Yoga and Married Life

Swami Muktananda Saraswati

For ages there has been a great controversy over the spiritual merits of householder life versus renunciation, and most of the confusion has arisen concerning the need for brahmacharya. Much misunderstanding has come from the interpretation of brahmacharya as celibacy. Actually, it doesn't necessarily imply this at all. Brahma is 'supreme consciousness' and charya is 'behaviour'. Brahmacharya is the behaviour of one whose thoughts, emotions and whole being is directed towards the supreme. This is what is necessary for expansion of consciousness.

An active married life is not incompatible with the practice of yoga or spiritual development. The Kama Sutra is a centuries old scripture that gives explicit details on the conduct of marital relations. Here the sage Vatsyayana points out that man has four essential needs: to live in accordance with cosmic law (dharma), to attain enough of this world's goods to sustain life (artha), the fulfillment of desire (kama) and the pursuit of liberation (moksha). To ignore any one of the first three is to forfeit the attainment of moksha, which is our deepest impulse. Many people nevertheless believe that to make progress it is necessary to be celibate, even though this may not be the case at all.

The question of marital relations or celibacy is actually a matter of biological and personality characteristics. There are two types of people, those with passive sexual energy and those with active sexual energy. Those people who are passive cannot achieve self realization unless they are celibate. They should strictly observe celibacy before undertaking any higher spiritual practices. However, those people who have dynamic sexual energy will never attain spiritual realization unless they marry and lead a happy, active married life. If they enter spiritual life by force or on impulse, they will always be guided by their suppressed sexual instincts.

Spiritual energy and sexual energy are not two different energies. Great men like Mohammed, Vyasadev, Suradas, Tulsidas were all dynamic types. Sexual energy is the greatest power in man. When excessive, it has to be pacified to a certain extent, otherwise it can become very harmful! However, when sexual energy is less, then it must be preserved.

This is why alongside the tradition of renunciation, there has always been a tradition of progress through householder life. From vedic times, grihastha ashrama was seen as a necessary stage is one's evolution where spiritual growth is stimulated by raising a family and taking an active part in society. Consummate means to complete a marriage through physical union. It also means to bring to completion (yoga) or perfection (siddhi), to raise to the highest, and crown of, recalling that Shiva and Shakti are united in sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head.

Married relations are the expression of the same primal energy that manifests the universe and moves us towards spiritual enlightenment. Our spiritual evolution is dependent on removing the blockages that impede the free flow of this energy. At certain stages this involves the removal of inhibitions, complexes and frustrations through satisfying sexual activity. We can grow through pleasure as well as suffering, and successful married relations bring us greater personal integration.

As primal energy is refined and re-channeled through yoga, during meditation some aspirants may experience pleasurable physical sensations akin to sensual enjoyment It then sometimes happens that they no longer desire physical union with husband or wife. Nevertheless, they feel obliged to continue married relations in order to satisfy the needs and rights of their partner. This is felt to be quite a problem, particularly when the spouse is not involved, or is less involved in yoga.

The practitioner feels he must renounce married life, but cannot do so wholeheartedly. He is not only needed by his wife and children, but is committed to them with a real lave that cannot ha repudiated. Furthermore, most people marry because this la the most suitable framework for their personal growth, and their inner needs and talents are such that they would be seriously weakened if the marriage were broken. Renunciation of married life in such cases would binder, not help spiritual growth.

On the other hand, an aspirant might decide to 'sacrifice' her progress in yoga, to martyr herself to her husband's needs. Such an attitude is easily sensed by her spouse and only creates resentment in them both. The marriage altar then becomes a funeral pyre, and worldly and spiritual happiness alike go up in flames.

Yoga should not be the source of suffering and is certainly no threat to marriage. The unfortunate conflict that arises in this situation is of our own making, and is based on misinformation or faulty reasoning.

Some aspirants claim that after married relations, the pleasures of meditation are lost for days or even weeks. This may happen if one's primal energy level is low, but usually it is due to an underlying feeling of guilt about erotic impulses and their expression. Meditation is disturbed because the resulting guilt and tension interfere with the depth of relaxation and block the flow of primal energy in meditation.

