it down” to make things more comfortable.
You can still learn a lot from a partner who isn’t on the path with you. But if the relationship starts to become an obstacle to your spiritual growth rather than a support, sometimes the wisest and most compassionate choice, for both partners, is to let it go.

Dance with the Goddess: overcoming shame for women with a high sex drive.

Dance with the Goddess: overcoming shame for women with a high sex drive.

Women, do you love sex? Like, really love it?
Love it so much maybe you feel a little wrong for it?
Sex is wonderful and you are absolutely right for loving it! However, so many women even now feel shame around loving, enjoying and seeking sex, or fear that they might love it too much.
If this is the case for you, I recommend let’s take a look at the roots of this shame and how to overcome it to enjoy the glorious, powerful, divine sexuality that is the birthright of every woman.

Why the shame around women’s sexuality?

Even though Western society might seem now more open and sexualized than any culture in history, still every woman who grows up within it inherits shame from an early age.
This is something which is still alive in our collective consciousness, and you picked up these imprints no matter how you were raised.
It’s in the movies. It’s in pop music, books, TV and the news. It’s definitely in our “sex ed” classes.
Men are the ones who want sex all the time. Boys only ever want one thing, right?
Girls should put out (don’t be a prude!) but not too much (don’t be a slut!). We’re supposed to be the ones who would rather just talk, who fake a headache because we don’t feel like making love. We don’t hear about female orgasm in sex ed.
The irony here is that women have much stronger sexual energy than men!

Female vs. male sexual energy: compatible yet opposite

In yogic terms, women generally are much stronger in the lower chakras, muladhara and swadisthana, related to vitality and sexuality. We need this extra energy to create new life inside our bodies. When a woman is fully open in her sexuality, it’s the man who has to work to keep up with her.
(In fact, the main development for a tantric man is to learn to have a non-ejaculative, implosive orgasm that takes a shape similar to a female orgasm – but more about tantra in a minute.)
Male and female sexual energy do take different forms, for sure. Male energy is more quick, fiery and explosive. Female energy is denser and heavier. It takes longer to get it moving, but once it does…! Think the difference between a stick of dynamite and a freight train.
Many women find themselves wanting more sex than their male partners. And in this situation, before recognizing it as a simple fact and something to grow with in the relationship, that old shame rears its head!
“Is there something wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? Am I ‘too much?’”
There’s a reason why history imposed this shame on us. Female sexuality is incredibly powerful, fully capable of disrupting the rigid structures and hierarchies of old patriarchal societies. People within these structures were afraid of it.
Religion, especially in the West, was one of the most efficient systems for reinforcing fear and shame around female pleasure.
Most systems of spirituality, although they may transcend religious dogma and prejudices, are at best indifferent to sexual expression. It’s a distraction, a disturbance to avoid and ignore. Look at classical Advaita Vedanta or Theravada Buddhism for a clear demonstration.

Women’s sexuailty in Tantra

Fortunately, this is not the case in tantra. Tantrics have always valued feminine sexual energy: not just accepted but adored it! In tantra, it is seen as a potent manifestation of Shakti, the universal divine life force that underlies all of creation.
In the female body, the divine energy of the universe is not just an abstract concept but a tangible presence. This body, in all its strangeness and grace, truly is a temple.
“O Lady with beautiful hips!” Abhinavagupta, the greatest master of Kashmir Shaivism, began many of his writings with this exclamation. This “Lady” is the absolute Reality, not different from the formless transcendent aspect of pure Consciousness, but somehow also She is every human woman.
Tantric art, both Hindu and Buddhist, is replete with images of the female body in its full glory. No chaste Virgin Mary’s, fully draped from head to toe, but luscious figures with full breasts, voluptuous hips and wild hair. These aren’t pin-up’s (some of the goddesses are quite frightening!) but a recognition of the sacred power of female sexuality.
The same power and mystery that intimidates some is an incredible gift for an authentic and brave-hearted seeker after the Truth.
Female orgasm is wild. It is a formidable force of nature, terrifyingly divine, and a woman who is in connection with her own sexual potential is likewise a force to be reckoned with. Sexual tantra is then a path to the Divine that doesn’t color within the lines, doesn’t run alongside the boundaries of conventional society but blows past all limitations.

