Friday, February 5, 2010

Yoga Jounral Conference, Day 1: All Day Intensive: The Transformative Power of Tantra with Kraftsow, Stryker and Pandatiji

On Friday Debbie, Kathy, Kasey and about 200 other peeps  gathered to listen to Rod Stryker, Gary Kraftsow and Pandit Rajmani Tigunait in Ballroom A at the Hyatt in SF.  I did not take mad notes, but will share what I ended up transcribing as well as some video.

The Transformative Power of Tantra
Gary Kraftsow & Rod Stryker & Pandit Rajmani Tigunait 
- Course ID: AFTANT

Friday, January 29 — 9:00am - 4:30pm
Friday All-Day Intensives 
Mixed Levels

An experiential workshop designed to explore the vast wisdom of kundalini, Tantra, yoga, and Sri Vidya traditions. We'll cover how to integrate Tantric traditions such as pranayama, mudras, bandhas, visualization, mantras, and herbs into your current yoga practice. We'll also explore how to master the forces of the first two chakras (muladhara and svadhisthana) that govern the forces of hunger, sleep, sex, and self-preservation-and how to reconnect with our own vast inner potential, atma shakti, also known as kundalini shakti.

Lecture and practice.

This was super fun.  It was obvious that the gathering of the three of them was experimental.  I love being witness to this rough cut beginning of something new and creative.  It fit right in with what we have been experimenting with at Lulu Bandha's lately. How to keep the teaching full of wonder and curiosity.

Rod and Gary obviously love Pandit.  Rod described him as a sage in a Panda Puppy Body.  It was fun to watch them watch him.  The love of a teacher is contagious and I was primed to adore Pandit by the time he arrived.  I recorded some of Pandit teaching on the iPhone.  I hope they load up.

Gary Kraftsow
Gary opened the day with a 45 minute talk attempting to create the context of the Tantra Teachings.
Gary is way smart.

He spoke of how many practice "life style yoga".  Yoga that allows us to do our life with more energy and less pain.  "Boga."  He made his point by asking whether flexible hamstrings or a healthy liver result in a better life.

He drew a Venn Diagram with "emotions" "cognition" and "behavior" in the three circles.  The middle of the 3 overlapping circles is our Svabhava, personality.

He used the term, Antha Karana.  Upon quick search in Google it seemed to translate as "inner instruments." Gary touched a little on my latest favorite subject, the emotions and the physiology but then continued on.

Later on, he came back to this diagram and pointed out that emotions are the root of Bhakti Yoga, Cognition is the root of Jnana Yoga and Behavior is the root of Karma Yoga.  This again points to the BG as a psychological text.

He made the point that we do the Yoga Practice to effect change in a desired direction.

He gave some brief overviews of the various roots of tantric practices.  That they have both Vedic and non-vedic forms.  That Buddhism has its branch called Vajrayana.  That some parts are orthodox and some are rejected from orthodox strands.  Some is from the Rig Veda.  And some teachings are Agama.
Both dual and non-dual philosophies are included in Tantra.  The practice is about moving from the practical Human Experience to the Divine Potential.

The merging of external and internal, Shiva and Shakti, Atman and Brahman, Consciousness and Matter.


Deities are macro forms of ourselves.

Gary listed several different Shaktis:
Buddhi Shakti: the Power of Awakening
Prema Shakti: Power of Love
Sankalpa Shakti: Will and Manifestation

We must develop a relationship of identification with Divine Potentials and then Realize and Actualize these within ourselves.

We must have a relationship with someone who understand this.

Aspects of the Tantric Way of Yoga
- esoteric models of the human system, like the chakras
- psycho physical practices like kundalini yoga
- contemplative practices
- ritualized practices, like Nyasa
- each symbol of the deity represents personal aspects of ourselves
- mudras
- symbolic representations of the deities
- yantras
- power of sound
- mantra japa ("the quantum physics of Tantra")
"Your issues are held in place by language and self concept" (GK)
Body/Speech/Mind CHANGE through the continual manifestation of the Diety with a Mantra

- importance of guru
- ritual empowerment of practice
- Deeksha, to be actualized to practice

They spoke a little of the Sex Thing around Tantra
Said that "yes, there is an aspect of the merging of the Male and Female". Different traditions emphasize one over the other or both equally.

It is a secret, hidden tradition.

Ultimate reality is imminent.

Rod Stryker
Rod is a very eloquent speaker who can synthesize big concepts poetically.  More people took notes when he was speaking.
"It is so diverse, that it is hard to get a handle on"
"About living"
"To weave is a definition of tantra"

"Weaving this transcendent experience into the Fabric of Life."

These practices, "give us the means to get there and the means to allow it to manifest."

"The quality of our lives as measurement."

"Our body is a working altar"

Yoga is a "systematized metabolism of our neurosis"

metabolizing force is the Agni, Fire
Agni is the 2nd word in the Rig Veda
OM Agni
"i meditate on the fire"

"Process by which we achieve the aim and the aim itself."
"Moving us to the front of our existence"

Body practices are designed to help prepare the temple.

Several seats of Agni.
The Navel Center is the primary one.

3rd Chakra down are the home of our neurosis

Tantra is an alchemical tradition that helps us "free and develop latent forces in the navel"
"No energy in the body that is not in the universe"
"Become more intimate, masterful, sensitive to the inside, we also come in touch with our outside."

The asana in the tantric tradition is less physical, cuz the more physical asanas like handstand are not really apt to increase metabolic force.

"Its all about your intention."

