What is Tantra Yoga? Everything you should know

El tantra yoga es una rama de yoga que se centra en el equilibrio de las energías.

The awakening of consciousness is an incessant quest that has accompanied humanity since its dawn. In this journey in search of self-realization, we encounter various practices and philosophies that have emerged over the centuries. Among these is an ancient practice that has captivated generations of spiritual explorers: Tantra Yoga. This approach, born in ancient India, has flourished over the years, evolving and adapting to different cultures and times, but always maintaining its original essence.

Tantra Yoga is a path that has been shrouded in mystery, misunderstanding and controversy due to the way it has been represented in the popular imagination. However, its true nature is much deeper and richer than it might seem at first glance. Unveiling its secrets and delving into its knowledge is a transformative experience that goes beyond the limits of the physical, allowing its practitioners to experience a more intimate and fulfilling connection with life and reality.

In this article, we will dive into the essence of Tantra Yoga and its potential as a tool for personal and spiritual transformation.

What does Tantra mean?

The term “Tantra” comes from Sanskrit and can be roughly translated as “fabric” or “continuity” although it also translates as “technique, instrument, theory, system or practice”. Tantra is an esoteric and spiritual tradition that originated in India and then spread to regions such as Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and China. The practice of Tantra seeks personal transformation and expansion of consciousness through rituals, meditations, visualizations, mantras and yoga.

Tantra is not a homogeneous practice and encompasses diverse currents and teachings. Some of its teachings focus on the connection and union between the divine and the human, while others focus on the realization of human potential and the release of latent spiritual energy in the individual.

One of the most well-known and often misunderstood characteristics of Tantra is its focus on sexuality as a means to achieve enlightenment and union with the divine. However, it is important to note that sexuality is only one part of Tantric practices and is not the central focus of all streams of Tantra.

In addition, the term “Tantra” also refers to a specific set of sacred texts in Hinduism and Buddhism that describe these practices and teachings. These texts often include detailed descriptions of meditation techniques, rituals, physical postures and visualizations.

Tantra Yoga and its characteristics

Tantra Yoga is a branch of yoga that focuses on spiritual transformation and personal evolution through practices and rituals that integrate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. Although often associated with sexuality, Tantra Yoga goes far beyond this aspect and focuses on the union and balance of the masculine and feminine energies present in all individuals.

Fundamental characteristics of Tantra Yoga:

  • Integration of the physical and the spiritual: Unlike other yoga practices, Tantra Yoga does not seek to repress or deny the physical nature of the human being. Instead, it seeks to utilize and elevate sexual and physical energy as a means to achieve a higher level of spiritual awareness.
  • Polarity and energetic balance: Tantra Yoga focuses on the union and balance of the masculine and feminine energies (Shiva and Shakti) present in each individual as well as in the universe. This polarity is seen as the basis of all creation and the source of vital energy.
  • Specific practices and rituals: Tantra Yoga uses a variety of practices and rituals, such as meditation, breathing, yoga postures (asanas), mudras (hand gestures), mantras (sacred sounds) and visualization, to awaken and balance kundalini energy and foster spiritual evolution.
  • Focus on direct experience: Tantra Yoga emphasizes the importance of direct, personal experience rather than blindly following established teachings and traditions. Each practitioner is encouraged to explore and discover his or her own path to enlightenment and spiritual transformation.
  • The path of love and devotion: Tantra Yoga sees love and devotion as powerful forces that can lead to union with the divine. Practices of worship and celebration are often included to honor the divinity present in every being and in the universe.
  • Focus on consciousness: Tantra Yoga seeks to expand the practitioner’s awareness beyond the limits of ego and identification with the body and mind. Through continuous practice, one seeks to transcend the limitations of ordinary perception and experience oneness with the underlying reality that permeates all existence.
  • Emphasis on sacredness: The sacredness of all aspects of life, including the human body and interpersonal relationships, is emphasized. Through the practice of Tantra, one seeks to recognize and honor the divine presence in all that surrounds us, leading to greater respect and reverence for life and creation.

