Photo and logo ©Rod Stryker, ParaYoga
Bring up God in a yoga class and everyone gets a bit squeamish; the topic is then avoided in order for students to remain comfortable
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST ASHLEY HUNT
Tantra Vidya Intensive with Rod Stryker, NYC Yoga Journal Conference
“I want to talk with Susan,” says Yogarupa (Rod Stryker) as I stand in line, at the teacher’s podium, with several other inquiring yogis after the full day intensive.
Most students linger around the classroom after the workshop has finished to ask a teacher one last burning question. The last time I had seen Rod was at a previous Para Yoga training on Vinyasa Krama and The Energetics of Sequencing. I had just returned from retreat with a buzzed head and wearing all black in light of inward transformation. Things had changed, but I was still concerned with assimilating back into my world as I previously knew it.
This time around as I approached Yogarupa, he looked at me and said “You look happy, the last time I had saw you, had you not just returned from retreat?” I replied, “Yes, I had just left the ashram.” He smiled with warmth and said “you look happy.” I went on to seek his advice about ideas and tentative plans I had for the next twelve months.
Hearing and being heard
Yogarupa, never long-winded, but always penetrating with his gaze and language, answered my questions and allowed for space so I could hear my own words. The quality of interactions with Yogarupa are always intense and insightful.
The quality of a human interaction is determined by the involved parties’ abilities to listen. Rod’s refined capacity to listen holds me in a space of safety but moves me towards transformation every single time I have the privilege of receiving a Para Yoga teaching. His openly attentive ear and presence creates the space so I too can hear myself.
We all search for the true voice within; a teacher can provide no better service to a student than to allow the student to hear herself. Every time I walk away from a conversation with Yogarupa, tears of release stream down my face. I have been heard and most importantly I have heard myself.
Tantra myths, tantra knowledge
Rod Stryker taught several workshops at this year’s NYC Yoga Journal Conference. I attended Tantra Vidya: Yoga’s Path to Power and Prosperity and all day intensive, and a Saturday morning class on Bandha: The Theory, Application, and Practice. Rod opened the floor early Friday morning, addressing the class about the western preconceived myths pertaining to Tantra.
The conversation began with a female student talking about “intense sexual energy, and first chakra openings that gave way to vast mystical blue skies.” The rest of the class is looking around at each other not to sure how to respond. Rod is smiling on stage most likely thinking in the back of his mind “this could not have played out any better, even if I planned it.” It wasn’t even 9am, and we were already joking about hour-long orgasms, and bowel movements. “We will not be having sex today, or taking our clothes off,” says Rod.
Yogarupa has an immense amount of Sanskrit knowledge. This is apparent when he translates philosophically dense terms into language that thousands of students can understand.
Yogarupa defines Tantra in laymen’s terms so all 50 of us in the conference can start on the same page. “We are all born with limitations, what we do to overcome these limitations is by nature Tantra. We all innately do this, the question becomes what is the reach of the methodologies we use to over come limitation? Tantra touches all aspects of life.” Rod goes on, “How do we touch all aspects of life with Tantric practice? We access that which has no limitation, the Divine is LIMITLESS.”
God, Sex and Acceptance
Yogarupa highlights three Tantric concepts as means to seek the limitless: enjoyment (Bhoga), accomplishment (Bhukti), and liberation (Moksha). Tantra integrates all aspects of life physical, mental, emotional, and the realm of the divine.
It is important to place the concepts inside a Tantric worldview in order to overcome limitation by effective means. “So within the first 30 minutes of this 7 hour intensive we have already brought up the two most controversial words in contemporary yoga classes, GOD and SEX,” jokes Rod.
“The challenge yoga faces today is the compartmentalization of healing modalities. Students are left to their own devices to integrate.” Rod goes on to acknowledge the second disservice of the modern yoga movement: the abandonment to acknowledge the Divine. Bring up God in a yoga class and everyone gets a bit squeamish; the topic is then avoided in order for students to remain comfortable. Who honestly is compelled toward self-transformation when constantly in an environment of comfort?
Shying away from the transformational power of change
We practice yoga in search of movement, personal growth, and transformation.
Right out of the gates, Rod has addressed controversial topics of yoga from a place of acceptance. He presents these issues as points of resistance within the modern yoga movement that we as yogis must utilize for our own growth. Yogarupa dips deep into his endless reservoir of knowledge and cites Patanjali “Through devotion to Ishwara attention is turned inward and all obstacles are overcome.” He makes it quite clear to all of us in the conference that within the Yoga Sutras four sutras are dedicated to asana (postures) and eight sutras are dedicated to God. Even at this point I feel my Christian conditioning beginning echo in my head.
“God?” “Really?” “What do I think of God?” “Can I wrap my head around how Rod is portraying the Divine?” “If Patanjali says so, than it must be legit.”
I begin to have flashbacks…
We have all found ourselves in that Bhakti Vinyasa class that can almost be creepy. You find yourself in a group of crying, laughing, dancing, yogis screaming the name of God. “GENESHA AND I ARE ONE! YOU ARE THE GURU!”
“I am not taking about blind worship, I am speaking of a direct relationship with the Divine,” says Rod. Rod’s approach to teaching inspires the perfect balance of mindful devotion and engagement of the intellect, to bring about connection to the voice within. After a long discussion, we find ourselves in Tadasana (mountain pose), to begin an asana practice.
Back to the breath
Rod’s focus on the breath slows the racing of the intellect and ignites the internal cleansing fires within. The energetics of the Prana Vayus are tactfully incorporated within the physical asana practice. This attention drastically deepens the intense energetic effects of a physical practice, with a focus in balancing opposing energetic forces of the body and psyche. Drool literally drips down my cheek in savasana after a class taught by Yogarupa.
Rod’s approach to physical practice and breath work is deeply connected to Tantric philosophy and lineage. Rod teaches that yoga is a methodology to refine and effectively control energy. Practice facilitates the connection to life force and provides mindful tools to efficiently direct life force. Rod sequences the physical practice to wake up the parts of us that are depleted, while sustaining and uplifting our own mental and physical ecosystems. Yogarupa is a beautiful teacher, and I spend as much time in his presence as possible.
Clarity, conviction, and joy radiates from that man.
Whatever you do, do it with love. Respect the totality it has come from.
– Rod Stryker
How do you get more resplendence (SRI) in your life? GET MORE LIKE IT, YOU EMBODY IT!
– Rod Stryker
You can travel with Ashley’s determination to stay with herself in stability and clarity on her blog Reflect Light and Love. Watch for more of Ash’s New York columns in our new Class Consciousness feature, where our columnists take their practice to class and break down the experience for you.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.