We´ve set up a list of FAQs for you to browse for specific information…
What is Trulkhor?
Trul Khor, the magical movement from Tibet is a practice of physical yoga in which breath and mental concentration are integrated with body movements.
From which tradition is this yoga?
This trulkhor from the Bon tradition is based on two main lineages that were transmitted orally at first: the Zhang Zhung Nyen Gyu, the Oral tradition of Zhang Zhung, for which the trulkhor chapter was probably put into writing sometime between the 8th and the 12th century, and the A-tri or Instructions of the A, that we know as written text from around the 11th century. These traditions are still alive and practiced today, and we can learn them also in the west.
How important is the religous context?
It depends for what – if the goal is enlightenment it is important, if the goal is health it is not. Its ultimate purpose is to use the body and the energies of the body as support for the stabilisation of the practitioner in nondual awareness of rigpa.
Are there various teachers, what differences do they teach?
If you talk from different traditions or teaching from different Trulkhor texts, of course the teachings will be different, if you are saying from the same texts, there are slight differences, but it should be pretty much the same. Of course, there is also the approach, religious and lay, etc.
These yogas are not taught very openly, and if you look into the curriculums of Tibetan mind-body practices both in monasteries or even with yogis, these practices come later in the studies. They´re actually always at the end of many of the instruction manuals of meditation. Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche follows the trulkhor of Vairochana’s Union of Sun and Moon, on which he has written a book called Yantra Yoga. Other teachers of Tibetan physical practices in the West include Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, who teaches both public and advanced practices, and Lama Norlha of Kagyu Thubten Choling monastery, where trulkhor is taught only as part of the three-year retreat. While traditionally these practices were taught and practiced only after the student had undergone many years of meditation training, some Tibetan masters now teach it more openly, yet with the appropriate supervision like many other meditative practices. Other teachers maintain the secrecy of the higher trulkhor practices. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche has based much of the tsa lung practice he teaches on the ancient Mother Tantra, and the Trulkhor from the Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung. You can find a very good explanation of the Trulkhor’s root set in his book Tibetan Yogas of Body Speech and Mind. He says, “Trulkhor is a wonderful daily practice, especially to control and handle the stress of our modern life in society. It has the power to balance the energies of mind and body, and it also helps enormously to support one’s meditation practices.”
Can we combine tsa lung and trulkhor with other traditions of meditation and yoga?
Well as practitioners, people can do whatever they want. But traditionally you don´t mix. I wouldn´t mix it in the sense of I´ll do a pranayana from what my great indian teacher told me, and I´ll do a chi gong movement from this great chinese teacher, I´ll do this tsa lung from this tibetan. You´re creating your own soup, and there´s something about the right taste, meaning the experience. In other words each recipe has its ‘proven’ result over the generations, when you mix you change the recipe, and maybe you are not that great chef. The lineage, the tradition is their scientific way, even if we call it ‘anecdotal’ or qualitative research in science. Here, teachers and disciples are having the same experiences and in that way they replicate that experience. This ensures to a certain extent, that you will have the same experience that the previous ones had. It´s very much like research we are doing at MD Anderson- e.g. there are multiple teachers for cancer patients in the research of Tibetan Yoga, but everyone has to follow the same protocol, so it´s not about the teacher´s style, but how that technique, that method, that group of practices done in the same way as much as possible, to get that particular effect. In fact, when we´re doing these protocols, we actually film, not the patient but the teacher to make sure the different teachers teach it in the same way.
Are there any levels or stages of these tibetan yogas?
Everyone should practice at their own level, and it depends on time and commitment how much they can do, but once you learn you get more familiar by doing-practise practise practise. In terms of levels they could be understood as:
Beginners = mindfully, concentration of the mind, learning the Tsa lung movements.
Medium = understanding the subtle body and deepening the purification breathing and the Tsa Lung. Learning the Trulkhor movements.
Advanced = maintaining the concentration and connectedness to oneself and others while doing the movements and in post-meditation too.
Also, when we do Tibetan Yoga within a traditional context, we include prayers that can strengthen our intention and commitment to oneself and others.
Are there any limitations for people – age or physical limitations?
the tsa lung movements are relatively simple movements and if you have issues they can be adapted.
e.g. if you just had a masectomy and you are doing an arm movement, although it could be helpful for your recovery, you need to move very carefully and slowly. And because there is breath retention, you need to be more careful if you do have high blood pressure that is not treated, as with pregnancy. Everyone can practice them at the leve each one is able.
Is it for people who want some kind of fitness etc?
Tibetan yoga doesn´t apply much to fitness, although there is something there, you could say mind fitness. There is body fitness in terms of there´s a lot of physicality in them. But usually they´re not done for the physical fitness factor. The idea is to calm the physical condition and to be able to sit more with ease.
In these trulkhor movements the whole point of all these postures and jumping is about sitting, not about moving. Sitting body, speech and mind.
What has changed over the last 5 to 10 years?
Until recently, Westerners were focused on receiving Tibetan teachings that develop the mind, but in the last few years there has been a growing interest in Tibetan physical yogas. For the past 20 years, Alejandro Chaoul together with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, developed a system of teaching tsa lung and trulkhor to western students. There are a large number of people now practising tsa lung, less do the trulkhor cycles, maintaining the spirit of the practice even when doing the Tsa lung movements. These physical yogas from Tibet have come to the West, as most Buddhist teachings have, through the needs of students. Feeling that mind practices lacked the “embodiment” aspect, many felt the need of physical movement with a spiritual component. Unaware of the existence of Tibetan yoga, or unable to meet the strict requirements for receiving the practices, they turned to hatha or other Indian yogas. Now that many trulkhor practices are available to western students, it seems that the magical wheel is turning.