From shame to bliss

So how to drop old shame and reclaim your sacred sexual power?

  • Love your yoni. It all starts with the yoni. If you feel shame around your sexual energy, you probably aren’t comfortable with your vagina either. Spend some time getting to know and love her. When you value this most intimate part of your body, you’ll be able to adore yourself exactly as you are.
    Be honest in relationship: If you’re in a relationship with a mismatched sex drive, just be open and talk about it. The problem in these situations comes when there’s a lack of communication: one partner ends up feeling like their needs aren’t being met while the other feels pressured and resentful.
    It’s important to be sensitive around this topic, not to make your man feel insufficient, since this is probably a big fear for him – but bringing it out into the open, especially with this understanding of the sexual differences between men and women, will already take the edge off of his insecurity.
    There are lots of solutions for couples with different levels of sexual energy, ranging from work on vitality for him (yoga is great for this), to spicing things up with new games or time apart, to consciously opening the relationship.
  • Practice Tantra: As already mentioned, the tantric teachings are refreshingly welcoming of sexuality and female sexuality in particular. Learning Tantra can bring a deep shift in perspective so you see your strong sexuality as a sacred gift.
    In tantric yoga, you will also learn to sublimate your sexual energy: move it to the higher chakras where it becomes refined spiritual energy. Again you’ll find a high level of sexual energy to be a blessing here!
    Take a look at our Tantrik Academy here
  • Orgasmic Life Course: If you’re interested in exploring your femininity and sexuality, you are welcome to join Amita for her 5-week Orgasmic Life course for women, it’s FREE till July 4th. We’ll learn to connect with the yoni, to heal and release blockages, and unleash the incredible orgasmic potential within each and every one of us. Learn more

When a woman’s sexual bliss is released, it will infuse her entire life with magic!

Tantra and Yoga: two sides of the same coin

Tantra and Yoga: two sides of the same coin

Do you practice tantra?
Or do you do yoga?
Or would you rather meditate?
Although people often talk about them as if they were three separate things, in fact there is no practicing tantra without hatha yoga and meditation. Divide them is like trying to split fire from heat, to borrow an old tantric analogy.
Hatha yoga is actually a tantric science, developed from a worldview and understanding unique to the path of energy.
Let’s backtrack a little. In ancient Indian spirituality, there was not so much use for all the “technology” of hatha yoga. There’s nothing in the Vedas about asanas or pranayama, no bandhas or mudras, in fact no techniques as we understand them in the yoga of today.
This early spirituality was on the one hand highly ritualistic, with complex hymns and fire ceremonies, and on the other side quite minimalistic: meditating on the mantra aum, for example, or Vedantic Self-enquiry.
Dismissing the realm of manifestation as essentially unreal, Vedic and Vedantic aspirants had no interest in the world of energies, even as a path to transcendence. This view, that the manifestation is also sacred and everything in it can be used to reveal its true divine nature, was a tantric revelation.
Only in the first centuries after Christ did the tantric teachings start to emerge, and with them the whole science of the subtle planes: chakras, nadis, kundalini, and all the other aspects that we know and love in hatha yoga.
Hatha yoga was a part of the larger umbrella of tantra. Even the physical practice overlaps with the tantric fields of laya yoga, nada yoga and sexual practices. (Not just to get more flexible for exotic positions!)

Hatha yoga connects with sexual tantra in particular in a few ways:

1. Sublimation
There’s no sexual tantra without sublimation!
For men, it’s pretty straightforward. If the man ejaculates, he loses energy, the lovemaking is interrupted, and no-one’s consciousness is elevated to sahasrara.
A woman’s tantric orgasm is more about surrender than control of the energy, but women also need to learn sublimation. Instead of pulling the man’s energy back down, with practice their orgasmic energy to naturally flows upwards.
All of sexual tantra is a practice of sublimation: taking a heavy, mundane energy and elevating it into spiritual power.
And how to learn to sublimate? Lots and lots of yoga! Classical hatha yoga is full of techniques for moving raw energy from the lower to the upper chakras.
These techniques are an essential support for men learning non-ejaculation, and for both men and women to transform our relationship with sexual energy – to recognize it as a divine gift.

