Updated: Mar 4, 2020
It’s a Saturday night at 6.30pm. Most people are getting ready to go out for dinner or buying their booze for a night of drinking. I, however, am sat in a community yoga studio with around 40 other women.
I am here for a Beltane celebration and a yogic tantric gathering. An evening of exploring femininity and feminine sexuality through yoga. I had no idea what to expect. I had been to the studio owners classes and loved them but never one of her workshops. All I knew was that it would be good, and the electric and excited energy of my fellow sisters in the room as we waited for it to begin confirmed this.
Before I get into it, for those who are unaware of what tantra is, I want to get something straight. There is a belief in the west that tantra is all about sex. This is untrue. Whilst this particular gathering did explore sexuality, tantra is not a sexual thing.
Tantra is a yogic philosophy which is non-dualistic. The two main philosophies we come across in yoga (even though there are many) is the dualistic philosophy of Patanjali's sutras - which states that the body/physical realms and the higher realms are inherently separate and that we must transcend the body to reach enlightenment.
Tantra, on the other hand, believes that the body is inherently sacred and that our relationships with our bodies and the way we interact with the physical realms can provide us with opportunities of spiritual realisations and growth. Tantric practices utilise the physical to reach the spiritual. Most yogic practices we come across today are tantric. Neo-tantric practices explore our connection with others. Practices such as eye-gazing meditations, for example, fall into this. Sex is only a very tiny part of this, which has been completely blown up in the west.
Going back into the studio - every woman was there for a different reason. For some, they came with curiosity and a desire to move. Others came for healing and a safe space. For some, myself included, maybe we didn’t really know what we needed to gain from the experience until after.
We started the evening by sitting a circle where our hosts spoke with us firstly about what Beltane was - a celebration of summer starting, of fire, brightness, and fertility. Then, our hosts spoke about the female anatomy, about sex and sexuality and a women's relationship and place within that, especially in our current society which both demonises being open about our sexuality and being highly sexually active, and also profits off of it - usually in a way that objectifies women and only exists in the framework of the patriarchy.
There were so many of us in the room, but as we sat in that circle, I had a beautiful sense of community and sisterhood. We were all there for many different reasons, but ultimately we were there because we believed in the power of community and movement and being guided together. We had all come with open hearts, free of judgement. Moving through the world on a day-to-day we are often faced with so much judgement, fear, and separation. Just to be in a space where this simply did not exist was a beautiful thing.
After our circle we moved into our yoga practice - utilising breath and asana to find space within the body, to open up through the hips and to really connect with our female anatomy. Unlike some yoga classes where the movements are very prescribed, we were encouraged to find movement in our postures and to almost be animalistic - with our movements and with our breath. There was a great release from moving into the body in ways that felt so natural, and to roar and growl and purr with my fellow sisters. In life, we are rarely given permission to be the animals we really are - especially as women. We are rarely given permission to scream or roar or make moaning noises in public. Here I found a safe space where we could do that. It was a beautiful thing to just let go of inhibitions, free of judgement.
After the yoga practice, we moved into dance. I didn’t know what to expect from this as I had never done anything like it before. But it was one of the most freeing and beautiful experiences of my life. I love to dance - but usually, dance is reserved for me being alone, or be being filled up with alcohol. And when people do dance in clubs, we are rooted to the spot. Here we were encouraged to make space of the whole room, to find movement that felt good in our body. To utilise our whole body - our spines, our hips, our shoulders, our head. Throughout the practice, we made sacred tantric connections with women, as we made eye contact and told each other our desires and listened to one another. I don’t want to write too much about the dance part of the evening, as what would happen and unfold for each of us was so beautiful, personal and sacred. But what I will say is - it was an opportunity to truly let go. To let go of so much tension I had been holding on to. It was an opportunity to feel into my body and to not worry about judgement. It was also an opportunity to connect with other women in a beautiful and deeply spiritual way. Again, in a modern patriarchal society, women are encouraged to be pitted against one another and to find competition with one another. But this is not natural. This is not where we come from. In this sacred space, we broke these stereotypes which the patriarchal system had created for us - through love, compassion and deep kindness.
By the end of the evening, I felt high. I was exhausted but so energised, buzzing with life force running through me. I felt connected to everyone and to something higher. I also felt relaxed and at ease, tensions and worries dissipating.
The evening reminded me that, despite what everyday life experiences try to tell us, there is good and beauty and community in the world. There are people and places and spaces where we can find a lack of judgement, fear, and separation. Where we can find a way to come back to our true selves - in a safe and supportive environment. The experience was not about exclusion of men or not honouring masculine energy, but rather was about how we can come back to and reclaim our feminine and our sense of community in a society which has stolen that from us. And it was done in a way which was experiential and personal for all of us. It helps us heal and release and also find our fire within - our strength to say YES. To say YES I want that. YES I need that. YES I deserve that.
And also our strength to say NO. To say NO that is not good for me. NO I won’t obey by your rules. NO I won’t be put in a box.
Next time you’re thinking of doing something you’d never normally do, something that may seem a bit out there or that your friends may judge you for, but you know will be of benefit and will give you insights and potential healing, then just do it. We need more people coming together to find these sacred spaces. We need more people coming together to say - yes, we want to heal. We want to let go of separation. We want to find ease within ourselves and our relationships with others.
When I got home that night, after calming down from the evening's events, I went to bed. And it was the first night in a long time where I slept through the entire night. I felt light and airy, yet also so full of love I could burst.
If this experience showed me anything, it’s that we are not alone in the world. And we don’t have to be. Joy and connection can always be found.