Yoga, Tantra, Tantra Yoga
Yoga, tantra, tantra yoga, there sure is much talking about these things lately. And many people practice yoga or want to practice yoga. Or they go for a tantra massage. But what does it represent? What do the words mean? Where do they have their origin? Most people do not know the actual meaning of these daily used words. And even those who know, are often very confused because it is all so complex and there are so many different kinds of teachings and opinions.
Yoga versus Asana
So, let us start with the word yoga.
Most people think that yoga is putting your body in impossible postures while trying to keep breathing. Some of that is true. But this is called asana and is only part of the yoga practice. And when you practice your asanas on a daily basis, you gain suppleness, and your breath becomes profound and quiet, and this gives you more clarity.
So, if what we call yoga is asana, then what is yoga?
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit (one of the world's oldest languages used in India) word 'yug' or to unite. It refers to the union of the self, mentally, physically and spiritually within yourself and with the world and the cosmos. The word religion that comes from the Latin re-ligare or to re-unite and does mean the same. The word religion in the early beginnings did also refer to a series of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines. It was only later that the word became associated with a church or temple or mosque. But in the beginning, those practices were purely shamanic and pagan.
The practice of asanas is the physical aspect that cultivates and honours your body. Pranayama, or breathing techniques, takes care of your body and your mind. Meditation gives clarity to the brain. Mantra Japa or chanting is directed more to the spiritual realm.
Different types of Yoga
So far for the difference between the western idea of yoga and the original Indian concept of yoga. In India, we find many types of Yoga. Now that this is clear, we can get to our next problem. How many different kinds of yoga do we have?
We can divide the types of Yoga again in the Western idea of Yoga and then we see words rise like hot yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, yin yoga, kundalini yoga, soft yoga. Most of these yoga's only refer to the kind of Asana's that you are doing. Some include diet or lifestyle.
Then we find names of Yoga that reveal the Indian concept of the word. Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raya Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Jnana Yoga, they all have a philosophical background, a lifestyle concept depending on what you focus, Bhakti or selfless worship, Karma or selfless actions, Raya or Meditation and leadership, Jnana or real knowledge. They all concentrate on a life concept and lifestyle to keep the body and mind healthy. Mostly they are having very strict, rules focusing more on rigid discipline.
Tantra Yoga, the anarchist among the Yoga's
There is a lot written about Tantra and the word Tantra, again in the West, almost became a synonym of sexual practices. The use of the Kundalini energy is only a small part of Tantra and, in spite of what many people think, should be practised very carefully. A definition that I like a lot is from Tantra Unveiled by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait.
'Because their scope is all-encompassing, tantrics have always discarded conventional standards of morality, ethics, and purity whenever those standards were found to be obstacles to the process of personal growth and self-discovery, and this has set them apart from the religion into which they were born. Their liberal and scientific approach to personal
fulfilment has prevented them from forming a tantric
religion. Thus at a social level tantrism refers to a particular way of life, at a philosophical level it refers to Shakti metaphysics, and at a spiritual level, it consists of a set of techniques for gaining access to the multi-level forces within the human body and the cosmos'.