I attended Heart of Tantra on a Thursday and found it a really lovely yoga class. Devamurti’s a great teacher with a gentle spirit, who is happy to give individual attention help you perfect your pose. He kindly agreed to an interview to explain a little more about the Heart of Tantra system:
Penny – What is your background in yoga and tantra – where does your interest stem from?
Devamurti – My first yoga, though I didn’t know it at the time, was Jnana yoga; intuitively asking: ‘Who am I?’, ‘What is this ‘I’ feeling?’, ‘How do I fit in with all this world stuff?’ .
My approach was very analytical and psychological which was very useful at that time but soon enough I was guided deeper into a path of spirituality. This began with various forms of self-enquiry and later energy work including martial arts, reiki and chi gung. I then began certain forms of Buddhist meditation and eventually in 2002 I began Hatha yoga and spent a year in India experimenting with various forms of Hatha yoga and meditation.
My Hatha Yoga practice began with some years of Iyengar Yoga which gave me a solid physical grounding in asana and a little pranayama, then I discovered Satyananda Yoga which opened the door to a more integral approach to the various yogas. This eventually drew me to India for a second time and to my guru, Swami Niranjananda Saraswati. I lived in his ashram for some time and eventually around a year later I took Jignasu Sannyas and was given the spiritual name Devamurti.
Having established a solid daily practice and an understanding of the basics of the various forms of yoga I came across Agama Yoga, which is a distinctly tantric system very much in congruence with Satyananda Yoga. I found Agama yoga to be a very powerful and deeply meditative practice so I studied in Rishikesh, India for a couple of months with Agama before going to Thailand where I studied for six months.
Where, when and with whom did you train to become a teacher? Please could you tell us a little about your training.
I participated in an intensive four month yogic studies course (Satyananda Yoga) at the Bihar School of Yoga in India and I also participated in a three month intensive teacher training course with Agama yoga. Along with these formal courses I have attended many intensive meditation retreats as well as various other yoga courses and personal retreats.
Where does Heart of Tantra yoga come from? i.e, when/where how was it developed?
The Heart of Tantra is the culmination of my yogic and spiritual teachings over the past ten years. I have drawn only from traditional yogic methods for spiritual growth, in particular Satyananda yoga, Buddhist and Hridaya yoga mindfulness practices and Agama yoga.
What is the difference between “Heart of Tantra” yoga and other types of yoga?
The heart of Tantra is yoga based on the traditional teachings set out in the Tantras (or Agamas) which is a collection of texts expounding the core of Hatha, Kundalini and Kriya yoga. There are also mentions of yoga in the Upanishads and a few other ancient texts. These teachings are often mysterious and not usually explained in precise detail in the texts so they are open to interpretation. For this reason, the lineage through which the teachings are passed from teacher to student is important. The traditional, tantric understanding of the agamas and the message of yoga which has filtered down through the ages is very different from the way in which yoga is practised today in most systems. Where most systems focus mainly on the physical body, tantric systems such as Satyananda yoga, Agama yoga and The Heart of Tantra focus on the energetic and spiritual aspect, with concentration of mind and awareness being key factors.
What does “Tantra” mean in this context?
Tantra is the seventh Darshana of Indian philosophy. A Darshana is more than a philosophy, it is a realised philosophy which is to say that the sages and seers of ancient times who originally expounded Tantra actually experienced this truth directly and then systematised it so that it could be understood by the common man. Tantra is concerned with the interplay of consciousness and energy, also know as the manifest and the un-manifest. In Tantra these are called Shiva and Shakti.
The practical application of this is a yoga practice where one uses Shakti, the manifest world and the energies which make it, in order to eventually transcend it and realise Shiva consciousness. Tantric practices incorporate mantra, visualisation, yoga postures as well as concentration and relaxation in order to put oneself in resonance with beneficial universal energies which purify the individual and bring about balance, clearing the way for self-realisation.
Who is Heart of Tantra yoga suitable for?
The system I teach covers a wide range of practices from the very dynamic and intense practices of Hatha and Kundalini yoga to the deeply meditative and mindful practices of Raja and Jnana yoga. There is a variety of accessible practices for every individual and private appointments are recommended to ascertain which practices meet each person’s specific needs in order to establish a daily routine to supplement the weekly classes.
What happens in a typical class?
There are two types of class that I am currently running. One focuses mainly on pranayama, pratyahara and meditation whereas the other focuses on asana, pranayama and pratyahara. (The terminology is explained below.)
Occasionally I start or end a class with a little theory but on the whole, every class begins with a period of stillness and relaxation in order to move into a quiet, receptive state conducive to the practice of yoga. The class will then move through a series of asana (postures) with the focus being on achieving asana pratyahara, the complete withdrawal of the senses and focus of the mind. We often practice sun salutations and other asana using both internal and sounded mantra and using visualisation of various objects, colours and images. Towards the end of the class I usually introduce a few Pranayama practices using the breath and various forms of breath retention before moving into either a seated meditation practice or more commonly a deeply relaxing lying down pratyahara technique know as Satyananda Yoga Nidra.
What are the benefits of regular practice?
There are many benefits of a regular practice as an integral system of yoga works with the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the human personality. Yoga is a holistic science which effects and improves the human personality completely. Many who come to yoga hope to improve their overall health and fitness, some seek to heal various diseases or psychological problems and others still are searching for more meaning and peace in their lives. Yoga delivers all this to those who are dedicated. It is an experiential science and speaking from my own experience, I know that yoga is a powerful tool for improved health and vitality, self improvement and spiritual awakening.
What does your personal practice look like?
My main practice is to live every moment with awareness, clarity, optimism and positivity, which is at the essence of Karma yoga, if not all yogas.
Whilst self-enquiry opened the doors to yoga for me, in recent years the vritti (mind-state) of Bhakti has blossomed within me and I see clearly that mine is the path of the heart and of devotion.
My personal daily practice usually includes:
Hridaya Yoga (a heart centred self-enquiry meditation method) or Kriya Yoga. A mindful, energy-conscious Hatha Yoga practice, Japa and Mantra Yoga. Whenever possible I enjoy devotional singing (bhajan / kirtan).
Heart of Tantra yoga is at Bristol’s St Pauls Studio (part of Wilder Studios) each Thursday from 7.30pm. It’s £7. For more information, contact Tel: 079 74 37 53 40