Tantra Yoga

Tantra Yoga – Defined and Demystified

Published on October 17, 2019

Tantra Yoga is a relatively modern revamping of the ancient Vedic and yogic spiritual practices. The Tantrics developed innovative yet unorthodox techniques for allowing one to experience the reality of the true Self–the oneness of the entire cosmos. Instead of expanding and focusing one’s awareness outwards, Tantra saw the value of the body as a tool to explore and delight in. Previously, yoga techniques were focused on the renunciation of the physical body and a conscious effort to detach from the suffering encountered in the body. Tantra instead discovered the value in the awareness and delight in the body’s inner world of energy. Understanding the techniques and goals of tantra yoga is important as hatha yoga originated from this system of yoga, and tantra provides a context for the individual practices and techniques of modern yoga.

What is Tantra Yoga?

The contextual meaning of the word Tantra has changed over time when used in different yogic texts. Originally Tantra was used to mean “weave or loom,” and later was used to define “technique, device, or method.”  A more current and relevent definition comes from the Kāmikā-tantra text:

Because it elaborates (tan) copious and profound matters, especially relating to the principles of reality (tattva) and sacred mantras, and because it provides liberation (tra), it is called a tantra.

Thus, Tantra is a type of yoga that weaves together many different techniques, such as mantra meditation, visualization, mudras, pranayama and initiation to study the inner-universe through our human body.  These Tantric techniques and rituals primarily focus on the cultivation and build-up of kundalini energy. Once the kundalini energy has been activated it is encouraged to flow up the nadis and chakras to eventually the crown chakra to “spill from the top” and create samadhi or enlightenment.

Tantra Yoga Techniques

The energetic focus of Tantra yoga originates from the worship of Shiva and Shakti–the dynamic and static principles of the universe. The energy of Shakti (dynamic, creative, feminine) and Shiva (static, destructive, masculine) are seen as a continual play that manifests in a multitude of forms.

In Tantra Yoga, the subtle bodies of energy and spirit are developed to create a bridge from the physical to the Devine. The development of energy is focused on the purification and cultivation of prana and the activation of kundalini. The physical body is used to activate energy through the practices of asana, pranayama, mudra, and shatkarma. Thus, the Tantra yogis developed the yoga postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) that are most commonly used today in Hatha Yoga. Mudras include hand gestures and an intense fusion of asana, pranayama, and bandha. Shatkarma (often referred to as kriya) are esoteric exercises and techniques to purify the body and cleanse the energy pathways.

The devotional practices of mantra, yantra, and puja are used to develop the spiritual body. Mantras are sacred Sanskrit sounds that are manifestations of the divine power. Yantras are sacred geometric forms used for concentration and visualization in Tantric rituals. Puja is the active devotional worship of a chosen deity through offerings of food, incense, light, water, and gems.

Tantra Yoga and Sex

Tantra yoga was introduced to the west in the nineteenth century as exotic sexual-spiritual practices to deepen connection and intimacy.  The interest in Eastern spirituality and the sexual and revolutions of the late 1960s and early 1970s further popularized and cemented Tantra as a yoga technique for great sex. Tantra as a sacred sexuality practice does relate to classical tantric teachings on the subtle energy body and an embodied presence to sexual union. But to simplify and conflate sexual techniques and interpersonal intimacy with the practice of tantra yoga is a distortion of this elaborate and complicated system of enlightenment.

The Goal of Tantra

The Tantra Yogis emphasis on personal experimentation and experience led to radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. The famous “Left Hand” schools of Tantra used unlawful practices of consuming sex, alcohol, and meat as powerful tools for transformation. Tantra Yoga encompasses a huge range of techniques, yet its underlying focus is on using the body as a temple to worship the all-encompassing oneness of life as sacred.

Tantra enables the practitioner to directly experience the Divine and to taste the oneness of the cosmos. Tantra offers a smorgasbord of yogic techniques to bring one into the state of ecstasy representing a vast synthesis of spiritual knowledge.

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14 responses to “Tantra Yoga – Defined and Demystified”

  1. Homer Avatar

    The shakras should (in my case) should be visited after a long absence.

  2. Elaine Hanson Avatar
    Elaine Hanson

    Homer: The word really is “chakra”==pronounced with a “ch” sound, not “sh” ….that is an American misnomer I’m afraid, Do go ahead and feel free to say and spell Chakra!” ;-) Peace!

  3. Mary Tucker Avatar
    Mary Tucker

    I would like to do all of the exercises that are listed here. I have been sick and feel I need restoration in the worst way. I am 74 years young. I need help for total healing. I just have no idea how to began. I have started a lot of things including college but never finished. Mary in Atlanta

    1. Beatrice Avatar

      Intent is the first step😚

  4. Charlotte Avatar

    Your website has helped me loads on my healing journey. So many amazing topics in full depth, like this one on tantra yoga. Many thanks and blessings!

  5. Carmen Mcgurk Avatar
    Carmen Mcgurk

    Tantra Yoga exercises are considered the yoga of realization. They are based on each of 108,000 subtle points and chakras. The entire body of tantra yoga is centered around the chakras, the 108,000 subtle points in the body. These subtle points are where energy, life force, and prana (life force) emerges.

  6. Rico Backe Avatar
    Rico Backe

    This has been an interesting read so far. As someone who has practiced tantric sex for years, I have always wondered what exactly “Tantra” means. I understand that there are different schools of thought on the subject but I am curious to know more about the origins of the word itself. Thank you for sharing!

  7. But Si LVV Avatar
    But Si LVV

    Body as temple….yes, thru our body we see the Devine creation, the great engineering of Supreme Energy.
    Since, hathayoga, the union of masculine and feminine, thru sex, is a sacred union.

  8. Daniel Shmelevich Avatar
    Daniel Shmelevich

    I believe the association of Tantra and sex is a misunderstanding of the imagery. It is about union of the masculine and feminine of ones innerself. Actually the practice requires one to abstain from ejaculation because you lose a lot of life energy. In Ayurveda they say one drop of semem is worth 20 drops of blood. Once unity is achieved a Being will attain a Universal perspective of reality and experience pure consciousness. Through that perspective You will have great understanding. Unfortunately it will alienate you from everyone you love because they will appear naive and lost to You and no amount of explaining will get them to see the Truth as You do.

    1. Gafar Avatar


  9. Sebastian Kostas Avatar
    Sebastian Kostas

    I’m in awe of the depth of knowledge that this article on Tantra Yoga offers. It’s really helped me deepen my understanding of this ancient practice.

  10. Emma Avatar

    I found it interesting how Tantra yoga incorporates elements of both Hinduism and Buddhism. It shows how different spiritual traditions can be integrated and combined to create a unique and powerful practice.

  11. Swapan Ghosh Avatar
    Swapan Ghosh

    Reading the article and reviews I have become interested in Tantra Yoga, which I feel is the need of the day, specially for Americans and Europeans.

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Timothy Burgin Avatar
About the author
Timothy Burgin is a Kripalu & Pranakriya trained yoga instructor living and teaching in Asheville, NC. Timothy has studied and taught many styles of yoga and has completed a 500-hour Advanced Pranakriya Yoga training. Timothy has been serving as the Executive Director of YogaBasics.com since 2000. He has authored two yoga books and has written over 500 articles on the practice and philosophy of yoga. Timothy is also the creator of Japa Mala Beads and has been designing and importing mala beads since 2004.
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