Mind Fish + Prana Fish
To be honest, I have few words to describe the Tantra Shakti Master Teacher Training with Rod Stryker. (Mostly because I’m still floating in spinal bliss and mantras keep ringing in my ears).
The best I can come up with is: life changing. There isn’t one thing to pinpoint, there are many. First of all, its an honor to study with a teacher who himself has a teacher and is connected to a lineage. He is also a down to earth, normal guy. In the west we experience yoga as asana based and often made up by various teachers. There is nothing wrong with “making things up”, and many teacher are excellent at making up styles, brands, etc., but there is something deeply grounded and sacred in teachings and lineage that have thousands of years of history. When you study in India, you feel the connection to nature, history, cosmology and the whole universe. When you study with Rod Stryker that same connection emanates through his teachings.
Rod Stryker is the founder of ParaYoga and his lineage, sri vidya, is tantra based. Like most, I wasn’t sure what tantra even was. In the US people thinks it’s about sex (that’s one tiny branch of one style!). I learned that tantra is about the cultivation of power – the power of shakti, the feminine energy of the world. Shakti is manifested through the cultivation of prana, or prana shakti. Yoga on the other hand, as seen in the Yoga Sutras, is a mind based practice. It basically says “learn to understand and balance the mind, and then meditative states arise.” Tantra says “learn to understand and move prana shakti, and the mind will follow.” In this training we cultivated prana through powerful meditations, visualizations, pranayama, asana and mantra (the most important tool in ParaYoga). The asana isn’t too challenging or too frequent, but deep. For asana Rod draws on the vinyasa krama system of Krishnamacharya, where breath and sound is linked with dynamic movement. I align and draw on that system having also studied at the Krishnamacharya Mandiram.
I left this training with two simply profound take-aways:
He used the metaphor of the mind and energy (prana) as two fish always swimming after each other, chasing each other around. Through tantra ones learn to cultivate the energy (prana) through the yogic practices and the mind will follow. This was revolutionary because most of the time we are so worried about our minds and alignment in asana, we forget to trust that we just need to move the breath, body, energy and the mind will follow!
Tantra aims to weave the mundane and the spiritual together into the tapestry of life. It’s so easy for our practice to be a sacred beautiful ritual and the rest of life to feel like a drag. Beginning to weave the elements of practice, the movement of breath, and the belief that all is sacred into our daily lives, we can live a much more fulfilling life even when we’re not on the mat. I’ve been really working on seeing everything as a sacred ritual, and low and behold it makes chores less annoying! Bottom line: who cares if you can put your foot behind your head if you’re mean to your kids afterwards?
I am so grateful to leave this training feeling inspired to teach the way I want too! When I came back from India I knew I needed to teach the practice of chanting om and moving, which most of you have done if you’ve been in my class. I was nervous- because its different. Teaching bandhas, philosophy, mantra, chanting and pranayama in a world of pop music power yoga is scarey. Sometimes I wonder if students really crave just a fun workout…. But I believe what most of us truly crave is authenticity.That’s what I appreciate about Rod Stryker, his authenticity. Both pop power vinyasa and this deeper style can be done authentically, if you have a teacher who is practicing, connected and inspired!
Catch you on the mat. Hari om!
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