It is important to mention that Tantra Yoga is much more than the sexual aspect often attributed to it in popular Western culture. It encompasses a holistic approach to life and spiritual growth, and its practices and teachings can be applied to various aspects of daily life. Ultimately, Tantra Yoga seeks to cultivate self-transcendence, compassion and the realization of true human potential.

Shakti, the Feminine Energy and its importance in Tantra Yoga

Shakti energy is a central concept in the philosophy and practice of Tantra Yoga. Shakti represents the primordial feminine energy or cosmic force, considered the source of all creation, manifestation and destruction. It is the active energy that drives the universe and is considered the feminine counterpart of Shiva, the pure and passive consciousness.

In the context of Tantra Yoga, Shakti is of vital importance for several reasons:

  • Union of polarities: Tantra Yoga seeks union and balance between the opposing polarities of masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) energy. The practice of Tantra Yoga helps practitioners balance these energies within themselves and ultimately achieve unity and harmony in consciousness and energy.
  • Awakening of Kundalini: Shakti energy is associated with Kundalini, a serpent-like energy coiled at the base of the spine. The main objective of Tantra Yoga is to awaken the Kundalini and make it ascend through the energy channels (nadis) and energy centers (chakras) to the crown of the head, where it merges with the pure consciousness of Shiva. This process of awakening and ascending Kundalini leads to a transformative experience of expanded consciousness and union with the divine.
  • Creative and transformative potential: Shakti energy symbolizes the creative and transformative power of the universe. In Tantra Yoga, this energy is used to transform and purify the body, mind and emotions of practitioners, allowing them to experience heightened states of consciousness and well-being.
  • Empowerment and connection: The cultivation and integration of Shakti energy in the practice of Tantra Yoga allows practitioners to experience greater connection and empowerment in their lives. By connecting with feminine energy, intuition, compassion and creativity are fostered, which in turn leads to a more balanced and fulfilled life.

Chakras and Kundalini Energy

The role of Kundalini and the Chakras within Tantra yoga is fundamental, as these concepts are closely related to energy and consciousness, and help guide the practice towards self-realization and enlightenment.

Kundalini is a latent cosmic energy found at the base of the spine, in the Muladhara (root) chakra. It is represented as a snake coiled three and a half times around itself.

The goal of Tantra yoga is to awaken this dormant energy and make it ascend through the different chakras until it reaches the Sahasrara (crown) chakra, located at the top of the head. This ascension process is known as “Kundalini enlightenment” and is associated with the experience of expanded consciousness, heightened awareness and a deep connection with the universe.

Chakras are energy centers along the body, from the base of the spine to the top of the head. In yoga, there are considered to be seven main chakras:

  • Muladhara (root): located at the base of the spine, related to survival, stability and grounding.
  • Svadhisthana (sacral): Located in the sacral area, associated with sexuality, creativity and emotions.
  • Manipura (solar plexus): Located in the abdomen area, related to confidence, personal power and self-esteem.
  • Anahata (heart): Located in the center of the chest, associated with love, compassion and empathy.
  • Vishuddha (throat): Located in the throat, related to communication, expression and truth.
  • Ajna (third eye): Located between the eyebrows, associated with intuition, wisdom and perception beyond the physical.
  • Sahasrara (crown): Located at the top of the head, related to divine connection, enlightenment and transcendence.

Through the practice of Tantra yoga we seek to balance and purify the chakras, which facilitates the awakening and flow of Kundalini energy. By achieving the union of Kundalini with the Sahasrara chakra, it is believed that a higher state of consciousness, union with the divine and self-realization is achieved.

The practice of Tantra Yoga

Tantra yoga cannot be understood simply as a set of practices, but rather as a philosophy of life. Like any other branch of yoga, tantra yoga uses numerous resources to help the practitioner expand consciousness and reach a state of peace and harmony with oneself and others.

These are some of the most important and outstanding practices within Tantra Yoga

Mantras

The use of mantras in Tantra Yoga is an essential and powerful practice that aims at personal transformation and expansion of consciousness.

