Tantra is Sanskrit for “tool for stretching” or “instrument of expansion.”
Tantra is not a religion; there is no dogma, no institution. It is a practice; a way of being.
Despite the hype, sex is merely one facet of this complex and esoteric spiritual philosophy. Tantra encompasses the use of chakras (the energy centers of the body), mudras (body), mantras (speech) and visualization (mind), asana (yoga postures), pranayama (rhythmic breathing) By involving all , progress is rapid, particularly by involving mind with complex visualizations with deeply meaningful symbols designed to trigger subconscious revelations and ritual ceremony to address concepts such as the weaving of light and shadow, paradox, and reverence for the body as a pathway to the Divine. Yab-Yum represents the union of dualistic forms in order to attain transcendence.
In other words, when we bring apparent opposites together in love we can enter a state beyond normal consciousness: a state of oneness or unity consciousness. A remembrance of who we are beyond name and form… This is the ultimate goal of Tantra.
It has long been known by meditator's that to sit in a vertical stance is to align one’s crown with the heavenly skies, and one’s root chakra on the earth below. This gives the meditator a sense of their place between Heaven and Earth.
In Tantra, the Earth is the divine feminine force (mother earth) and the Heavens are the divine masculine force (father sky). Any seasoned meditator will tell you that meditating lying down is not the same as sitting upright. The enlightenment always happens in the vertical position…hence other statues of deities will most often be in a sitting pose.
So Yab-Yum often thought of as a love-making posture, is actually the ultimate posture for tantric meditation for a couple.
It can be very powerful for modern-day people to see Yab-Yum. With our world of over-stimulated sexual imagery, pornography, and media, to witness union in peace and stillness can be an instant paradox to such a conditioned mind.
If two fully-clothed people are sat in Yab Yum together, it is not explicit, nor illegal, it’s not graphic nor sordid…yet it is surprising, it is a paradox.
People are so used to sex being a shadow, that to see it in its innocence and in a meditative light is a shock to the conditioned mind.
Set the Stage::
Dim the lights. Light some candles. Turn off the devices. Traditionally, Tantra rituals begin with ceremonial bathing. You might indulge in giving each other a loving sponge bath before you sit together.
Selected carefully, music can be a wonderful enhancement to a Yab Yum practice. Choose non-lyrical or purely instrumental, ambient music. Recognizable language will be counterproductive to the process of getting out of your heads and making a strong heart-based energetic connection. such as Desert God, Aqua Vista, wind instruments and the like will all help.
It can be difficult to figure out where to fix your gaze. Try starting by focusing on the space between your partner’s eyes, or their “third eye”. As you relax into the practice, transfer your gaze into their left eye. Every so often switch to their other eye. You will relax into a rhythm that feels comfortable.
One of the most common Tantra practices is called Yab Yum, or “Father-Mother”. Yab Yum leans on the energetic gender polarity of a man and woman united between Heaven and Earth. In this position, The man sits with his legs crossed and the woman sits facing him on his lap with her legs wrapped around his torso and lower back. both partners are seated upright, The main consideration is that the spine must be relatively straight so that the spinal energy of the Kundalini (sexual force) can travel unimpeded and a cosmic circuit can be created between lovers.
When a couple comes into union consciously, they move their energy simultaneously and the Yab-Yum position draws the partners into an “auric egg” or circle of eternal union. Together, they represent Shiva and Shakti, the complementary divine masculine and feminine energies.
In relationships, we define our needs and negotiate their fulfillment.
This is all for good reason; most of us live fast-paced, hyper-stimulated, goal-oriented lives. We contain our emotional life
so we can reason our way through our busy day. But the byproduct of this is separateness and alienation—from ourselves, from each other and ultimately from the divine.
“The intellect is a beautiful servant but a terrible master. Intellect is the power tool of our separateness. The intuitive,
a compassionate heart is the doorway to our unity.”
~ Ram Dass
In this spirit, a /Yab Yum/ practice provides an opportunity to flip the paradigm and allow our energetic and emotional selves, our
“compassionate hearts,” to express themselves, thereby cultivating integration in ourselves, and a connection with each other.
