My time at Wanderlust in Lake Tahoe this year reacquainted me with the teachings of Rod Stryker. He really stole the show for me. With a bustling, bursting schedule of hundreds of teachers, I found myself taking several classes with him. It was a chance to delve deeper into one tradition and not skim the surface, getting caught up in the frenzy of a consumer driven yoga festival.
His teachings on the use of asana to allow us to experience a full life were very concise. His integration of tantra into our modern lives is one of the most practical, insightful and far reaching I have found.
The word Tantra means “to weave.” In tantric system we can weave spiritual experience into the fabric of everyday life. According to Stryker, the goal of Tantra yoga is three-fold: to thrive, to prosper, and to tear down the wall between the spiritual world and the material world. Tantric yoga practice shows us what is blocking us from thriving, and offers techniques that will help us reveal our spiritual nature as well as ways to become more materially supported.
He proposes that each of us has our own unique dharma–who we are supposed to be in this lifetime. Rod says, “According to the Vedas, you can’t be happy with who you are unless you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. Any attempt to be other than what we are will bring unhappiness.”
Through Tantric practices we “reweave” the fabric of our consciousness to our original state so we can know what our dharma is and be the best that we can be. Rod describes it as a science of energy management. “There is no energy in your body that is not in the world,” he says. “If you can master the energy in your body, you can master the world.”
First of all we need to ask ourselves why we practice yoga. If it is to become calm, we must ask, why we want to become calm. Why do we want peace?
Rod says one of the most common reasons for coming to yoga is that it gives us a “high.” We run away from our stressful lives into a yoga class as a distraction. Through asana practice, we have reduced the symptoms of our anxieties and stresses, but we have not reshaped the causes of our stresses. We leave class feeling peaceful but as soon as we are challenged the peace is gone. The real purpose of yoga experience has to reach into our everyday lives if we are to be truly happy and fulfilled.
One way we can make changes in our world is by working with the pranayama kosha, or energy body. Our responses to life are related to our energy bodies. As we go through life having experiences, we are left with Samskaras, which are impressions, or “scars,” that influence our perception and our future responses to situations. These Samskaras change the way prana flows through our bodies. Until we correct that impression, energy is blocked to a specific chakra in the energy body. Through pranayama and asana techniques practiced under the guidance of a qualified teacher, we can reopen these blockages so the prana, or energy, can again flow into the chakra.
Another element is the use of Bandhas (energetic locks) in the poses, to control or correct deficiencies in the energy body. Bandhas occur at the perineum (or just above the cervix for women), the navel, and the throat. Employing the Bandhas involves a pulling up of the perenium or cervix, a pulling in of the abdominal muscles, and a slight pulling back of the head, respectively. The fourth Bandha is holding all three.
This work can help us redirect energy in our bodies as well as our lives. We become clear and aware of where we need to direct our energy. Once we are aware of it, we can make changes. The most powerful Bandha is talking less. “Most of what you say isn’t going to make any difference,” says Rod. “Choose where you will put your energy.”
The path of yoga is paved with three things: 1) Tapas–purification and practice, 2) svadhyaya–self-study, reading spiritual texts, looking at your actions and how you are perceived in the world because that is how you are; and 3) lay at the feet of the lord the fruit of your actions.
Some resources from Rod’s Teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait:
At the 11th hour
The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition
The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom by Rod Stryker
We are the result of the accumulated choices we’ve made in the past. We have the ability to direct our energies to create positive changes for our future.