Truly Tantric

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Sting just started out for a summer tour, and, unfortunately, the only buzz we keep hearing is about this mysterious scandalous tantra stuff.

Allow Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, to explain themselves in Yoga Journal's exclusive interview. Stephanie Syman, author of The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, also plans to set the tantric-yoga record straight once and for all in her Wall Street Journal blog:

"Traditionally, Tantra refers to a loose and varied collection of
practices detailed in the Tantras (Indic texts). Some of its most
salient features are secrecy and worship of the female principle. The
feature that has most intrigued and shocked observers--both Indian and
Western--is that Tantra enjoins the aspirant to either visualize sex or
engage in acts of ritual intercourse.

The purpose of this conjugation,
often depicted as the union of Siva and Shakti, is to reach Samadhi, a
blissful state of consciousness devoid of any sense of personal
identity. Succeed, and not only do you turn your mind into a "point of
awareness," as Ram Dass once put it, you obtain special powers
(siddhis).

You could say that we're all Tantrics now since the most
popular form of yoga today, Hatha Yoga, has been a central feature of
Tantric practice, and its creators were affiliated with Tantric sects.

But as with most cultural imports, our assimilation of Tantra has
involved equal parts interpretation and invention.

No wonder. Tantric practice is no quick route to sexual
gratification. It's traditionally demanding, complicated, highly
formalized, and at times, tedious. And only some types of Tantrics
(known as "left-handed") engage in ritual sex at all. Tantra then
presents a paradox: it can involve sex and yet its prerequisites
mitigate the pleasure. And while you may enhance sexual performance via
Tantric practices, the goal is not to get good at sex, the goal is to
alter your consciousness so radically that embodied existence is no
longer relevant."

Still curious? Read Todd Jones' The Truth About Tantra.

Erin Chalfant is a
writer, yoga teacher and the Web Editor at Yoga Journal.