2. Purification
Sexual tantra involved a tremendous amount of energy. By using sexuality, we tap into the most powerful energy within our being, and one which is usually not so stable.
For those who aren’t ready, sexual tantra can make a big mess out of your life and the lives of people around you. Attachment to pleasure is too easy; the ego is all too ready to claim the experience. This is why it was kept secret for most of the history of tantra, as an advanced practice given only to mature aspirants.
Today many of these teachings are only as far away as booking a weekend workshop. But in order not to make a big mess out of your life, there is a need to remove blockages (both energetic and psychological) before practicing in a strong way.
The yogis did not make such a sharp division between mind and body as we see in Western science. To them it was obvious that purifying the body and its subtle energies would have an effect on the mind, and vice versa.
Hence in hatha yoga we find many techniques for purification. The whole yoga practice in fact can be seen as a systematic purification going into deeper and deeper levels, until even the subconscious mind becomes balanced and harmonized.
With this foundation, it’s possible to take the intense experiences of tantric sexuality as a gateway to a truth beyond ourselves as the personality.

3. Polarity
Tantric sexuality works through the play of polarity. When two opposing energies (masculine and feminine sexual energy, for example) come together in union, there is a sort of inner explosion that allows for transcending both of them.
Hatha yoga also works from polarity. The very word “hatha” contains the roots “ha” (sun) and “tha” (moon) to reflect the balancing of the polarity of a human being: emissive/receptive, yang/yin, masculine/feminine, or however you want to define our most basic binary.
In hatha yoga, we come to this union of polarities within ourselves. In sexual tantra, we do it with a partner, projecting one side of our own polarity outside. And yet in order to do this in a stable and powerful way, we must be deeply balanced within our internal polarity, as we can learn through yoga.
Of course, this is not to say that all yoga today is tantric. The “yoga” we see in the West arrived mostly in a stripped-down form, as a catalog of physical positions but lacking the inner knowledge of how they work or even what they’re meant to accomplish.
Traditional hatha yoga, preserving the esoteric background and awareness of how to work with the energies in each techniques, offers a system of training and understanding in perfect synergy with other tantric practices.
If you are intrigued by the depth of tantric yoga, you are welcome to join AUM Tantra Yoga in our 200-hour teacher training, Nov. 18 – Dec. 15 in Mazunte, Mexico. You will learn authentic hatha yoga from the ground up, the way it was practiced for centuries as a path to Self-realization.

Tantra of Solitude

Tantra of Solitude

Tantra is something you practice with your lover, right? Isn’t it a dance for two?
So now that many of us are quarantined away from our partners, it might seem like our tantric practice has been put on hold.
Don’t despair, solitary tantrikas! Now is actually an amazing time to practice tantra on a deeper level. We can come out of isolation as an overflowing cup, ready to pour our love and high energy on a world that will need it so much.

Aloneness vs. loneliness

The first step is to make a distinction for yourself between aloneness and loneliness.
Being isolated is a fact. Within that is the option to feel lonely – like you are missing something – or to feel simple alone.
Aloneness is a state of completeness. It is feeling content and whole within yourself. It is the sense that everything can be found inside, and therefore nothing is lacking: no need for an external mirror to validate your own existence.
This inner solitude, in fact, can be felt as much in the middle of a crowd as at the top of a mountain.
Most of our habitual socializing comes from a need for distraction, a feeling of incompleteness and a need for external validation. With deep meditation and spiritual practice in solitude, these needs start to lose their bite.
As the great Christian mystic Thomas Merton wrote, “Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say. Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.”
Go inside yourself. Find that presence, that depth of your being that is always there and always complete.

