Recommendation for books/intro materials about tantra/tantric yoga
October 24, 2021 12:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in learning more about tantra, tantric yoga and breathing with the ultimate goal of exploring if it might be useful in healing from sexual trauma. I am not looking for a guide to how to have fun tantric sexy times, rather, what I am after is understandable but substantial intro material on what tantra is, some basic history/philosophy, how it is practiced, tantric yoga and breathing practices for beginners, etc. I already practice Pranayama and have some rudimentary experience of yoga/yogic breathing. I'm also curious if there are any known, credible practitioners with an online presence that I might look up. If anyone has used tantric practices in healing from sexual trauma (solo or with a partner) I would also be very interested to know. Thank you!
posted by cultureclash82 to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I am sending healing vibes for your strength in taking this on.

I grew up with a parent who practiced Tibetan Buddhism and then studied in Tibetan Buddhist communities as a grad student. I have never been a practitioner myself, so this understanding comes from what practitioners have told me. Tantra in Tibetan Buddhism refers to a set of esoteric practices which may be able to help the practitioner achieve enlightenment in a single lifetime, rather than committing to multiple incarnations of spiritual purification leading to enlightenment.

Tibetan Buddhism is classified as “Mahayana” in comparison to “Theravada”: the terms translate to something along the lines of “Greater Vehicle” vs. “Lesser Vehicle”, and I’ve always associated them with the flashiness of Tibetan ritual compared to the more ascetic aesthetic of Buddhist practice in, say, Southeast Asia (as well as Zen traditions in China and Japan, I believe). I think it also has to do with this idea that enlightenment can be achieved through constant practices to generate or intensify the accumulation of merit - prostrations, prayer wheels, prayer flags, saying rosaries while you walk, lighting butter lamps, receiving teaching and/or getting blessed by venerated teachers, making pilgrimage and giving offerings at holy sites, etc. Tantra gets up there in intensity with things like heat-generating meditation or dream yoga, which supposedly is the ability to meditate or do other spiritually-beneficial things in lucid dreams, so that even the hours that you sleep can help get you closer to enlightenment.

So, speaking in VERY broad terms, tantra is supposed be a shortcut to get you big spiritual results in limited human time - with the result intended being the realization of the true nature of reality that we all have been fundamentally mistaken about all along. It’s intense stuff, even for people who are deeply embedded in Buddhist culture and practice. If you aren’t a practitioner, I recommend finding a licensed therapist who knows the philosophical side but can ~translate it for you and help make sure you understand and apply it in ways that won’t re-traumatize you. Even people who set out to use only the practical tools of intense meditation techniques can get swept up by the language of reality/illusion and self/not-self in ways that can lead to mental health breaks. I’m sure there are people and other resources that can help scaffold and support you if it turns out to be a tool that could help you.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:19 AM on October 24 [4 favorites]

Oh gosh. Im so sorry for your trauma. I’m a tantric practitioner and the sex aspect is a common view of it; in truth it’s about harnessing the subtle internal energies of the body to generate bliss and deepen concentration. And about using your imagination to switch identities. That’s true capital T Tantra. Sometimes your personal bits get the tingles but it’s not about that per se. In Buddhism the partner stuff is not taught openly but there are lay people who teach it of various quality - did you know for example the guy who wore the Barney purple dinosaur costume is also a tantric practitioner? They told him to keep it on the down low but he’s said it is what helped him project pure love for 12 hours a day while filming. So, you could search up specific teachers along that lines but myself the ones I know of are purely Buddhist in nature.

There is plenty of “tantra adjacent” stuff easily searchable but that’s not how I understand your question? That you are looking for by the book Tantra of a more traditional style. As for a good resource, that is tricky since Tantra usually rests on a foundational understanding of the Buddha’s teachings (“sutra”) and requires a blessing to get started. As I’ve gotten deeper into the practices I now understand why it is necessary for that blessing even though at the outset it looks like superstition. So it is not advised to jump right to the capital T Tantric practices. But a good book to simply orient yourself is Mahamudra Tantra by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Dense but good. Also you will want to read on the Six Yogas of Naropa. The core breathing is Tummo of which Wim Hoff teaches a western form openly. But that is more inner fire and not tingly/sexy at least not directionally.

If we expand your question a little away from capital T Tantra and into being comfortable and open with body energy swirls and opening your heart to mixing energy with others in general then I could have lots to say. For example, if you’re into beginner subtle body energy meditation, two friends of mine have a great app called Raising Our Vibration which is several series of guided meditations to improve your interoception among many others. There is a yearly fee for this app and I get no kickbacks for this recommendation it’s just a really good resource for this kind of meditation.

Then there is general advice around becoming somatically comfortable with “sex energy” that is not Tantric in nature and there is lots of good advice out there on that and I could write some ideas too but that wasn’t your specific question here.

Please let me know if that helps or if you have other questions. The very short esoteric answer to “what is Tantra” is that you meditate on your inner energies to concentrate them in one spot (eg heart chakra) to experience your own pure consciousness directly and then allow it to spontaneously manifest the identity of a Buddha which is accompanied by lots and lots of bliss and vast openness; and some extremely senior practitioners use a partner (“consort”) to assist in this mutual energy concentrating portion which is why you see statues of deities embracing in union but it is a mental and not a sexual thing despite the intensity of the bliss generated. If your goal is general comfort with intense sex energy then there’s lots of other non tantric resources out there too.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:42 AM on October 24 [3 favorites]

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