Out of the Shadows
HATHA YOGA PRACTICE, ITS IMPORTANCE TO PREPARATION FOR TANTRIC SEXUAL PRACTICE, ITS IMPORTANCE TO MAINTAIN HEALTH & LIFE.
(c) 1993 Rose Dawn Scott.
Hatha Yoga is sometimes dismissed as only the first step, or simple physical exercise. Yet Hatha is much more than that; it is a philosophy as well as a method to strengthen and limber the body. Pranayama, recognized as a vital science by most eastern and even many western spiritual traditions, is part of and inseparable from Hatha. Hatha also provides a potent form of meditation ; for it has been said that the body is a Yantra, the breath its mantra. Yantra/mantra is often used in meditation as an outside method of focusing the mind. If the yantra/mantra/meditation takes place within one's own body, the feeling of union is bound to be much more profound and easily grasped.
The root word of yoga is the Sanskrit "Yuj," meaning yoke. Yoga itself means Union. Union with the true Self, with the Universal Self, with the Tantric partner during lovemaking, with the Divine through the mundane. Ha + Tha = Sun + Moon, the union of the solar and lunar energies within the body, as microcosm of the universe.
The first written descriptions of yoga asana and pranayama come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, an Indian physician and Sanskrit scholar, although the practices are believed to have been older than that. Patanjali collected, refined and interpreted the asanas.
Although Hatha Yoga is profound from a spiritual standpoint, it's also excellent physical exercise. Not only the obvious benefits of strengthening and toning muscles, developing flexibility and balance, but each asana has a deeper effect on inner organs and the entire glandular system. It is a preventative for all kinds of physical (and emotional) ills, and a corrective for many hormonal imbalances and diseases. Its benefits for any sort of sex are twofold: (a) strengthen the body and develop flexibility, and (b) through harmonious balancing of hormones within the body, assisting with certain problems such as impotence, premature ejaculation, menstrual pain, and lack of sexual desire.
Anyone can can benefit from the regular, progressive practice of Hatha Yoga. Tantric aspirants can achieve a double benefit, by preparing the body as a fit vessel for spiritual evolution through Tantric sexuality.
Obviously, I can't go into any detail about the asanas themselves on paper. Hatha Yoga classes are offered literally everywhere these days, though, so that shouldn't be a problem. Cheap sources, such as classes at the Y, community centers, community colleges, etc., are a very good starting point, to get the basics down. Books are also very good--I will recommend a couple which seem to be particularly well-suited for Yoga practitioners in my opinion. The negative about books is that, if one is not practicing the asana correctly, there won't be any physical person available to correct the posture. Ideally, practice under a trained Yogi from one school or another would be the way to go. The downside of this method is (1) cost; (2) ensuring that the Yogi is sincere and not out to rip you off financially, and (3) even if the Yogi is both sincere and affordable, doubtless s/he will attempt to instill the particular philosophy of their school into the student. If the student finds benefit in that philosophy, fine, however, I've run into problems personally, when an excellent Yogini attempted to 'seduce' me into her own Swami's belief system, much of which I completely disagreed with. My experience as a teacher of Hatha Yoga has purposefully left out as much philosophical discussion as possible, concentrating on the physical and emotional benefits of Hatha, without any spiritual suggestions. Naturally, some spiritual aspects come into play; however, when one is in a teacher/student relationship, I tend to view anything outside the realm of the specific knowledge the aspirant has asked for as subtle extortion, however well-intended.
In this case, you're reading this file, so in a way you've asked for it ;) I will say what I always say: if it's not for you, don't do it. While Hatha Yoga has universal benefits, any spiritual or meditative qualities it possesses should be approached from the method that works best for the particular student, be it eastern-oriented, western-oriented, completely from within, or any combination thereof.
That said, a few generalities.
In Tantric tradition, sexual union is considered the highest form of Hatha Yoga (as well as many other things, but we're talking Yoga here!). Practiced alone, the 'union' takes place between the solar and lunar energies within each body, the upper and lower life energies, the body and mind. Practice of Yoga as a conscious means to transcend duality takes place on both physical and mystical levels. Naturally, the rejuvenation and perfection of the physical body also makes it much easier for Tantric sexual union to lead to higher transcendental realms, as aches, pains, and imbalances would naturally impede such evolution.