Work with your own energy

Just because your partner isn’t here, there’s no reason not to work with your own sexual energy. You will come out of this “retreat” a stronger tantric practitioner!
For men, focus on sublimation. If you aren’t yet consistent in non-ejaculation, now is your time to stabilize, practicing with self-pleasure instead of with a lover.
For women, enjoy this time to explore your sexual power without the complications of a partner. Self-pleasure, jade egg practice, belly dance, and just being deeply present with your body and its capacity for pleasure in so many forms.
The energy of self-quarantine actually is very feminine, in a way: a season for withdrawing from the world, resting, nourishing ourselves, germinating like a seed under the ground.
And for all genders, it is the perfect moment to go deep in hatha yoga, an essential element of tantra. Use this time to become intimate with the energies of your own body.
If you’re interested in specific practices and guidance, feel free to contact Aum Tantra Yoga for our free tantra video, or join one of our Facebook Live sessions.

Explore both polarities

As tantrics, we like to play the game of polarity. Men cultivate their masculinity and women their femininity, so we can meet each other with the greatest energetic charge possible.
But to be truly balanced in your own polarity, you need to have contact with the opposite within you.
It’s like the yin-yang symbol, where there’s always a dot of white inside the black and black inside the white.
Stabilizing your latent polarity (since of course each of us contains both, only one is usually more expressed) allows you to go deep into your expressed polarity, without losing balance.
You can be a feminine force-of-nature woman, all charm and sensuality and flow, while keeping your center and verticality. Or a super-masculine man with power and presence like the eye of a storm, yet profoundly sensitive and sensual.
Exploring your masculine and feminine side together will help you feel stable and complete without a partner, and when you finally come out of isolation, you can enjoy the dance of polarity with a lighter step. Your particular expression will be a conscious choice blossoming from an understanding of the whole picture.

Right-hand Tantra

Tantra traditionally is divided into two branches: “left-hand tantra,” where the union of masculine and feminine is enacted as sexual union between two partners, and “right-hand tantra,” where sexual energy is used in purely ritualistic form, a union between a practitioner and a deity.
Mantras and yantras, plus a healthy dash of devotion, are the tools of choice for right-hand tantrikas.
True right-hand tantra is not easily accessible, as it calls for a high level of sublimation and yogic practice. However, in solitude it is the natural choice.
During your self-isolation, you can begin to explore this attitude. If you are used to encountering God or the Goddess in the form of your partner, go to it directly. Make love with Shiva or Shakti in your heart. And do it with as much passion, as much desire as you would with a flesh-and-blood lover.
This is the real test of your tantric practice: can you truly go beyond form?
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How are experiencing tantric practice during your time in isolation? Share in the comments!

Why Shiva and Shakti?

Why Shiva and Shakti?

