Tantric Sex and Tantra Yoga are not the same thing, however they are related. Some westerners, especially those who do not practice yoga, seem to think tantra means a yoga sex practice. In the vast realms of Tantra yoga, which has different lineages and three main texts. There was one group of Tantra Yoga practitioners who focused on mindful or meditative sex as a means for enlightenment.
Tantra is relatively new to us since there are still Hindu Tantra traditions surrounded in mystery because they are only learned orally from teacher to student. Most of the tantra texts have only been translated into English recently. The main texts are Siva Sutras, Spanda Karika and the Vijnana Bhairava. I personally study, practice and teach from the latter. We have Swami Lakshmanjoo and Swamis Muktananda and Chidvilasananda to thank for bringing Tantra to the west.
Let me unpack the main differences I see between Tantra and Traditional Yoga. Tantrikas believe we are all divine and everything is a manifestation of the Divine. Thus everything which happens has the potential to bring us closer to experiencing our own divinity. It is a non-dualistic belief system.
Most scholars agree Patanjali was dualistic. In his sutras what is taught is the world as we see it is an illlusion, sense withdrawal is helpful, the body is separate and the mind as a troublesome character. Tantra adopts a positive view of the body and senses. A lot of the teachings are about awakening the senses, honoring emotions, divine play, shakti or feminine energy. Bliss, celebration and community is embraced in the Tantra traditions as being part of oneness. In traditional yoga bliss is seen as childish, and practitioners are encouraged to practice yoga alone and being over enthusiastic is discouraged.
I believe the teachings from Tantra can help mankind evolve consciously in the world. If you are a monk or someone who is able to devote your life to meditation then classical yoga probably makes more sense. For people with jobs and families Tantra would be a good choice.
Essentially you could think of it as Tantra is about embodying consciousness in the world (divine oneness) and traditional yoga is achieving transcendental consciousness and disassociating from the world (an illusion).
I hope this makes more sense why sex as meditation is embraced by practitioners of Tantra yoga and celibacy is honored and encouraged in classical yoga. Every experience is embraced as a way to experience the Divine and seen as part of the whole in Tantra. Sex is part of most people’s life’s experiences so why not celebrate it and let it be a practice which can bring you closer to the Divine.
You can read more about Tantra here.
My own thoughts after reflecting on this post…
After reading and writing on this topic I believe if I ever offered a teacher training it would be a Tantra & Ayurveda RYT 200 hour level training. Why do I identify more as a Tantra, Bhakti, Ayurveda Yogini than a more classical Yogini? I technically come from two Tantra lineages; Siddha Yoga lineage (Anusara, John Friend) and the Tantric tradition of Sri Vidya (through Katie Silcox,) I have training in classical yoga as well and my heart and soul belong to tantra, bhakti and Ayurveda. I enjoy exploring the senses and seeing all as Divine.
A yogini means a master and spiritual teacher. When I started being called and calling myself a yogini I didn’t realize what an honor it is to be called a yogini. I decided to be okay with going by yogini since the energy and meaning was the direction I headed in. Basically, I set my intentions to become a yogini.
My passion has always been for the Divine, honoring and serving others in love as devotion. When I experienced the Divine so clearly through sacred sex (tantric) practices I realized it isn’t hard to experience bliss and unconditional love (the Divine). Now as my journey continues I help others experience their own bliss through Ayurveda, Tantra Yoga, Bhakti and Sacred Sex.