What is Tantra Yoga? Exploring Indian Esoteric Yogic Traditions

I'll admit, before I studied yoga, I thought tantra yoga was some weird, sexual practice. I often wondered, what is tantra yoga, really? So, when I did my yoga teacher training, this was one style I had a lot of apprehensions about.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is nothing sexual about tantra yoga. If anything, this yoga style is more spiritual than most, thanks to the rich philosophy and various rituals weaved into it.

So, if you're wondering, “What is tantra yoga really about?” read on.

I'm explaining what to expect from a tantra yoga class, the tantric techniques, and what makes this style unique. 

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5 benefits of tantra yoga

5 benefits of tantra yoga: 1. Improved flexibility and joint health 2. Improved immune functioning 3. Enhanced sexual wellness 4. A deeper connection to self and others 5. Energetic balancing

Whether you do tantric yoga on your own or with your partner (see below), there are many incredible benefits to gain, including:

  1. Improved flexibility and joint health – Many tantra asanas target the hips and spine. This improves flexibility of the muscles and mobility of the joints.
  2. Improved immune functioning – The wide range of breathing exercises in tantra yoga helps boost the immune system's functioning by increasing oxygen flow and expelling toxins from the body.
  3. Enhanced sexual wellness – Tantra yoga can give you a better sex life! The primary purpose of Tantra is to harness sexual energy (Kundalini). This has many benefits for the energetic body but also promotes healthy sexual function and increased pleasure. Research has found that tantra yoga practices benefit both male and female sexual wellness.
  4. A deeper connection to self and others – Solo tantra fosters a deeper internal connection by connecting you with your sacred sexuality. Meanwhile, couples Tantra promotes sexual union and enhances intimacy and communication.
  5. Energetic balancing – Tantra yoga opens and balances the seven main chakras, helping to release any energetic blockages. This can help to heal ailments in the mental or physical body, too.

Tantra yoga techniques

Tantra yoga weaves together various yogic techniques to build a deeper connection to ourselves and advance along our yoga journey. The process of tantra yoga goes back to the meaning of the word Tantra, which means “to weave” in Sanskrit.

Along with asana, meditation, and breath work, you'll work with the following techniques in tantra yoga:

  • Visualization – While practicing yoga poses or meditating, you'll be encouraged to visualize energy moving up your spine and clearing blockages and stagnation in the chakras.
  • Bandhas – While practicing asanas, your tantra teacher will cue you to engage the three primary bandhas (energetic locks). This helps you control and direct the energy flow in your body. 
  • Mantras – These sacred words and phrases are part of nada (sound) yoga, creating powerful vibrations within the human body. Mantra practice can help you connect with a deity, playing an essential role in the path to spiritual enlightenment.
  • Mudras – In Tantra, mudras (sacred hand gestures) evoke a certain energy, direct energy flow to a specific body part, or serve as an invocation to a deity.
  • Yantras – Yantras are geometric diagrams used in tantric rituals to worship or call upon Indian deities. This comes from the tantric philosophy around Shiva and Shakti, two opposing forces that represent the dynamic and static principles of the universe. According to tantric tradition, these two energies unite when we practice tantra yoga, promoting spiritual growth and self-realization.

These techniques also correspond to the seven stages of Tantra:

  1. Shuddhi (purification) 
  2. Pranayama (breathing techniques)
  3. Dharana (concentration of the mind)
  4. Puja (worship ritual)
  5. Indriya Nigraha (control of the senses)
  6. Maithuna (union of opposing forces – this can relate to tantric sex)
  7. Samadhi (bliss/enlightenment)

Tantra yoga for beginners 

Surprisingly, tantra yoga is similar to regular yoga, so you can expect to practice many of the same yoga poses (asanas).

In tantra yoga, you combine every pose with a particular type of breathwork. There is a specific reason behind this – to awaken the subtle energy body and channel Kundalini energy up the chakras.

Traditional tantra yoga style encompasses various yogic techniques, including:

  • Meditation
  • Pranayama (breathing techniques)
  • Chanting sacred mantras (Nada)
  • Mudra practice (sacred hand gestures)
  • Yantras

The practice of yantras is the most significant difference between hatha yoga, and other styles of yoga, and the tantric path (I'll explain more about this spiritual practice in the later sections).

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5 foundational tantra yoga poses 

In a classical tantra yoga practice, (known as white tantra), you will hold static poses. This is different from other styles like Vinyasa yoga, where you move dynamically or flow from pose to pose. 

Moreover, this style of tantra is a solo practice, so you practice the poses independently rather than with a partner.

Here are five common tantric yoga poses you will likely encounter when practicing tantra yoga.