To begin a /Yab Yum/ practice, I recommend moving through these three phases to cultivate a safe space and to encourage energetic intimacy to build slowly. Each “sit” should be 20 minutes long. Set a timer so that you can surrender all thoughts of time and space and get lost in the practice. Move to the next phase when it is mutually agreeable.
Phase I: Starting Knee-to-Knee
Both partners sit in Easy Pose facing each other with knees gently touching. Place your hands on each other’s knees, or forearms. Gaze into each other’s eyes without looking away. Spend a few minutes slowing and synchronizing your breath. Silently negotiate a rhythm that is comfortable for both of you. Pause at the top of each inhalation and at the bottom of each exhalation, creating a moment of mutual stillness.
Notice what happens as you become more and more present to each other and to yourselves.
Phase II: Scooching Closer
Both partners open up their legs and the woman sits as close as she can to her partner, draping her legs over his and around his lower back. Place your hands on each other’s shoulders, or waist. Another option is to place one hand on each other’s heart. Match breath in the same way as Phase I. Notice what happens as you move closer and deepen the practice.
Phase III: Climbing Into His Lap
This is the classic Yab Yum position, and the first two phases primed the canvas for what happens now. The woman moves fully into her partner’s lap while he sits in Easy Pose. Begin face-to-face with foreheads touching and arms comfortably around each other. Eyes should be closed; the eye-gazing is replaced by increased physical touch, while you continue to focus on the breath as the main point of connection.
Notice the quality of the energy now. What does it feel like? Where in your body do you feel it? Let it move freely. Let your bodies embrace fully.
At this point, the woman’s feminine energy, her creative life force, her kundalini is rising. She is a vessel, a channel for the divine feminine in the form of sexual energy. The man’s role is to sit solidly in his masculinity and hold a container strong enough to support her as she allows it to overtake her, dissolving into bliss.
As you dance with this energy between you, you may notice that your egos, your ideas about who you are, your personalities, have vanished. You are united as complementary aspects in the union of divine masculine and feminine, a fractal embodiment of the universe
Whether you are using Yab Yum as a prelude to sex, or as a practice in and of itself, it is important to allow the natural and organic rise of sexual energy. Our typical idea of masculinity as an aggressive force which pursues, controls and conquers doesn’t apply here. Kundalini energy (which is rooted in the sacrum, or base of the spine) can be shy. It cannot be coaxed by force. Imagine a snake curled up in a hole.
Gently wake it and charm it from the woman’s sacrum, up the spine. Begin by using the timer to contain and pace the energy. As you become more and more adept at surrendering to each other, yourselves and the mystical divine connection, lose the timer and let the spirit carry you away.
Sometimes the feelings which arise are not at all sexual in nature. This practice has a way of making us feel seen in a way that we rarely do in the course of our daily lives. The safety of this space often opens the floodgates of pent up emotions, like sadness or shame.
Allow whatever comes forth, without judgment. Welcome the opportunity to fall apart as someone holds a container for you. If your partner is moved by emotion, simply hold steady while they release their feelings.
Resist the urge to comfort, which can encourage the containment or suppression of emotion. Being a compassionate witness can affect deep healing, as well as a loving bond.
Easy Pose is often challenging for men. Especially for a length of time with weight on top of them. The most common complaint is irritation of the ankle bones against the floor. Sitting on a soft blanket or pillow will help. For men with especially tight hips, placing pillows under the knees to raise them slightly and ease the stretch. If it’s simply not possible for the man to sit, he can lie flat with the woman straddling him with their bodies perpendicular to each other. Bottom line: Use whatever pillows and props you need to make it work for you. Honor yourselves and each other by listening to and supporting your bodies in whatever way makes sense and feels good.
Although the mythology and symbolism of Yab Yum is gender-based, it’s an equally great practice for same-sex couples. Play with the masculine and feminine energies as they express themselves in the physical postures by alternating who sits on top. You may discover something new in the exploration of these dynamics in terms of how they show up between you and what they might offer in your partnership.