A mantra is a Sanskrit word, phrase or syllable that is repeated during meditation or yoga practice to create a vibrational effect and help the practitioner focus his or her mind. Mantras can be considered tools of concentration and energetic transformation, and their repetition is known as japa. In Tantra Yoga, mantras have various purposes and applications, which include:

  • Centering and calming the mind: The repetition of mantra helps to calm the mind and free it from wandering thoughts and distractions. This allows the practitioner to focus their attention on meditation and yoga practice.
  • Generate energetic vibrations: Mantras have a vibrational effect that can influence the body, mind and spirit of the practitioner. These vibrations can help balance the chakras (energy centers) and purify the energy in general.
  • Invocation of deities and universal forces: In Tantra Yoga, mantras are believed to be the sound manifestation of deities and universal forces. By reciting a mantra, the practitioner invokes the energy and consciousness associated with the deity or force represented by the mantra. This can help establish a connection with the divine and raise the practitioner’s consciousness.
  • Personal transformation: Mantras are also used to cultivate specific qualities or overcome internal blockages. For example, a practitioner may recite a mantra for love, compassion or wisdom, with the goal of cultivating these qualities in oneself.
  • Protection and purification: Some mantras have protective and purifying properties. The repetition of these mantras can help protect the practitioner from negative energies and purify his or her inner environment and being.

Pujas or Rituals

Pujas are devotional rituals practiced in many spiritual traditions, including tantra yoga. The word “puja” comes from Sanskrit and means “act of worship.” In the context of tantra yoga, pujas are ceremonies performed to pay homage and establish a connection with the divine, whether in the form of a deity, cosmic energy or universal principle.

Pujas aim to purify the mind, elevate consciousness and develop a state of oneness with the divine, thus facilitating personal and spiritual transformation. These rituals can include various elements and actions, such as mantra recitation, meditation, offerings and visualizations.

Some practices that are commonly used as pujas are:

  • Invocation: The ritual begins by invoking the presence of the deity or divine energy to which homage is being paid. This is done through the recitation of mantras, prayers and visualizations, creating a sacred space for connection with the divine.
  • Offerings: During a puja, various symbolic items are offered to the deity or energy, such as flowers, incense, food and water. These offerings represent devotion and the desire to surrender to the divine.
  • Mantras and chants: The recitation of sacred mantras and chants is a key component in tantric pujas. These sacred sounds help to raise the vibration and consciousness of the practitioner, facilitating connection with the divine energy.
  • Meditation and visualization: Pujas also include periods of meditation and visualization, in which the practitioner concentrates on the deity or divine principle. This allows the individual to attune to the energy and consciousness associated with that divine aspect.

At the end of the ritual, a symbolic action is performed to release and dissolve the connection established during the puja. This may include dispersing the offerings or extinguishing the candles and incense. Then, the deity or divine energy is thanked for its presence and guidance.

Yantras

A Yantra is a sacred geometric diagram that symbolizes metaphysical concepts and represents cosmic energies. It is used as a tool for meditation and concentration to facilitate connection with the divine and achieve a heightened state of consciousness.

In tantra yoga, the Yantras have various purposes and uses:

  • Meditation and concentration: Yantras are used as objects of focus during meditation, helping the mind to concentrate on a single point and deepen spiritual practice. By visualizing and contemplating the Yantra, the practitioner can establish a connection with the energy it represents and experience an inner transformation.
  • Invocation and worship of deities: Each Yantra is associated with a specific deity and is used as a means to invoke and worship that deity in tantra yoga. When working with a Yantra, the practitioner seeks the blessing and guidance of the associated deity and aspires to merge with its divine energy.
  • Balancing and harmonizing energies: Yantras are also used to balance and harmonize energies in the body and environment. They can be used in personal practice or in rituals to create a sacred and protected space.
  • Manifestation of intentions: In tantra yoga, practitioners can use Yantras as tools to manifest their intentions and desires. By concentrating on the Yantra and visualizing their goal, the practitioner can channel cosmic energies and attract what they desire into their life.
  • Personal and spiritual transformation: Working with Yantras in tantra yoga can lead to a profound transformation in the practitioner’s life. By attuning to the energies they represent and applying their teachings, the practitioner can experience spiritual growth and a greater understanding of themselves and the universe.

