I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor of the gymnasium of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, looking into the eyes of my meditation partner. Five rows of Kundalini yogis are arranged in straight lines, marked by red yarn taped along the worn wood floor. Moderators walk between the rows, asking participants to move their mats and sheepskins closer to their partners so that their knees touch.
There are about 200 of us here to practice White Tantric Yoga, and we’ll be meditating in pairs all day: gazing into the eyes of our partner for five 31-minute meditations and one 62-minute meditation, with half-hour breaks in between.
A moderator has already come over to ask me to adjust the white silk scarf wrapped around my head, to make sure it is fully covering my crown. When practicing White Tantric Yoga, you are supposed to wrap the top of your head, not just the arc line around your temples, to contain the energy created during meditation and focus it toward the ajna chakra (the third eye chakra, or sixth chakra).
In Kundalini Yoga, your turban is your crown. By wearing a turban, along with pristine white clothing, you are expressing deep reverence for this practice. It’s a simple way to channel the raj (royal) lineage of yoga and honor your own divinity.
My partner, Erin, is from my 200-hour Level One Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training cohort. We’ve traveled from Colorado independently for this event, and we’re happy when we find each other in the parking lot and decide to partner up.
Before completing our Kundalini Yoga certifications, we’re required to attend at least one day of White Tantric Yoga. Both here for the first time, we’re slightly anxious about what is in store.
See also A Beginner’s Guide to Kundalini Yoga
What is White Tantric Yoga?
White Tantric Yoga is a form of Tantra Yoga. Before you get too excited, it’s not about sex. (That’s Red Tantric.) According to Kundalini Yoga practitioners, White Tantric is an ancient group meditation practice that can help you release deep subconscious blocks and heal your body and soul. Plus, according to proponents, it works at lightning speed—one day of White Tantric Yoga is said to be equal to a year of meditation alone, and the effects can last for up to 40 days afterward.
Its opposite is Black Tantric, which could be considered “black magic”—the yoga of manipulation, used for selfish purposes.
How Does White Tantric Yoga Work?
Pairs are lined up precisely in straight lines in order to harness a strong group diagonal energy designed to cut directly through long-held blocks in the collective subconscious. The practice connects your subtle body with the subtle bodies of other participants, strengthening the group vibration and allowing you to work deep into your subconscious mind to release old trauma.
Gazing into your partner’s eyes is an important aspect of White Tantra. If you’ve done even one minute of eye gazing with a stranger in a yoga class, you understand its power. Eye gazing allows your experience to become both internal and external. It breaks down barriers between us, granting us the power to experience oneness with the infinite and with each other.
There are multiple day-long White Tantric sequences, and all were recorded on video during the 1990s by the now-deceased Yogi Bhajan, who acts as the Mahan Tantric, or lead instructor. TVs are rolled out between meditations so Yogi Bhajan can speak to participants and introduce the next set from beyond the grave.
Admittedly, at times, it did seem like a total scam. About 10 minutes into the first meditation, I was thinking, “Wow. I actually paid $175 to sit on the floor of a church gymnasium while holding my arm above my head and pressing my hand against my partner’s for 31 minutes, while staring into her eyes? Sucker.”
I pride myself on my skepticism. I’m a journalist, after all. But I’m also a lifelong seeker, and my spiritual journey had led me ultimately to Kundalini Yoga—a practice that has transformed me so deeply that I feel called to spread it to others through teaching. So I let go of my judgment and settled into the full experience.
Kundalini Yoga hasn’t let me down yet.
What I Learned from White Tantra
I arrived anticipating an intense and difficult emotional experience, but it was much lighter and joyful than expected. Erin and I smiled and giggled through some of the most difficult postures and made up harmonies while chanting the mantra “humee hum brahm hum” (translation: We are we. We are God.) for 61 minutes.
Yes, there were moments where I thought, “Is this working?” Some people were crying around me; others were giggling like us. Mostly, I felt motivated to support my partner by completing each meditation no matter how ridiculous or uncomfortable I felt. Erin and I made it through together. It was a team effort.
Most of the time, it seemed like nothing was happening. I didn’t experience any great insights or bursts of clarity or even a sense of release. However, when I got back to my hotel room at the end of the day, I lay down and soon fell into a deep, dreamless sleep for 13 solid hours. I can’t remember sleeping that long otherwise in my entire life, and I’ve traveled across multiple time zones all over the world.
Deep, restorative sleep continued over the next week. I also noticed that my usual Kundalini Yoga classes in Boulder became exponentially more powerful. Stuff was coming up: old memories and stories, old grief. Each time painful memories or realizations surfaced, the tears came, too. But this time, I felt a deep release of long-held childhood pain.
What to Bring to White Tantric Yoga
Thinking of attending White Tantric Yoga for the first time? Here are three tips to help you prepare:
1. Wear White and Bring a Head Covering
According to Kundalini philosophy, white can extend your electromagnetic field. A strong auric field helps ground you and protect you against negative energy and increases your radiance. As previously mentioned, covering your head focuses energy to the third eye, increasing intuition.
2. Take a Meditation Cushion
You will be sitting on the floor all day. I forgot mine, so I brought a bed pillow from the hotel where I was staying. My knees and back were a wreck for days afterward. You’ll also want your mat, a sheepskin if you use one, and a blanket to cover yourself during deep relaxation between meditations.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is always important in yoga. You will be meditating, and possibly chanting, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Drink water before, during, and after your practice.
Go to whitetantricyoga.com to find a schedule of upcoming events all over the world. Better yet, try the ultimate three-day White Tantric experience at Summer Solstice, June 18–20, in Española, New Mexico, where you can meditate in the desert with thousands of yogis. This year’s Summer Solstice marks 50 years of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan in the West.