Shiva and Shakti. Sacred union between God and Goddess. Divine Feminine, Divine Masculine.
Beautiful concepts, but modern people embarking on the tantric path often report some resistance to these terms. The words may seem to point back to the same tired, restrictive gender norms that many would-be tantrikas are hoping to be free from!
Let’s be clear: tantra didn’t pop up in a vacuum. It evolved within a culture that was deeply heteronormative, and although many of its tenets go against mainstream Hindu conventions, the language it uses still reflects that background.
However, the essence of tantra has nothing to do with maintaining conventional gender roles and actually not so much to do with gender at all. It’s just about polarity.
Polarity is the foundation of tantric practice. When any two opposite energies are brought into union, there is an opportunity for transcendence. If they are potent enough, polarized enough, their conjunction causes a sort of inner explosion that resolves in the zero point.
And the two most powerful opposing principles in the universe, that will cause the greatest spiritual combustion, are the energies of masculinity and femininity, or Shiva and Shakti.
We can talk about polarity between Shiva and Shakti at two levels: the polarity between femininity and masculinity (or yin/yang, lunar/solar, whatever words you prefer since these principles are much more universal than human gender), and the more enigmatic relationship between consciousness and energy.
In the tantric tradition, the terms “Shiva” and “Shakti” are used to refer to both levels.
The masculine and feminine are both energy. They both exist as part of the manifestation, therefore as aspects of supreme Shakti. Still, the feminine principle is more reflective of the principle of pure energy, while masculine principle points more toward the principle of pure consciousness.
And, as it happens, men usually manifest more the masculine principle, while women manifest more the feminine principle. Of course, all of us contain both in a unique and everchanging dynamic balance. It’s beautiful and important to acknowledge this, and to develop both sides of your being so you can live a full, balanced life.
But for tantric practice, we go into the polarity. We go full-on into the polarity. We want as much spark as possible, to create the biggest spiritual explosion within both partners.
This doesn’t mean that the man always has to embody the masculine, nor the woman the feminine! It’s perfectly possible to have a tantric relationship where the woman is holding the masculine pole and vice versa. Or a same-sex relationship where either partner can take each polarity, or the partners can exchange.
In any case, we can write off the terminology confusion (those two levels of Shiva/Shakti) as yet another example of the glorious messiness of Indian spirituality: always 5 names for the same thing and the same name for 5 different things!
However, it goes deeper than that.
There is a real mystery here, something in the incomprehensible dance of form and formlessness that is beyond the mind yet profoundly erotic.
A man’s adoration for woman, so colorful, powerful and alluring, leading him out far beyond the familiar…
And the woman’s adoration for her man as she dances whirlwinds around him, her longing to know his stillness as the core of her own being…
Something here in a way is just a dramatization of how Consciousness looks at Energy, or better put how Consciousness looks at itself through the manifestation. The joy and wonder with which Awareness recognizes itself in form, and the bliss of form as it surrenders itself into pure Awareness.
So the next time you look at your lover, man or woman… do you see yourself?

Making peace with each other in the age of #metoo

Making peace with each other in the age of #metoo

Relations between men and women should be a dance, not a battle. So why do interactions between the genders seem so fraught with pain, mistrust and misunderstanding?
Often it feels like we can’t see eye to eye because in fact we are interacting shadow to shadow.
Every human being contains a part of their personality which is conscious – the part that seems to be making decisions – and a part which is unconscious.
The unconscious aspect of the personality (the shadow) is often unacknowledged and difficult to access, but it wields incredible power: much more than the conscious mind! This vast network of patterns and deeply ingrained tendencies is largely responsible for our decisions in life, the way we relate to others and to the world in general.
Carl Jung wrote: “Until the unconscious is made conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate.”
When patterns in our lives seem to be repeating, when we find ourselves stuck again and again in the same situation, it isn’t that the universe is out to get us. It’s just that something in our subconscious is caught in a loop and pushing us to go through the same experience over and over again.
As a species, between men and women, it seems very much like we have been stuck in a loop. Centuries of pain and abuse, violence and victimhood, passed from generation to generation.
Now, at this precise moment in time, we have a chance to break the cycle. What are we going to do with this opportunity?
Of course, change must come from within, one heart at a time. I say this not to diminish the value or necessity of working for broader social change, but simply to acknowledge the basic reality of our human situation, as a vast network of intimately connected but irreducibly unique beings.
It’s this beautiful paradox: we all influence each other deeply, with everything we do, and yet each one of us belongs only to ourselves. We can only ever change ourselves and let the ripples spread out to the world.
The current movement, #MeToo and everything surrounding it, has a bit of the feeling of a forest fire or an earthquake. Powerful, destructive, frightening even, but with the potential to allow for new creation.
Space for new trees. The roots of new mountains.
As tantra practitioners, we are perhaps both the most sensitive to these dynamics and potentially in the best position to cultivate something fresh and positive from all the upheaval.
What the world needs – what men and women need – is not more laws or contracts or punishments.
It needs more understanding. More compassion. More quietness and space where souls can communicate.
Without making excuses or justifying their actions, we can recognize that those who abuse others are also suffering from a wounded sexuality. We can understand, as Ekhart Tolle so beautifully wrote about compassion, that if we were in their place, with their past experiences, their traumas and their conditioning, we would act in exactly the same way.
The world needs healing for the feminine, which has been violated and suppressed for so long. Healing for the masculine, which has suffered just as much from being cut off from sacred Femininity, from being squeezed into a box where often its only way of expression was through violence.
We need to empower masculinity, not cut it down. Make space for that strong, vertical, divine expression of masculinity that is here to protect and uplift, never to cause harm.
Of course we can’t do the work for other people. But we can do it within ourselves, in how we relate to others and especially by shedding light on the dark parts of our own psyche, the places within that are calling out for healing.
When one person is fully illuminated, that radiance shines on everyone.