Mandalas

Mandalas are geometric and symbolic representations of the universe, which can be used as tools for meditation and concentration in tantra yoga. Some key aspects of mandalas are:

  • Meditation and concentration: Mandalas are used as meditation objects in tantra yoga to help focus the mind and reach deeper states of consciousness. When meditating on a mandala, the practitioner concentrates on its symbolism and geometry, which facilitates mental calm and concentration.
  • Integration of the microcosm and macrocosm: In tantra yoga, it is believed that the individual (microcosm) is intrinsically connected to the universe (macrocosm). Mandalas represent this connection and help the practitioner to understand and experience the unity between their inner self and the outer world.
  • Representation of divine energy: Mandalas in tantra yoga are used to represent and honor deities and divine energies. By meditating on a mandala, the practitioner seeks to connect with these energies and receive their guidance and protection.
  • Personal transformation: The use of mandalas in tantra yoga is also a tool for personal growth and transformation. Through meditation and contemplation of the mandala, the practitioner can access a greater understanding of himself and the world around him, leading to a positive change in his life.
  • Balance and harmony: Mandalas are symmetrical and balanced representations that reflect the harmony inherent in the universe. By meditating on a mandala, the tantra yoga practitioner seeks to achieve a state of balance and harmony in his or her mind and body.

Sacred sexuality or Maithuna

El Tantra Yoga tiene múltiples beneficios para la salud física y mental.

Maithuna is an important aspect of Tantra Yoga (and without any doubt, the most known and misunderstood aspect of all). In the context of Tantra, Maithuna refers to the sacred sexual union between two people, which is performed as a conscious and spiritual act to achieve enlightenment and connection with the divine.

The word “Maithuna” comes from Sanskrit and means “union” or “intercourse“. In Tantra Yoga, Maithuna is much more than a simple sexual act. It is a ritualistic and meditative practice that allows couples to connect deeply on a physical, emotional and spiritual level through sexual energy (called Kundalini).

In Maithuna, couples seek to balance and merge their inner masculine and feminine energies, represented by Shiva and Shakti. The practice focuses on connection, intimacy and conscious communication between the participants, with the goal of expanding consciousness and raising sexual energy.

In Tantra Yoga, sexual energy is considered to be a powerful manifestation of vital energy or prana, which can be channeled and transformed for spiritual growth and self-realization. Sacred sexuality encompasses a range of practices and techniques including meditation, breathing, visualization, and yogic postures, all with the intention of cultivating connection and intimacy between partners.

Some key aspects of Maithuna in Tantra Yoga include:

  • Presence and awareness: during the practice, both participants must be fully present and aware of their thoughts, emotions and sensations. This involves being attentive to the partner’s needs and desires and communicating openly and honestly.
  • Synchronized Breathing: Breathing is a fundamental component in Tantra Yoga, and in Sacred Sex, the aim is to synchronize the breath between the participants. This can help establish a deeper connection and regulate sexual energy in the body.
  • Visualization and meditation: Visualization and meditation techniques are used to focus the mind and direct energy toward a spiritual goal. This may include visualizing the union of masculine and feminine energies, or the connection to divinity.
  • Yogic postures and slow movements: Sacred Sex can include a series of slow, conscious postures and movements that help channel and balance sexual energy, while increasing intimacy and emotional connection between the participants.
  • Transformation of sexual energy: Rather than focusing on immediate sexual gratification, Sacred Sex seeks to cultivate and transform sexual energy into a spiritual and healing force, leading to greater self-realization and connection with the higher self. The goal of Maithuna is not to achieve orgasm, but to experience sexual energy and transcend it. Therefore, the practice often involves the withholding of orgasm and the sublimation of sexual energy into spiritual energy. One learns to control and channel sexual energy, which can lead to deeper and more lasting experiences of ecstasy and spiritual connection.

It is important to note that Maithuna is not simply sex with a spiritual focus, but a conscious and committed practice that seeks to transform the sexual experience into a tool for spiritual growth and evolution.

