The Story of Subtle Energy Yoga
12 October 2020
Hi. I'm Eric Armstrong—founder of MeditateBetter.com and designer of the "Instant Alignment" Yoga Meditation Bench.
I coined the term "Subtle Energy Yoga" to describe the system of asanas, exercises, breathing practices, and subtle internal muscle movements that make up a practice devoted to generating energy and maintaining mindful awareness of the resulting energy flows. It's a practice that leads naturally to meditation, and to a connection with the energy that permeates the universe.
This is the story of how it came to be.
It all started in 1989, when I began training with my martial arts master. I owe her more than I can say. Most of what I learned about getting along in life, I learned under her guidance. I began to meditate there, and I was introduced to the subject of energy.
I trained with her for a total of 8 years. After a 2-year hiatus (and an intensive 8-month resumption of training), I tested for and was awarded a Black Belt in the art of Jung SuWon—an "internal" form of Tae Kwon Do, where the focus is on energy awareness and personal growth.
The meditation practice was heart-centered. In a very real way, that training was my introduction to Bhakti Yoga—the yoga of love and devotion.
But it was Ipsalu that began the process of energy-flow meditations. I discovered that system in 2000. I did the practice every day for 2 years, and discovered the joy it can bring. Much later, in 2016, I would incorporate principles of Raja Yoga learned at the Ananda Center, accelerating a practice that was now evolving at a rapid pace.
That entire journey was about energy. First, becoming aware of it. Then learning to generate it—or perhaps more accurately, tapping into it. And these days, it is energy that guides my life—a connection with the energy that pervades the universe, all stemming from a practice that I am working to share with the world.
Ipsalu played a critical role in the development of that practice. My martial arts
practice cleared the ground and laid the foundation, making real progress possible. Raja Yoga put the "crowning" touches on the practice, like the cherry on top of a sundae. But it was Ipsalu that put the filling in that sandwich!
Ipsalu practices are by nature, tantric--which means they deal with energy flows. It doesn't mean that the practices are all about sex. But sex by its very nature is a powerful energy indeed, and Ipsalu doesn't shy away from it.
(Western culture has been actively repressing sexual energy for hundreds of years. As a result. the irresistible force of sexual energy often emerges in warped ways. Like a bonsai tree struggling to grow against its bindings, nature energy finds any outlet it can, and grows in that direction.)
Ipsalu stresses the need for emotional healing in order to deal with energy flows successfully. So, in a very real way, Ipsalu is the real "Antidote to Western Civilization". (My apologies to Club Med. They do provide a nice reprieve. But for a real antidote, and for starting an energy-based meditation practice, Ipsalu can't be beat!)
The full title of the Ipsalu practice is Ipsalu Tantra Kriya Yoga, or Kriya Yoga, for short. "Kriya" means "internal action"--as opposed to "karma", which means "external action". In particular, Kriya Yoga covers breathing practices (pranayama) and subtle internal muscle actions that generate, release, or remove impediments from the flow of energy.
In 2018, attended a weekend Kriya Yoga seminar, or shibir ("shih-beer") taught by my yoga guru, Swami Asanganand Saraswati—a swami in the Saraswati tradition. That seminar provided me with a variety of essential details that helped to refine my practice, as had his pranayama seminar, years earlier.
The bottom line here is that my practice has evolved. It has strong roots in a variety of sources. It evolved because I practiced it. Because it was enjoyable, I practiced it regularly. As I did, inspiration and guidance came in waves.
I call that practice Subtle Energy Yoga. And now you know the story behind it!