Yoga is said to be a set of physical, mental and spiritual practices that originated in ancient India. However, yoga as we know it today has only existed for a short time. The ancient type of yoga was developed and practiced with a completely different mindset and worldview.
Let’s have a look at some of the ideas behind traditional tantric yoga!
Tradition – tried and tested for thousands of years
Yoga has become widely popular. Hundreds of millions practice yoga, and as a result it is now a huge business. And as with any trend, new things are invented constantly. Have you heard about Goat Yoga, Reggae Yoga or Beer Yoga? What kind of results can you expect?
These days people tend to be impatient – everything should have been done a minute ago. Some of the secrets of yoga open up only after a long and regular practice, so we should not judge the system unless we really give it a fair trial.
Yoga that is based on a tradition is stable, tested and trustworthy. Tradition does not mean that we blindly do things just because they have been done in the past. We need to understand the why, and that we can get from a living tradition.
Why do we do asanas? Why pranayama? If we see our bodies as separate from the mind, yoga practice is easily reduced only to a physical exercise. Nothing is wrong with that, but yoga can offer so much more than a yoga butt, an elastic body and toned muscles.
One great example I heard in my teacher training was that asana is like building and maintaining a ventilation system, and pranayama is like blowing air through the system. With asanas we develop the body ergonomy and enable the body to communicate better with it’s various parts.
It’s important to know why we do what we do. The yoga exercises done today may look or resemble the exercises done in the past, but their meaning may be different altogether. I touched upon this question in my article about Prana.
The ultimate goal of yoga is a union with the Absolute that we are. It’s difficult to grasp mentally, but it can become obvious with the right type of practice.
Asana is not only a posture or a movement
The asanas are a fairly new addition to yoga practice. In traditional texts, there are only a few asanas mentioned, and they are meditative postures such as Padmasana, where the yogi is sitting cross-legged and nothing much seems to happen on the surface. The current, more dynamic asanas were added to yoga only in the last century.
The unconscious expresses itself as our bodies, so all the exercises aim to change or train the mind instead of the body. With yoga, we can make changes to the unconscious patterns that direct our every action.
We unconsciously hold on to tension. Next time you do your asanas, see what happens if you think to yourself, this body can be as flexible as it needs to be, and there is nothing holding it back – except for the mind. Tantra teaches us to leave out all that is unnecessary.
Ideas like “no pain no gain” or “more is better” belong to the modern worldview, not to yoga.
Asana is about letting go. It’s about learning to relax, learning to identify the tension in our bodies, and choosing to let go of all that is not necessary – consciously. Real letting go and expanding never stops: there’s no limit to it.
Real yoga has an influence on all areas of life
If we treat yoga only as a physical exercise to get a slim and fit body, it may just do that. Yoga can offer so much more when you start to see it as a complete science of self-development.
Real yoga and yoga teachers do not offer answers but tools. You need to do the work and only then will gain the valuable insights and experiences. This is something that no-one can take away from you.
In yoga, we don’t mentally crunch over issues that surface; the healing process happens in the body and in the practice.
Once you start to discover your true nature, all of life and the world appear different.
Yoga is not about discipline
Did you ever try to do a practice with your willpower, and it started all good, but in a few weeks you started to forget about it and eventually stopped practicing altogether?
It’s simple. If you do things that you like, you do not need discipline. There’s no need to perform. Your body tells you “this yoga is good for me, I want to do more of it” and it becomes natural and habitual.
Traditional tantric yoga strongly relies on repetition as a method for learning. In a repeated asana sequence, for example, our conscious mind can step aside and we get in touch with the unconscious. Then you can really surrender to the yoga practice and the results will come.
The most important changes happen in Shavasana
Yes, that’s right. The magic happens when we hold an asana for a while and then return to a Shavasana. Our body has a natural ability and tendency to return to harmony, and resting in Shavasana allows just this.
Recovery happens when we are resting. Good sleep is essential, but it has been shown that yoga is also an excellent way to wind down your nervous system and give it the time it needs to regain balance.
As a side note, if you notice that you forget things, if learning new things has become more difficult, or if your attention span is not very good, or if you feel down or even depressed, it could be due to sleep deprivation. A solution for this? Go to bed early enough! And do real yoga.
The only way is inward
As I mentioned earlier, in tantra we leave out all the unnecessary stuff that we carry with us and fill our life with. It’s like peeling an onion, stripping away the excess layer by layer, going deeper and finally finding the core, the Real Self.
We naturally may fear that if I’m not the person I identify as, I’m not anything. Fear not! People do not get disappointed when they dive in. With the Real Self, the expression becomes light and easy. Under the covers, we can discover the whole, complete being and we do not need to apologize or be ashamed.
Learning to live our life fully, yes!
This is the type of yoga I like and teach. How does this relate to your yoga practice? Do you sometimes wish there was more to it? Do you get deep satisfaction from your practice? Did you think of the Why? Did you know that with yoga you can go so much deeper? What is preventing you?
Let me know in the comments!