Benefits of Tantra Yoga

  • Self-knowledge and self-acceptance: Tantra yoga encourages exploration of the inner self and helps to understand and accept our thoughts, emotions and desires. By practicing this form of yoga, a state of wholeness and self-acceptance is sought, which can lead to greater emotional and mental well-being.
  • Developing awareness: Through meditation and mindfulness practices, Tantra yoga helps to cultivate awareness of the present and become more connected to the body and mind. This increased awareness can improve mental clarity and the ability to make more conscious and empathetic decisions.
  • Improved interpersonal relationships: Tantra yoga fosters connection and communication with others, both in intimate and interpersonal relationships. By improving the ability to understand and express our own needs and desires, we can also learn to be more receptive and understanding of others, which can strengthen our relationships.
  • Stress and anxiety reduction: Regular practice of Tantra yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety by teaching relaxation and meditation techniques that promote calmness and emotional balance.
  • Sexual energy and vitality: Tantra yoga emphasizes balancing and channeling sexual energy, known as kundalini. By learning to control and utilize this energy, one can experience greater vitality and overall well-being, as well as a fuller and more satisfying sex life.
  • Improved physical health: Like other forms of yoga, Tantra yoga incorporates postures and physical exercises that can improve strength, flexibility and endurance. In addition, by focusing on breathing and body awareness, this practice can also contribute to improved cardiovascular health and reduced physical aches and pains.
  • Spiritual growth: Tantra yoga addresses spirituality by encouraging connection to divine energy and recognition of oneness among all beings. This spiritual perspective can bring a sense of purpose and meaning to life, and foster a more compassionate and loving attitude toward oneself and others.

Fundamental books of Tantra Yoga

Shiva Sutras

The Shiva Sutras are an ancient philosophical scripture in Sanskrit that originated in India between the 8th and 9th century AD. The work is attributed to the sage Vasugupta, who is said to have received these teachings in dreams directly from the god Shiva. The Shiva Sutras, also known as Maheshvara Sutras, are composed of 77 aphorisms or sutras, which are organized into three sections called Shambhavopaya, Shaktopaya and Anavopaya. These sutras form the basis of the philosophical and spiritual system known as Kashmir non-dual Shaivism.

Kashmir Shaivism is a branch of Shaivism that worships Shiva as the supreme and absolute reality. The central philosophy of this system is non-duality (Advaita), which holds that all beings and objects in the universe are manifestations of the same underlying principle, divine consciousness. In this context, the Shiva Sutras aim to provide guidance for Self-realization, union with Shiva, and liberation from the cycle of rebirth and death, known as samsara.

The first section, Shambhavopaya, focuses on the practice of pure consciousness and self-realization. In this stage, the practitioner strives to transcend limiting thoughts and perceptions, and recognize consciousness as the basis of reality. It is taught that by focusing on pure consciousness, the individual can come to experience the non-dual reality of Shiva and Shakti, where all phenomena are seen as manifestations of divinity.

The second section, Shaktopaya, focuses on the use of divine energy (Shakti) to transcend duality and achieve oneness with Shiva. This stage involves the practice of meditation and concentration techniques, as well as the use of mantras and yantras, with the aim of expanding consciousness and purifying the mind. Through these practices, the practitioner seeks to merge with cosmic energy and experience non-duality in its true essence.

The third section, Anavopaya, deals with the path of the limited individual or anu. This stage focuses on personal effort and purification of thought and action patterns. The goal of Anavopaya is to overcome the ego and the limitations imposed by the mind and body, which enables the practitioner to reach a state of expanded consciousness and a greater understanding of reality. This section also emphasizes the importance of devotion and divine grace as means to attain liberation.

Kularnava Tantra

The Kularnava Tantra is an ancient tantric text from the Hindu tradition. Also known as Kularnavatantra, it is considered one of the most important and authoritative treatises on Tantra in the Kaula and Shaktism tradition. Written in Sanskrit, the Kularnava Tantra addresses various topics related to philosophy, ritual practices, meditation, yoga and tantra in the context of the worship of the goddess Kali and her consort, the god Shiva.

