June 25, 2018
In Search of Tibetan Yoga (Yantra Yoga)
Location: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, McLeod Ganj (suburb), Dharamshala (city), Himachal Pradesh (state), India
The Yogis Of Tibet
Ever since I saw the Youtube video documentary, The Yogis Of Tibet, I have been intrigued and fascinated. The yoga asanas/movement seemed different from the Hatha Yoga (of Hindu tradition) I had been practising for years. From that video, Tibetan yoga is practised almost entirely seated down with lots of swinging arm movements mostly brushing the hands against the body - little or no standing poses, no one-leg balancing poses, no twists or backbends. But Tibetan yoga has a strong meditation/pranayama/kumbhaka component to the practice - something lacking in the way Hatha yoga is being taught in yoga studios nowadays. But where do I find a Tibetan yoga teacher? Now in Dharamshala (India), home of the Tibetans-in-exile, I sought them out.
Nowhere to be Found
I have asked many Tibetans here in Dharamshsala where I can find a Tibetan yoga school or Tibetan yoga teacher and the answer was always negative. Surprisingly, it seemed unheard of! Someone told me that these yogis have died out because of the Chinese repression, and those who are still surviving would not be found in the hustle-and-bustle of Dharamshala. Finally, when I went to the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, I was referred to a certain Dr. Chok Tenzin Monlam Peltsok who might be able to help me.
Dr. Chok Tenzin Monlam Peltsok
I met with Dr. Chok. He was a young man who seemed to hold a high position within the library complex. Even though I had no appointment, the meeting wasn't rushed. He took the time to explain many things to me. He said there was only one Tibetan yoga teacher in Dharamshala - and I was already talking to him. Whoa! That's convenient!
From One Yoga Teacher to Another
I explained to Dr. Chok that I had been practising and teaching Hatha yoga for a good number of years already but I wanted to learn Tibetan yoga. He corrected me and said Tibetan yoga is called Yantra Yoga. He was generous about his knowledge - gave me links, book references and explained the Yantra yoga system. We exchanged ideas and insight about yoga.
Without doing the asanas, Dr. Chok explained how Yantra Yoga awakens the chakras (energy centers), clears the blockages of the nadis (energy channels) and moves prana (energy) within the body for optimum health and vitality. I realized that if he didn't mention Yantra Yoga, I would mistaken his explanation for Hatha Yoga. I guess it should not be surprising that Yantra Yoga also works with the same elements.
Chogyal Namkhai Norbu
Further research into Yantra Yoga led me to the current holder of the Yantra Yoga lineage - Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. This particular yoga from the Dzogchen tradition was passed on from teacher to student, in an unbroken lineage since the 8th century. Apparently, Yantra Yoga is alive and well and currently taught globally by the students of Chogyal Norbu.
From my conversation with Dr. Chok, I am drawn to conclude that Hatha Yoga and Yantra Yoga are essentially the same as they both deal with the same etheric elements - chakra, prana, nadi, etc. to arrive at the same goal. They differ in the breath and the asanas or the physical poses. Yantra Yoga does the movements with a in-breath hold while Hatha Yoga holds the poses while breathing continuously. Hatha Yoga asanas can be very physical while Yantra Yoga movements didn't seem like developing muscularity, balance or stamina, but designed to move energy around.
My analogy is this: Both yoga systems prepare the same dish, use the same ingredients, but cook the dish in a different way. But the end product is essentially the same dish with a slight variation.
I am still intrigued by Yantra Yoga and I will still pursue it and learn how I can complement my Hatha Yoga. With my evolving yoga and my deepening Vipassana meditation, I remain strong, medication-free and young. My core practice may well integrate Yantra Yoga as I learn more about it.
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Youtube videos about Tibetan Yantra Yoga:
- Nine-rounds of Breathing for Purification by Dr. Chok Tenzin Monlam Peltsok
- Five simple yogas of the five root subtle energies/pranas/chis by Dr. Chok Tenzin Monlam Peltsok
- Practice and benefit of Yoga by Ven. Lobsang Dhonden
- Tibetan Thummo Yoga by Lobsang Dakpa
- Nine Purification Breaths by Latri Nyima Dakpa Rinpoche
Books about Yantra Yoga
Reader Comments:Jason Robles
(Jul 5, 2018) Really nice Git! 🙂 you inspire me!
Next stop: Visiting the Tibet Museum
Dharamshala (city), India
Travel Tips for Dharamshala
- short power outages frequently happen during the day
How to get to Dharamshala from Rishikesh by bus
- Bus - Rishikesh to Dharamshala is 449 kms. The usual route is to go to Haridwar and take the State transport buses to Lower Dharamshala, but it's less hassle to get a bus from Rishikesh that go all the way up to McLeod Ganj - a little more money (INR 1150) but worth it specially if you a carry bulky pack. You will leave Rishikesh 4pm and arrive in Dharamshala the following day (you save one night lodging) at 7am.
Travel Tips for India
- e-VISA - visa on arrival is no longer done. Tourists should apply online for an e-VISA. Tourist e-VISA for 60 days = US$51.25 (including surcharges, non-refundable). NOTE: e-VISA is only honored in 25 designated airports and 5 designated seaports (Cochin, Goa, Mangalore,Mumbai,Chennai). You CANNOT do a land crossing using an e-VISA.
- US$1 = Indian Rupee (INR) 67.18
- nearly every food served is spicy...there is no escaping it
- other travel destinations in India
- always good to have an Indian SIM. It's handy to get wifi in some cafes
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
India Blogs by TheLoneRider
- 16 Days in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala: Goodbye India June 23-July 8, 2018
- Peoplescape of Dharamshala, India June 14 - July 8, 2018
- Visiting the Tibet Museum June 27, 2018
- In Search of Tibetan Yoga (Yantra Yoga) June 25, 2018
- Conducting Yoga Classes at Pema Thang Guest House, Dharamshala, India June 24 - July 8, 2018
- Life in Upper Bhagsu, Dharamshala June 16-23, 2018
- Trekking to Naddi from Upper Bhagsu, Dharamshala June 19, 2018
- Matters of the Heart Jun 17, 2018
- A First Timer in Dharamshala Jun 14, 2018
- 29 Hours in New Delhi Airport July 9-10, 2018
- Meditation with Shirly Pnina at Lodi Garden, New Delhi May 15, 2018
- A First-Timer in New Delhi, India May 12-17, 2018
- A 26-Day Mini-Life in Rishikesh May 18 - June 13, 2018
- Peoplescape of Rishikesh May 18 - June 13, 2018
- Rafting the Ganga River with Greg Goldstein June 1, 2018
- White Water Rafting on Ganga River, Rishikesh May 25, 2018
- Satsang (spiritual discourse) by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati May 21, 2018
- Ganga Aarti (devotional fire ritual) at Parmarth Niketan Ashram May 21, 2018
- Bouncing Back into Yoga in Rishikesh May 21, 2018
- Exploring Rishikesh, India May 18, 2018
- India e-VISA snag May 9, 2018
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