Traditionally, the ideal time for Hatha practice is early morning or early evening. In my opinion, whenever each person will have a time to ensure that the practice will be regular and faithful is the best. Some asanas must be performed on a completely empty stomach, and it is not recommended that Hatha be practiced either just before or after a meal, or just before or after heavy physical exertion. I, personally, find that practice of Hatha after strenuous exercise--with a slight break--channels the energies aroused by the strenuous activity, and allows me to bask in radiance. Tradition also states that any inverted postures should not be practiced by women during menstruation. I follow this advice, but more out of habit than conviction. ONE MOST IMPORTANT AND COMPLETELY TRUE CAUTION: INVERTED POSTURES MUST NEVER BE PRACTICED BY PREGNANT WOMEN!! This is purely medical in its nature, whatever its mystical connotations might be, for inverse postures can cause the placenta to separate, endangering the developing baby's health. More mundanely, it can also cause severe discomfort as the weight of the pregnant belly in such asanas will interfere with breathing and put a strain on the Yogini.
Another definite caution is that Hatha, by its nature, is progressive, and no postures should be forced; if pain is felt, one should stop or modify the asana. The physical reasons should be obvious: injury could inadvertently result if one tries to perform asana when not ready. The mystical reasons are tha t: one begins on a path, from wherever one is. Rather than try to force spiritual progress before one is ready, it should come in slow, natural steps.
From a purely personal standpoint, what joy to find something that
Remember, though, we progress at different levels, and physical disabilities or problems have an effect, which has nothing to do with one's spiritual fitness. So if Hatha seems difficult, persevere; don't be discouraged too quickly. By continued, regular, committed practice, inner strength will develop along with the outer.
Each human being is a Yogi or a Yogini. The asanas only seem bizarre to us western folk because we're not used to them. Physical and mental conditioning and habit get in the way. The way we're used to moving and breathing is un-natural! Yoga is natural. Overcome the body/mind conditioning, and asana and prana will become natural. The body and mind will be cleared from baggage. Progress will result. This I guarantee unequivocally--provided the practitioner maintains practice.
Another note: practicing asana nude is the ideal way. This allows maximum freedom of movement, without the restriction of clothing, or the dangers of shirts flapping over the face while in inverse postures! It also allows the life energies to circulate more freely. If the temperature is cool, or when in a class, where nudity could be frowned upon ;) the clothing should be of natural material, i.e., cotton, raw silk, light wool.
The word "asana" means more than "physical posture," but a posture that is "firm and pleasant." Firm and pleasant at once.
Literally thousands of asanas are recorded, however many of them are adaptations of asanas, allowing for progress and/or variety. It is by no means necessary to attempt them all! A few asanas are pretty much universally accepted by all schools as vital, and those are the ones emphasized in books, classes, and television shows. Numerous sexual postures, from Tantric tradition, the Kama Sutra, and Taoist teachings, derive directly from asana. Asana may also be practiced with a partner. Some of the asanas are perfectly suited to this. There are books specifically written for "yoga with a partner." For a Tantrist, this partner should be the sexual partner, obviously, or the prospective partner. A Tantric Sexual Initiator/Initiatress would be an ideal instructor of Hatha Yoga as well.
In advanced Tantric teachings, specific asanas are prescribed, as sort of archetypical, ritualistic methods of evoking and joining with other life-forms and/or realms beyond this world. At the beginning, you can either follow directions from a teacher or book as to which asana to perform, and which follows which, or simply listen to the best teacher: your own body and mind. Personally, I tend to begin with energizing b reathing cycles, practice Hatha, and end with calming breaths, then finally Savasana (corpse pose or complete relaxation pose), while meditating and opening the chakras in Savasana, circulating the energy consciously, then pulling the chakra-light back in through the crown of the head. It's highly individual, but common sense dictates that an active, exertive asana should not be followed or preceded by calming breaths; and that each forward-bending posture should be followed by its mirror-image backw ard-bending posture.
When muscles and connective tissues are loosened, the vital energy travels more easily through the body. Many asanas were developed to assist in releasing these energies; then in channeling them. Thus studying the subtle body and knowing its channels is a great benefit to Hatha. Visualize the energies being released and travelling their designated paths while practicing, again, the consciousness and intent elevating the form from merely physical to spiritual. Also, it may be eas ier to achieve certain postures by first meditation on them, visualizing oneself taking the steps to assume the posture. If inverse postures are difficult, a powerful visual image of rays emanating from the solar plexus and anchoring the body in place, so it doesn't wobble or fall, can aid immensely in actually achieving those postures--and they are all very important, to reverse the Ha-Tha currents and enable them to 'meet in the middle,' so to speak, and for their effects on the glandular systems and internal organs. Once the inverse asana has been conquered, when coming out of it, consciously "re-absorb" the rays and store them back in the power chakra located at the solar plexus region.
