Tantra, Mantra, and Kundalini Yoga
Tantra, Mantra, and Kundalini Yoga are grouped together here because they are all somewhat different than the other types of yoga. Although they share many practices and ideas, Tantra, Mantra, and Kundalini Yoga are more esoteric than other forms of yoga. Tantra Yoga involves the study of sacred writings and rituals. Mantra Yoga is the study of sacred sounds. Kundalini Yoga is the study of kundalini (energy) movement along the spine, which is released through breath and specific Hatha Yoga movements.
All three types of yoga should be learned under the guidance of a qualified teacher and all require a degree of emotional, mental, and moral preparation. Tantra Yoga has been associated with sexual rituals in popular culture, but that is an inaccurate portrayal. Tantric thought assumes that we live in a dark age (kali yuga) and therefore must use every method possible to boost our spirituality. Because Tantra Yoga emphasizes the power of ritual, it has become most famous in Western culture for its notion that sexual energy is an important store of energy that can be rechanneled to further you along your way to spiritual enlightenment. Our culture has expanded on the idea of sexual energy and sometimes perverts the concept into something it was never meant to be. Tantra isn’t about sex. It is a complex, ancient, and esoteric discipline with a wide range of practices, often involving sacred rituals based on the idea that humans are reflections of divinity.
Tantra is also meant to be studied under a qualified adept, and its rituals and philosophies kept secret from others who aren’t receiving professional guidance; the intention is to prevent its precepts from being misunderstood and misused. Mantra Yoga centers around the principle that sound can affect consciousness. Shamanism, yoga’s probable precursor, considered sound an extremely important aspect of the search for spiritual enlightenment, and even today many religions use singing, chanting, rhythm, and recitation in their rituals. Mantra Yoga arose as a result of mystical experiences rather than philosophy. A mantra is a syllable or sequence of syllables designed to clear the mind and encourage spiritual awakening. Sanskrit syllables are thought to awaken reflexology points in the mouth, which in turn energize the body to higher states of consciousness. Om is the most commonly known mantra syllable and sounds curiously (but probably not coincidentally) like “Amen,” the sound that punctuates so many religious hymns and prayers.Chanting a mantra puts you in touch with the vibrational patterns of the world and the universe’s ocean of vibration, helping you ascend to a state of oneness with the universe. Mantra Yoga is all about that vibration and the sonic aspect of the divine. Japa is the process of repeating mantras over and over for the purpose of clearing the mind. Here are a few mantras other than Om that you might like to try:
➤ OM NAMAH SHIVAYA (pronounced OHM NAH-mah SHEE-vah-YAH). “To divinity my salutations again and again.”
➤ HARI-OM (HAH-ree OHM). “Preserving goodness in all.”
➤ OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAYA (OHM NAH-moh BAH-GAH-VAH-teh VAH-soo-DEEVAH- yah). “I turn to the divinity within the heart of all beings.”
➤ AHAM BRAHMASMI (AH-HAM BRAH-MAHS-mee). “I am the absolute.”
➤ OM MANI PADME HUM (OHM MAH-nee PAHD-may HOOM). “Enlightened body, enlightened speech, enlightened mind, active compassion.”
Kundalini Yoga involves techniques meant to awaken the energy, symbolized as a snake, that “sleeps” at the base of the spine. When released correctly (that is, when the recipient is properly prepared), kundalini energy, sometimes called “serpent power,” is potent and results in enlightenment. If released too soon, kundalini energy mixes with a person’s negative emotionality and can turn into intense and painful experiences. Pure kundalini is a balanced and compassionate state of being. A person cannot have a negative kundalini experience. If someone has a negative experience, it is due to something other than kundalini. A kundalini awakening is thought to result not only in enlightenment, but also in the ability to control involuntary bodily functions such as heartbeat. To awaken the kundalini, you must go through complex mental and breathing exercises that should be practiced only under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Sometimes (though it’s rare), a kundalini awakening will happen spontaneously, but don’t be scared away. Kundalini Yoga is, at its heart, searching for the same thing as all other types of yoga. Classes are available in this interesting branch of yoga; with proper instruction, the practice of Kundalini Yoga can be enjoyable, energizing, and ultimately enlightening.