Asana is in service of Pranayama which is in Service of Meditation.

"Actualizing the potentials that exist within you."

Gary: What is more important?  Your liver or your happiness?

Gary began to speak of these practices as preparing us for Death.
"When you die, what happens after is very related to the moment of death."

"Narayana" Story
"Where is your mind at the moment of Death?"
In this context, where is headstand?

Then we Practiced:

Sit, attention to breath

Most of the movements are familiar viniyoga like movements with attention to lengthening the breath and eventually chanting of the mantras.  I do not know the formal names of these patterns.

All fours:
Cat to Childs Pose with attention to lengthening the breath to a 1:2 count (specifically 4:8)
Cat to Dog with Same breath Pattern

High Vajrasana to Childs Pose with Hands behind back and ear to earth a few Rounds

Tadasana to Uttanasana with the 1:2 breath pattern
Some play with moving with the breath held out

Wide Leg Stance to Twisting Triangle Variation, again with the 1:2 breath
Introduction of Mantra
We continued the movement, Chanting 3x out loud, silently on the 4th and then holding

All Fours
Childs Pose
Locust Play with Inhale and Exhale, widening and narrowing the legs.  Attention to the mulabandha.

Transition onto Back
Knees to Chest
Bridge Play with Breath and Arms and breath retention and lengthening
Supine Spinal Twist with Mantra, 3 x outloud and 4th silent and hold


Gary led a Mudra Practice to establish beginning feelings of Uddiyana Bandha
Way supine, flat on our backs.  The technique involved play with navel to the center and bent or extended arms over head.  I need to practice this one again to get it.

Then Gary led us in a maha bandha practice with chanting.  This was WAY HARD and I could feel a part of me want to scream out STOP!  This part must have been the part that was getting overwritten with the practice.  Powerful stuff.

Began with attention to Spine and breath.
Added the Mantra and Breath Link.  Taught us the mantra through call and response.  He was very strict about getting the count and breath correct.

Then we did it on own, chanting inside on both the Inhale and Exhale
Then we added Uddiyana Bandha
Then Jalandhara Bandha
Then retention on Inhale
Then retention on Exhale
Then Mula Bandha

All while chanting and coordinating the breath.
All my circuits wanted it to stop.  I almost felt like screaming out.  So that was cool to witness.
Some of the instructions he gave that I want to follow up on in my own practice are:
- chest lift at the end of the exhale
- chin lift and drop to set JB

Eventually we dropped all the bandha work
We returned to chanting the Mantra on the Inhale and Exhale
then eventually we held our focus at the navel center

This was a great sit.

10 minute Break, then Pandit arrived.
Rod had described him as a sage in a koala puppy body.  This was a perfect description.

The rest of the morning was spent on Agni Sara, a cleansing technique.
Pandit would ask Rod and Gary to describe what he was doing.
This was so sweet and fun to witness.  I have video of it, but it won't load nicely.

"3 Lower Chakras are where we leak"

2 main design guidelines:
- breathing
- everything used to access our own navel center

"Always good to follow a system"

"What are you trying to accomplish?"
Practice is advanced depending on the level of the fruits.

"Mobility of the sacrum is key in the practice of A.S"
"The more your mind is able to turn towards the chakras, the more benefit"

The Spine is the BODY that we are trying to work with
Muladhara to Vishuddi

"Body is influenced by head, head is influenced by heart."

I took almost NO NOTES!

Gather again at 2:45

"How can our practices support our exploration of Self?"

Pandit suggested that Ram is the sound of the breath.

1. Get breath movement first
2. Then add sound
3. Then focus on the actual realization of Firs

"Super charged to coordinate all together"

Why hard to balance with eyes closed?  it is the balance of the body and mind.

He spoke of the Kurma Nadi in Chapter 3 of the Sutras
he spoke fo the bottom and hollow of the throat as an energy nadi (?)
He spoke of the Sutra 2.46 and the ones following it
"Posture, that which brings about stability"

He suggested to do a practice, then ad a mantra, then ad an image of a higher element, asking the question of 'who are you'.

He spoke of the Koshas.
Sutra 2.47 "Be as Relaxed as Possible"

He spoke of the creation of Space and the ability to extend further into it
Anata Samapati - to reach out and touch and feel and become a part of ananda

He spoke of the concept of space.
The Uddiyana Bandha and Agni Sari help create more space.
"Become familiar with the space"
"become familiar so we can reduce duality."

Ananta Samapati
Ananta = unending
"to reach out and touch and feel and become a part of"

"begin from within and reach out"

Vilkapa and Vicharya

He then touched on my latest favorite, the Anatomy of the Emotions, mentioning the path of thought to emotion to the hypothalmus and the pituitary and the 2nd chakra.
He spoke of being able to "reverse it" through attention to the 2nd chakra.
This was for only a moment, but there was a lot of interest and questions around it, but he did not address.

"The Teacher of Yoga is Yoga itself" (Sutra?)

"Don't be afraid of yourself"

"Atma Shakti"

"You are a good person and that is what you are seeking"

Hierarchy of Practices:
Moon. Sun. Fire

Reflective of Mind
"Make the moon steady"...[otherwise]..."you become more powerfully neurotic" [when you add sun and fire].
breath long and smooth
"nurture the moon for emotional stability"


Atma Shakti

"We have power over prana through breath and visualization"

loud good, soft better, silent best

"Don't Force the Breath," GK

"The grosser the initial stimulation, the more it dulls your sensitivity" GK

"Letting go into the flow of Prana"

"Who is Awakening Who?"

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