When practice of Hatha and Pranayama becomes part of one's daily routine, it is quickly integrated as a vital part of one's *life.* Any regular practitioner will find unimagined stores of energy and release of mental and physical tension. When practiced either alone or as a couple as part of Tantra, the ph ysical parameters will be deepened and finally transcended, allowing the spirituality of sexual energy to rise, and effect a positive transformation on any Yogi or Yogini.
Excellent sources for obtaining some of the older or less common books, aside from used bookstores or local 'occult' or 'eastern' bookstores, are:
American Yoga Association
Shasta Abbey Books & Supplies
Light of Yoga Society
U.C. Berkeley Press
Motilal Banarsidass Publishers
NOTE: As I haven't purchased anything new for my library in a while, some of the above may be outdated. If so, please notify me (and don't say I didn't warn ya if you waste your $ 0.29~~). As far as I know, the above still offer free catalogues; however, it would be most polite if one enclosed an SASE asking for info.
ASANAS & THEIR EFFECTS FOR TANTRIC SEXUAL PRACTICE:
For gaining flexibility of the body, specifically toward ease of achievement of sexual positions:
Cat Stretch. Everybody teaches this one.
Padmasana; including Bound Padmasana & Padmasana/Yoga-Mudra. (The
Lotus, with variations).
Awakening Vital Energy:
Pranayama - all vital or recharging breath cycles. Solar-Lunar breathing. Brahmari Breath. See Prana text here, or learn from teacher or book specifically focused on Pranayama. Salamba-Sarvangasana & Niralamba-Sarvangasana (half and full shoulderstand). Cobra, Locust, Bow triad. Kapalasana (Headstand). If headstand can't be achieved even with regular practice, Paruottasana (alternate head to knee pose) has many of the same benefits, and is easier to master. Ardha Matsyendranasana (spinal twist).
Pituitary: Headstand, Paruottasana.
All inverted postures. Elemental exercises (see file on Five Elements & Sexual energy here). Virasana (warrior posture), esp. with Gomukhasana (alternate over-shoulder hand clasp behind back, creating powerful circulation of energy). Tarasana (pose of astar--esp. for Yoginis). "Frog" or "Yogini" posture (obviously, esp. for Yoginis). Aswini Mudra (known as Kegel exercises to modern women--contraction/relaxation of anal sphincter muscles and, for Yoginis, vaginal muscles.
Menstrual problems--note, to be done early in cycle, not during menstruation:
Cobra, Locust, Bow. Uddiyana and Nauli. Aswini-Mudra. Hidden Padmasana. Camel and Supine Camel. Headstand. Shoulderstand. Fish.
Pranayama, esp. Solar-Lunar, cooling breath, and healing breath. Headstand or head-to-knee). Shoulderstand. Maha-Mudra, spinal twists, supine Camel. Balancing poses, which heighten concentration. Ejaculation and its control has an entire history of its own in Tantra!
Kundalini and Chakra awakening and opening:
Vivid meditation while in Savasana (corpse or relaxation pose). Goldasana and Vrikasana, two types of balancing poses. "Bound" balancing postures create a special circuit for channelling energy. Forward bend, and alternate leg forward bend. Yogini pose for yoginis, while meditating on "Though I am open to all, none but the Ether possess me." Cobra, Locust, Bow, and Akarna- Dhanurasana ("Archer," a progressive variation on Bow). BandhaPadmasana. Mayurasana (the Peacock pose), a difficult and advanced posture. Note that peacocks have the power to digest snake venom, eliminating any frightening experiences associated with the rising of Kundalini! Yoganidrasana, Visnu's Sleep Posture, an advanced variant on the bound-plough pose. Simhasana (Lion), traditionally recommended for colds and sore throats, also effectively awakens Kundalini.
HARI AUM TAT SAT.
D. Yogini Padma Ushas Suryananda, other sources as cited.
(c) 1993 Rose Dawn Scott.
All work is copyright the listed author.