Classical Yoga: The Tip of a Great Iceberg

On International Yoga Day, if I could offer just a taste of the yogic tradition, or the Vidya Parampara (Knowledge traditions), that are the Tantric traditions, I don’t know that I could satisfy myself with an ode to any one particular teaching, or lineage – not even my own, nor any single one of the great yoga acharyas like Aurobindo, Utpaladeva, Rama Krishna, or Nityananda.

I might use the holiday as an excuse to illuminate once again the stark differences between the time-honored body of wisdom that is the 1000-yr old wisdom tradition known as classical tantra, from the recently (last 70 years) trending, sexuality/sensuality-oriented practices of neo-tantra.

I might write about the breadth and depth of the tradition of classical yoga, introducing the heart-mind goals of the sages, and the skillful means of life engagement that they recommended to achieve the goals of wellbeing and a life worth living, beginning with anava upaya, the ‘individual’ body-consciousness-oriented means, and leading the conversation into an exploration of the more subtle means, viz. shakta upaya, the empowered (energy-oriented), and shambava upaya, the intuitive (flow/surrender-oriented), as well as the ‘mystical’ (non-means), an-upaya, the meanless means that is a very natural self-realization requiring very little so-called ‘practice’ at all, but rather a consistent, mindful recognition of an essential alignment already in place.

I’d mention the various yogic paths to the goal, the schools of practice including HATHA YOGA with its focus on postures, breath and meditation, NADA YOGA with its orientation on the original frequencies and resonances considered to be the building blocks of the universe, or reality, and the practice of mantra science, the intoning meditations and NYASA, the placement of the mantras within the body, or the guiding of the sound along energy channels to specific purpose. I’d talk about JNANA YOGA and the development of the skills of insight and wise discrimination.

I’d certainly shout out a reference to DEITY YOGA and the connection of YOGA with esoteric Buddhism, and Buddhism in general. KRIYA YOGA and the various schools of thought, the great lineages of the popular masters like Yogananda, Muktananda, Ramana, etc.

Of course I’d give PATANJALEAN YOGA its due, as it is by far the most widely practiced and best known art in this field, forming the base of every YTT’s student’s training, and the crux of the practices offered in most studios. I’d introduce, in brief, a few of the major source texts upon which these teachings have been developed, and try to drive home the point about the necessity of fine discrimination when engaging with translations and commentaries on the same. I’d talk about SIDDHA YOGA, the development of augmented heart-mind capacities (so-called psychic powers), and the many splendid approaches to these paths of practice.

I’d try to shed a lot of immediate light on KUNDALINI YOGA, differentiating it from the classical wisdom teaching, sharing it’s Tantrik roots and how it came to be incorporated into HATHA routines. I’d talk about who SHE is and where SHE comes from, what it actually means, and how to engage. I’d try to bust a few myths and direct attention to the fact that there are actually three KUNDALINIS to be aware of and neither are any of them sleeping per se…

I might pinch just a few delicious specs of luminous powdered ice from the tip of the mighty iceberg that is this topic called classical yoga and tantra in celebration, and deep gratitude to a tradition that has framed my life in so many ways.

So much. So much.

Jai Guru
Jai Maa
Om Namah Shivaya