Is Tantra a path for women?

Is Tantra a path for women?

While teaching tantra workshops around the world, we see clearly that women are leading the way, both in numbers attending our courses and that the men are often come led by their girlfriend’s hand!
However, so many stories of abusive teachers and toxic communities have rocked the tantra world in the last few years.
This can leave many women wondering, is the tantric path right for me?
Tantra was historically one of the spiritual paths most open to women, one of the few that was truly accepting and honoring of feminine power.
Unlike most organized religion and spiritual disciplines in ancient India (and around the world), tantric teachings were not restricted by caste or gender. The prerequisites instead were integrity, spiritual maturity and authentic aspiration.
In fact, tantra was not just open to women but depended on them.
It is thought that some of the roots of tantra lie in ancient cults of the Divine Feminine. Perhaps as an inheritance from those days, in many tantric lineages women were the initiators, the ones passing down teachings and empowerments through the generations.
Many core elements of tantric practice are very well suited to feminine practitioners, perhaps more so than the cold austerities of Vedanta or other ascetic traditions.
Tantra is a path of energy, of life, of an intimate connection to the elements all around us and within us. It is a path of devotion. It is a path to reaching enlightenment through the senses and the joy of embodiment, embracing beauty, color and multiplicity.
In tantra, the world is Shakti. Everything around us is the Goddess, in Her thousands of faces, and the tantric road to transcendence runs through a direct encounter with the sacred archetypes of femininity. It is a path that loves, honors and adores femininity.
And not just one model of femininity, like that old Christian reverence for the Virgin Mary. Among the tantric Goddesses we find images of beauty, sweetness and joy, but also terrifying power. Shakti takes the form of mother, lover, virgin, seductress, warrior, queen, widow…
So as a woman with a calling to explore tantra, how can you be sure you’re in a safe and authentic path?

  • Look for traditional teachings. Some modernization and adaptation to Western minds is fine and often very necessary, but the heart of the teachings should come from tradition. Spiritual wisdom passed down for centuries is generally more trustworthy than something that someone made up two years ago based on his or her ego, without knowing where it might end up.
    Authentic tantra, it’s important to note, is not only about sex! Sex is just one (very powerful) tool tantrikas use to attain spiritual realization. If you’re hearing only about orgasms and nothing about transcendence, you’ve landed in the realm of neo-tantra.
  • Spend time getting to know the teacher. In Tibetan Buddhism, the old recommendation was to spend 12 years with a teacher before fully accepting him (but then, you’d commit 100%!). Few of us have that much time to spare, but still, take your time before throwing your heart and soul into it. And just as important…
  • Get to know the community. Talk to other students, learn what attracted them to this path or this teacher, and how they feel they’ve changed. Ask yourself, do I want to become like the people who have been a long time around this teacher?
    Study with woman teachers or couples. Of course, this isn’t to say that all male tantra teachers are abusive, but female teachers are often more conscious and committed to creating a safe and protective space.
  • Check if the teacher sees female students as students or as women. It’s natural that men and women are given different advice along the tantric path, but if the only answer a teacher has for his female students’ issues is, “have more sex,” something is wrong.
  • Last but definitely not least, be clear with yourself. You need to know where your own boundaries are and have the self-assurance to stand up for them if they’re crossed. Your heart will tell you if you’re in the right place, you just have to listen.
    Tantra often takes practitioners to the edge of their comfort zone. This is good – it brings fast evolution – but you have to be sure this is what you want. Only when you trust yourself, you can trust the process.

Real tantra will never involve abuse. It will never leave anyone traumatized. There can be challenges along the way, but at the end it’s only love.
Tantric women, let’s hear from you! Do you have any advice for sisters just starting on the path?

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