When discussing these problems, aspirants give one of two reasons for wishing to terminate marital relations. The first is the belief that the highest attainments in yoga are achieved through celibacy. As we have already pointed out, this depends entirely upon one's biological make up, whether one's sexual energy is active or passive. Once this has been decided, the situation resolves itself spontaneously.

The other reason is that the aspirant finds the sensations experienced in meditation more enjoyable than actual physical union. If this is the case, then it is the relationship with your spouse that is in some way lacking. The sexual relationship is one of great delicacy and sensitivity, so there could be many reasons why it is less than completely satisfactory. Especially with young couples, it could be that they are not fully acquainted with their own needs and desires in this area, or with those of their partner. Often some other aspect of the marriage is not completely peaceful and harmonious, and this is reflected in the physical relationship. This should be frankly discussed by husband and wife with a view to seeing how every facet of their relationship can be perfected.

Primal energy, in either its physical or spiritual manifest lions, is not depleted by spontaneous and joyful physical union. In fact, sensual relations can be used to heighten spiritual experience. Tantra yoga teaches us to avoid these difficulties by spiritualising our married life.

The supreme is one, but manifests as two currents of energy running through the whole universe, consciousness (static energy) and power (dynamic energy). Positive and negative, light and dark. Shiva and Shakti, male and female. These two currents must be present in every situation to spark creative activity. This is true of human relationships as of everything else.

We can get a better grasp on the nature and workings of these energies if we compare them with electricity. If we want a light bulb to shine, we must have both positive and negative currents. However, the wires must be properly insulated and come together through a proper conducting medium. If the wires are brought directly together, there will be a short circuit. For an instant there will be shock, a hot and blinding spark, but no light. Yet, if we observe the natural laws governing electrical energy, the current will flow safely and steadily, generating a brilliant light for all to see and to see by.

In marriage, male and female energies can be united through the guru to produce spiritual illumination. This is brilliantly successful when both partners are yoga practitioners, but can be achieved despite differences in spiritual aspiration between the two. Yoga practices are directly beneficial ill Integrating primal impulses and harmonizing their expression, for yoga aims at purifying our energies while increasing our awareness of our self and our spouse.

The guru can teach sincere and qualified householder couples the various techniques which increase the intensity of physical union and simultaneously release spiritual potential. If one partner has less yogic aspiration, these practices can be legitimately used for purely sensual enjoyment. Just the same, the spiritual power of these techniques is such that differences in aspiration are generally soon overcome.

Tantra yoga is not a source of conflicts in marriage but a means of eliminating them. Married life becomes more rewarding and the couple experiences greater communion in all dimensions of their lives together. Physical union itself becomes a form of meditation, end the couple can meditate together afterwards. They will find themselves more tranquil, able to dive deeper into the mind, to be spiritually united in blissful expansion of consciousness. Tantra yoga takes us beyond physical union to union with the divine power that is centred in everybody and throughout the universe.

The first step in practical tantra for householders is mastery of vajroli mudra. This is a psycho-physical lock that gives greater awareness and control of the sexual function. It tones the related organs, muscles and nerves, increasing sensitivity and responsiveness. It also has a great influence on the vajra nadi which supplies this area with vital pranic energy and it transmits the sensation of bliss throughout the body. Ultimately it is used in the practices of kundalini yoga to consummate the union of individual consciousness with the supreme at the climax of spiritual endeavour.

Vajroli Mudra Technique

Sit in any comfortable meditative asana. Close your eyes. Relax the body and mind by watching the natural breath until it has become slow and deep.

Become aware of the genital region, and focus on the urinary opening which is at the base of the penis near the pubic bone in men, and just below the clitoris in women. Inhale slowly and gradually contract the urinary opening as if to prevent the flow of urine.

At the same time, gently pull up the lower abdomen as if attempting to suck the genitals into the pelvis. Retain the breath for as long as comfortable and retain the contraction.

Then inhale slightly, slowly exhale and simultaneously release the contraction of the abdomen and urinary system. This is one round.

Practice ten rounds. Add five rounds daily until you reach a maximum of fifty each day. Practice after asanas and pranayama, but before meditation.