Tantra - Thoughts & Practice From the Root of Yoga
By Dr. Corynna Clarke
Tantra Yoga is both a written and oral tradition that dates back at least 6,000 -
some say 20,000 - years. It is common in the West to equate Tantra with sex, but
in actuality it is a spiritual science more concerned with artfully approaching
every activity and creating a well-rounded and masterful balance of each aspect
While people are prone to attach Tantra to the Kama Sutra, history reveals the
Kama Sutra to be an ancient book that has been translated many times, often for
kings or rulers who wanted to impose certain sexual standards. Although it does
have its roots in Tantra, it has been changed so many times that you would never
know it by modern translation.
Tantra is about embracing all of life and taking the middle path. It doesn’t
advocate hedonistic indulgence that depletes the life force, nor is it about living
an unrealistic saint-like existence that doesn’t include things like lower chakras
and bodily function.
Contrary to Western assumption, several partners, or even one partner is not
needed to be Tantric. There are many single and even celibate Tantricas. If the
desire for transformation, empowerment and enlightenment is present, then
everything needed is within. Each person is born Tantric, the inside wiring is
The word Tantra is Sanskrit, deriving from the root word tan, which translates as
"to extend, expand, spread, continue, spin out, weave; to put forth, show, or
manifest." This includes thoughts, actions, and all physical matter. Tantras,
sacred Buddhist and Hindu scriptures, are the basis for the philosophy. However,
Tantra can also be seen as a type of mystical teaching set out mostly in the form
of dialogs between a cosmic couple, intimate insightful dialogs, between God and
Goddess, Shiva and Shakti, the male and female Tantric adepts. These were at
times written down and became known as Tantras, such as the medieval
Sanskrit work, the Kula-Arnava-Tantra. God Shiva is attributed as the divine
author of this and many other Tantras. One aspect of Tantra, according to Yoga
scholar Georg Feuerstein is, however, "the understanding that sexual energy is
an important reservoir of energy that should be used wisely to boost the spiritual
process rather than block it through orgasmic release."
Before there was shame, sexual energy was transformational. Tantra embraces
the life force energy as being a magical, creative power. In Tantric lore it is
through Lord Shiva and his consort Shakti’ s sacred lovemaking that the entire
universe is born. The deeper lesson being: to listen to our intuition not our
conditioning. This is the realization that wholeness is within our grasp, available
to us right now.
The practice of cultivating this sexual, transformational energy is by definition
different for men and women. Shiva is consciousness. Consciousness naturally
expands and contracts, rises and falls. In a man the life force runs from bottom to
top. Strength - sun - is in the base of the spine and receives moon from above.
When men practice ejaculatory retention, eventually the stimulation builds and
pushes upward into the higher centers activating them.
Shakti, on the other hand, is energy itself. Energy often changes form and shape,
but needs to move or it stagnates. It is limitless, but serves us consciously only
when exercised and expressed. When women practice Tantra they find a much
stronger libido than any man’s. Women are the conduits by which spirit is born
into matter, which means her energy runs from the crown of her head (moon) to
the base of her spine.
When Shiva and Shakti are sitting upright with the chakras aligned and legs
intertwined in sexual union, Yab-yum or the ‘mother-father’ position, their energy
creates a circle, and in effect an endless circuit. As they continue to raise and
multiply their energy, they eventually connect with the highest and most powerful
part of the soul, which is connected to the infinite universal consciousness or
Ultimate Reality, a state that is literally impossible for the nervous system to
reach on its own.
Within all of us, however, a metaphysical bridge exists, and that is known as
Kundalini. There can be no discussion of Tantra without including Kundalini,
which is both spiritual and sexual energy. This "serpent power" or kundalini-
shakti is also known as the creative or life force energy that lies dormant in the
human body-mind. Tantric practices to awaken the life force are numerous and
varied, as described in the Tantras, and begin with attempts to modify the
pathways of the life force directly. One fairly familiar technique known to
practicing yogis wherein it is possible to raise the kundalini-shakti, is that of nadi
shodhana (cleansing of the nadis). Even so, spontaneous Kundalini awakenings
have been recorded, and they have not lead to instant bliss, rather painful
physical and psychological conditions, even death.
Sex is not necessarily going to raise your Kundalini either, unless you are
working with yogic breath, mantra, and the intention to gently awaken that
dormant energy. A person may have the potential to write a novel, but unless
there is a pen, paper and strong commitment, it is just potential. The Kundalini in
itself is neither good nor bad. It simply is the Goddess energy as it manifests in
the human body. In the Sanskrit dictionary, there is no mention of the words
“physical”, “exercise” or even “specific” under the definition of yoga. Yoga literally
means ‘union’ with oneself and the divinity within. Yoga can also apply to the
path, discipline or process leading up to this divine union, whatever that might be.
Much of the ‘yoga’ practiced and expressed in Western renditions, despite the
physical asanas that exercise the corpus (or body), focuses almost entirely on
the upper chakras.
In Tantra these practices expand to reach the full body. By touching all chakras
and aiding natural energy flows (including those to and from another person), the
body-mind reaches a new level of awareness and ecstasy in the true, original
intent of the word. It is tapping the divine light and warmth that flows within and
through all of us very directly. It feels good because it touches our true nature as
As a science, Tantra incorporates the entire chakra system by running energy
through and out each one. For example, Savahadistana is the second chakra, or
creative center, which governs our reproductive system and sexual energy. The
second chakra can’t be renounced or cut out like a diseased organ, it’s an
integral part of the whole system; just like the genitals are part of the body and
sex is part of life.
To practice true Tantra you have to be initiated and complete a spiritual
discipleship with a qualified adept or guru. Tantra must first be transmitted then
practiced and finally experienced. This alone could take an entire lifetime, but
what is that in the context of what can potentially be accomplished through living
with full awareness of our unlimited and untapped natures? A book can help you
grasp the concepts mentally but many Tantra students fall into the trap of trying
to intellectualize and miss the essence of what it really is: A journey of self-
awareness and evolution. Ultimately, Tantric transformation happens at a cellular
level, affecting the body, the mind and the very soul.
The right-handed path would say it is essential to study with a guru who comes
from a long lineage of gurus. A Neo-Tantric in the West might say be your own
teacher, use your intuition, tune into your body and learn on the move as you
traverse through the new heights and feelings. Either way, you will find places
your have never been to before, in your body, in relationships and in life. A
compromise may be to do both.
In essence, Tantra is an ancient way of being, a way to live that is softer, and
more yin than the frantic outside world that often distracts from the feelings and
intuition present deep in the soul of our being. Tantra is about being present in
every moment, approaching life without fear and loving the self and others fully
and open heartedly. Tantra is not really about learning something new; it’s more
about remembering something that you already know.
Dr. Corynna Clarke is a Tantric teacher and healer. People from all walks of life
attend her seminars and workshops.