Below we describe some fundamental aspects of Kularnava Tantra:

  • Philosophy: Kularnava Tantra presents a non-dualistic philosophy that advocates the union of Shiva and Shakti, the masculine and feminine principles, as the basis for spiritual realization. The work advocates that, through tantric practice, the individual can attain liberation (moksha) and union with the divine. In this context, Kularnava Tantra emphasizes the importance of devotion and worship of the goddess Kali as a manifestation of the divine feminine energy (Shakti).
  • Ritual practices: The text offers a wide variety of rituals and esoteric practices, many of which are designed to awaken and channel the kundalini energy, which is believed to reside at the base of the spine. These practices include the worship of the goddess Kali and the god Shiva through mantras, yantras (geometric diagrams) and pujas (worship ceremonies). In addition, Kularnava Tantra provides detailed instructions on the performance of rituals involving the use of elements such as flowers, incense, consecrated food and drink.
  • Meditation and yoga: Kularnava Tantra also presents advanced meditation and yoga techniques that aim to purify and elevate the mind, body and spirit of the practitioner. These techniques include meditation on the chakras (energy centers) and the practice of pranayama (breath control). Through meditation and yoga, practitioners can achieve concentration, introspection and, ultimately, union with the divine.
  • Initiation and transmission of knowledge: Kularnava Tantra emphasizes the importance of initiation (diksha) in the tantric tradition. Initiation is considered a prerequisite for the practice of tantric teachings and can be transmitted by a qualified spiritual master (guru) to a disciple. The process of initiation involves the transmission of knowledge and spiritual powers from the guru to the disciple, enabling the disciple to access deeper levels of consciousness and spiritual capacity.
  • Integration of worldly life and spirituality: Unlike other philosophical and religious systems that promote renunciation of the material world in pursuit of spirituality, Kularnava Tantra advocates the integration of worldly and spiritual life. According to this approach, daily life and human experiences can be vehicles for spiritual growth and realization. The practice of Tantra involves the transformation of human desires and emotions into spiritual energies, allowing the practitioner to experience the divine in all areas of life.
  • Secrecy and limited access: Kularnava Tantra is known for its esoteric and enigmatic nature, which has led to the perception that its teachings are secret and difficult to access. The text emphasizes the need to keep certain practices and knowledge hidden from the uninitiated, as indiscriminate disclosure could result in misunderstanding and misuse of the tantric teachings. In fact, some practices described in Kularnava Tantra, such as the use of intoxicating substances and sexual practices, have been the subject of controversy and misinterpretation throughout history.
  • The role of the guru: The figure of the spiritual master or guru is central to Kularnava Tantra, as the guru is considered to be the intermediary between the disciple and the divine. The guru is responsible for transmitting the tantric teachings, guiding the disciple in his or her practice and ultimately facilitating the process of spiritual realization. The relationship between guru and disciple is of utmost importance, and the disciple is expected to demonstrate unconditional devotion and obedience to the guru.

Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is an ancient Hindu tantric text that is considered an important part of the Shaivite Tantra canon, a branch of Hinduism that worships Shiva as the supreme deity. This text is a dialogue between Shiva and his consort, in which Shiva reveals 112 meditation techniques and spiritual practices, called dharanas, to achieve realization and union with the divine.

Unlike other religious texts that may focus on theory, philosophy or narrative, the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra focuses on practices and techniques that allow direct experience of divinity and self-realization.

The 112 dharanas cover a wide range of approaches and practices, allowing practitioners to choose those that best suit their personal inclinations and circumstances. These techniques include concentration on the breath, visualizations, the use of mantras, contemplation of nature, and experimentation with dream and waking states, among others

Practices in Vijnana Bhairava Tantra are designed to help practitioners transcend duality and ordinary perception of reality, allowing them to experience union with the divine and recognition of the ultimate reality underlying the phenomenal world.

Although the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is an ancient text and can be difficult to understand in its entirety without the guidance of a teacher, many of the practices and techniques described in it are accessible and can be applied by people of different levels of spiritual and cultural experience.

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