So Allison and Alex started off by asking if we were “From Agama” the local yoga school and we continued by comparing stories about India, spirituality and the reality we live in.
I loved it, I’m not sure Marion was quite as interested (having already had an earful of philosophy from me earlier)
They told us all about the school and some of the things they had learnt (without mentioning the Tantra element actually) and I took it as a total sign that I had to go to this place. We were the last ones at the restaurant and I left having arranged to meet Alex and Allison at a lecture on the Bhagavad Gita the following night.
Agama is a controversial school but I didn’t realise that until a little while later. I was confused a little at my first Yoga class when people asked me if I knew what I was “letting myself in for” but to be honest I didn’t find it intimidating and I think there are a lot of insubstatiated stories. Certainly from the first lecture I found the Swami immensely well read, very knowledgeable and a good speaker. I’m not sure I felt in the presence of a realised being but this large Romanian guy in orange robes with quite a brash manner perhaps just doesn’t fit my restricted idea of a guru.
Marion and I spent several days together, hanging out at various beaches and exploring before we went to the Half Moon Party. I had spent a long day at Agama, walking to both the morning and afternoon classes as well as staying for the lecture with Nadine, the sparkly eyed German who Marion had met on the bus and had been another pointer to Agama, having completed the first level course previously.
I didn’t really fancy the party after this long day but Marion and I had been planning to go so I didn’t want to pull out last minute. I probably should have though because she knew some French guys there and we ended up hanging out with them. The guys were alright although it was pure Gallic Drama as one had injured his leg meaning his holiday may be cut short while his companion was in the grip of great despair due to not wanting to travel alone. I had a traditional bucket of Sang Som with Red Bull and Coke to try and enjoy the party but apart from the fire show which was, in equal parts enchanting and extremely dangerous it wasn’t really a great do.
It was this night and the resulting hangover which made me decide to quit drinking, for a while at least, and I went a good month before having anything again.
Meanwhile, the Yoga was really interesting, I arrived on the last day of week 2 of the 1st level 1 month intensive course. This proved to be a good day to start since we were taught what I would call Agama’s “Special Move” the ultimate energy-sublimation asana, Uddiyanda Bandha. This involves exhaling through the mouth to empty the lungs and then doing a “fake inhalation” pulling the chest up and navel towards the spine with knees bent and hands on the thighs to hold the exhale with a concave stomach. This causes energy to rise up the spine, moving it from the lower chakras.
The Class in general is characterised by its intense focus on these energy centres and movement, either bringing in cosmic energy from above or channelling through the Telluric Earth energy from below.
This is achieved by concentrating on particular chakras during the Asanas but also by holding the postures for much longer than I am used to.
I liked the slow, reflective and meditative style though and the classes were certainly challenging, leading to a deep final relaxation.
My first day was a big one because as well as Uddiyanda Bandha the evening lecture (led by Swami Vivekananda) was about the Yogic concept of Brahmacharya which is basically Sexual Continence.
Interpreted by most as meaning a celibate path is the only way to enlightenment, Tantra sees things differently. Outlining that the real reason behind Brahmacharya is preventing the loss of Ojas and not specificially refraining from sex.
Ojas is described in ayurveda and is a kind of “life force” which is lost in large amounts through ejaculation for men and so it is understandable that there is a correlation.
The ascetic path which takes the “fastest” route to enlightenment by cutting out all opportunities to failure by for example heading off to a cave, teaches celibacy as a way of cutting out the sexual urge at the root. Tantra however, teaches the mantra “sublime, sublime, sublime” that this energy can be harnessed and transferred to higher chakras to actually aid in spiritual development
For men this means giving up ejaculation, and in the short term the orgasm – we learnt that the two are not explicitly linked.
Orgasm causes certain muscle contractions which cause ejaculation but the two can be separated (although this takes a while)
This means that with practice and by offering the fruits to the divine it is possible for men to have multiple orgasms without ejaculation.
So maybe you can see why this school has a slightly “odd” reputation – I should clarify that some of the details here weren’t taught in this initial lecture – in fact Swami made a point of keeping away from the sexual side since the yoga classes are kept totally aside from the “tantric” side.
However, I did attend the separate “mens meeting” and after much deliberation I did sign up for the one week Tantra Level One workshop.
It turned out to be much more Sex-ed than I was expecting or really hoping for…!