1. Lotus pose

Female yogi practicing lotus pose.

Lotus pose (Padmasana) is a typical posture in tantric yoga. The seated position opens the hips and activates kundalini energy in the root chakra. Then, the combination of mantra, mudra, and breath work channels this energy up the spine. 

2. Mountain pose

Female yogi practicing mountain pose.

Mountain pose (Tadasana) is a popular asana in the warm-up section of tantra practice. This pose combines movement with breath to open the spine and build heat in the body. You reach your arms overhead on your inhale, directing your breath to your chest and upper back. Then, on the exhale, you lower your arms as you contract the navel.

3. Bridge pose

Female yogi practicing bridge pose.

Bridge pose is commonly present in the second series (supine poses) that follows the standing and seated positions. Bridge pose helps to release tension, stored emotions, and energetic blocks in the sacral, solar plexus, and heart chakras. A common variation is extending one leg, amplifying energy in the lumbar region.

4. Crocodile pose

Female yogi practicing crocodile pose.

Crocodile pose (Makraasana) marks the third and final series in traditional tantra yoga practice. In this pose, you lay on your belly, resting your forehead on your hands. While holding the crocodile, you direct your breath into your lower back. This awakens and expands the subtle body energies, moving them up the energetic body towards the upper chakras.

5. Locust pose

Female yogi practicing locust pose.

Locust pose (Salabhasana) is another asana practiced in the final series while lying prone. Like the crocodile pose, the locust awakens life force in the root chakra and moves it up the energy pathways. One common variation of this pose is placing fists under your hips to apply more pressure to the lower chakras. 

Tantra yoga for couples 

Tantra yoga for couples is becoming increasingly popular. Still, there is a difference between practicing tantra yoga poses with a partner (tantric yoga) and engaging in sexual practices (tantric sex).

Couples tantra yoga classes include all the same techniques as a solo tantra class. However, they focus on increasing sexual energy and intimacy between both partners. 

Tantra yoga can help couples better understand each other. It can also enhance their communication and trust, and even bring the spark back to their relationship. 

3 beginner tantra yoga poses for couples

So, what yoga poses do you practice in a couples tantra session? Here are 3 beginner-friendly asanas you can try together at home.

1. Boat pose

In this asana, you face each other, extending your legs and bringing your feet to touch theirs. You'll then hold onto your partner's hands for stability, and as you maintain the pose, you keep eye contact. 

2. Yab yum

Yab Yum (the lovemaking posture) involves one partner (typically the heaviest) sitting in a cross-legged lotus position. The lighter partner then sits on top (facing them) and brings their legs behind their partner's back, with the soles of the feet touching. Both partners then touch foreheads, gazing into each other's eyes.

3. Camel pose

To do camel pose together, you both kneel to face each other. Come as close to each other as possible so that your thighs and hips are touching. Then, hold onto each other's arms as you slowly lean back. Open your heart to the sky, but keep pushing your thighs into theirs. 

You can also do this pose where one partner leans back while the other wraps their arms around their lower back to support them. 

What is Kundalini tantra yoga?

There are two forms of kundalini yoga; One is Hatha-based, and the other is Tantra-based. 

Kundalini tantra is a powerful practice that helps you access and activate the Kundalini energy at this base of the spine. However, unlike the vigorous Kundalini Hatha, Kundalini tantra yoga has a more spiritual and gentle approach.

The origins of kundalini tantra yoga are deeply tied to various Eastern spiritual traditions. In fact, Tantra combines Taoist, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions, which all share the same goal – accessing pure consciousness.  

Takeaway on what is tantra yoga

Like all yoga styles, Western interpretations have resulted in many misconceptions about tantra. Because of this, many people assume tantra yoga is purely about sex. 

However, as you can see, this is not the case. Tantra yoga can be a solo practice similar to other yoga styles but with additional aspects like rituals and chanting. 

Now you understand what is tantra yoga, you're more informed to decide if this yoga style is for you. If you're looking to enhance your self-care, connect to your sexuality, or experience more intimacy with others, why not give it a try? Curious to learn more about other unique practices? Check out our article on rebirthing.

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Gemma is a Certified Yoga Teacher of over 5 years. Aside from being a CYT 200, Gemma is also certified in Yin and Yoga Nidra. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise of yoga and wellness through words, guiding others along the path of personal and spiritual development. She is in LOVE with everything related to personal-growth and psychology. Aside from helping others find more peace and stillness, Gemma runs a kitten rescue project in Thailand, where she is currently residing. Gemma can be reached at gemmac@theyogatique.com, or you can connect with Gemma on LinkedIn.

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