Consider This Your Basic Guide to Tantric Sex 101, For Couples or Singles
~ FEBRUARY 2022 ~
You might have heard that tantric sex is the key to having the hottest sexual experience of your life. We’re talking full-body orgasms and euphoric sensations that feel almost spiritual.
But tantric sex can often be misunderstood. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be intimidating, and you don’t have to be super flexible, religious, or spiritual to enjoy it. All you need is an open mind and a willing partner. (TBH, you don’t even really need a partner.)
If you just went 👀, then you’re in the right place. Welcome to your beginner’s guide to all things tantric sex.
Before we get into what tantric sex is and how to practice it, let’s start with the basics. For starters, the Sanskrit definition of “tantra” is the “warp of a loom or the strands of a braid.” It essentially describes the weaving or binding together of tantric teachings or themes to reach liberation and enlightenment (a higher state of consciousness). “Tantra” can also refer to the sacred tantric texts and scriptures known as the Tantras, or that particular genre of scriptures.
These texts and practices are believed to have been taught by deities and originated within Hinduism during the middle of the first millennium CE. The practices developed from Vedic rituals, as well as yogic and meditative traditions within ancient Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The Buddhist tantric traditions would emerge several centuries later during the seventh century CE, and rapidly spread throughout Asia, leading to the establishment of some distinct East Asian and Tibetan traditions.
Compared to ancient tantric traditions, which span thousands of years, western understandings and teachings of tantra have a much shorter history, and are what we might label “neotantra.” It’s a modern approach to tantra that focuses on healing trauma blocks, deeply connecting with one’s body and emotions, and working with sexual energies (which in original tantra was only one part of the practice, and it’s usually reserved for advanced students).
Sooo… what is tantric sex?
“Tantric sex is essentially a slow, meditative sexual practice,” says Kamil Lewis, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in sex and relationships. Tantric sex describes a more mindful approach to sex with the goal of cultivating a sense of connection, intimacy, and pleasure with your partner, rather than achieving orgasm. (Although, yes, it’s possible to experience orgasm during tantric sex.) “There’s no attachment to outcome, there’s no goal other than to be present and connected with each other,” says Devi Ward Erickson, founder of the Institute of Authentic Tantra Education.
Interestingly, some tantric traditions even view sex as a tool for achieving enlightenment. Are you sold yet? If your answer is yes, continue reading for some tips and tricks to dipping your toes in the tantric sex waters.
Tips for practicing tantric sex
1. Set the mood
The secret to an out-of-this-world tantric sex experience is heightening all the senses. “A wonderful way of creating a nurturing environment is to enhance each sense either by dimming the lights (sight), having lovely smells (smell), having aphrodisiacs (taste), supporting your body with pillows (touch), and playing music (sound),” says Erickson. Just make sure the music isn’t distracting (so maybe skip the EDM?) as the goal is to create, “a sensual cocoon, so you can bring all of your attention, awareness and focus to this experience.”
To really tune into your senses, you might ask yourself: What do the sheets feel like? What does the room smell like? How does my partner’s face feel when I stroke it? This is also the perfect time to whip out that lingerie set (touch) you’ve been saving for a special occasion.
Tantric sex involves being fully present during the entire steamy sesh, so practicing meditation beforehand can be a great way to relax the mind and body. Use a meditation app on your phone or look one up on Youtube if you’re new to meditation and could use some guidance. Meditation is also great before getting it on solo! (Which, yes, hi, you can practice tantric sex on your own sans partner.) In the words of Erickson: “Meditate before you masturbate.”
3. Take a bath
Another great tip for getting in the zone before practicing tantric sex is taking a ritual bath. Washing off the baggage of the day and taking some time to just be with yourself can heighten the experience, whether you’re participating in partnered sex or solo sex. “Being in warm water helps relax the autonomic nervous system because it mimics being in the womb,” says Erickson. Be sure to add some essential oils or herbs for peak luxury.
4. Try the Yab-yum position
“Yab-yum means ‘mother-father,’” explains Erickson. “It’s a beautiful position for cultivating a sense of connection because it physically aligns all of the major connection points, which are the genitals, the heart and the eyes or brain.”
To get into Yab-yum, face your partner in a seated position and cross your legs behind their back so you’re almost sitting on their lap. This position allows you to place your hand on your partner’s heart (activating their heart chakra), practice synchronizing your breaths, and gaze meaningfully into each other’s eyes.
5. Practice harmonized breathing
Breathing alone during solo meditation can do wonders, but take it one step further by practicing harmonized breathing, which involves synchronizing your breath with your partner’s. “If you’re heightened from the day, stressed, or anxious, just sitting and facing your partner, hearing the breath (not being afraid of having outward, audible breaths and sighs that can turn into moans), and letting the breath fall on the other person’s face or ears is a really great way to connect,” says Lewis.
6. Make eye contact
Not only is prolonged eye contact during sex super sexy, it’s also great for getting present with your partner and feeling more connected to them. “When we’re making direct, prolonged eye contact, it’s signaling to the ventral vagal pathway that it’s actually safe to be here, in your body, and it’s telling your autonomic nervous system to relax and be present,” explains Erickson.
7. Practice Yoni and Lingam massage
Yoni (“womb” in Sanskrit) represents the female reproductive organ (vagina) and is the symbol for the Hindu goddess Shakti, while Lingam represents the male reproductive organ (penis) and is the symbol for the Hindu god Shiva (Shakti’s consort). According to Erickson, Yoni and Lingam massages aim to “bring energy and life force back into the genitals, heal trauma blocks and awaken bliss.”
I know what you’re thinking: This sounds a lot like mutual masturbation and/or just giving your partner a hand job/finger bang. But in tantra, this type of massage is much more meaningful and should be approached respectfully. If your partner has a penis, stimulate them slowly and mindfully, massaging their shaft and exploring their balls and p-spot. (Lube is your best friend here.) If your partner has a vagina, take the same approach and use different rubbing techniques to stimulate the clitoris and their inner hot spots. The goal for both types of massage is to connect and bond spiritually, not necessarily to reach orgasm. (But if you do, that’s okay.) Both partners, giving and receiving, should practice breathing deeply throughout and being present—no distractions, just each other.
8. Communicate openly
“A part of the practice is feeling comfortable enough to say, ‘Hey, can we pause?’’’ says Evan McCrary, sex therapist and teacher-in-training at the Institute of Authentic Tantra Education. If you start to feel uncomfortable any time during sex, it’s easy to disconnect from the experience, which is what you want to avoid.
“Being able to communicate what you’re feeling is going to be important in making sure that you’re staying connected, because you taking care of yourself is in part you taking care of your partner, and vice versa.”
9. Let go of expectations
Remember, the goal of tantric sex isn’t to reach orgasm, but to connect intimately with your partner. It’s about letting go of expectations, and accepting whatever feelings may arise. “Sometimes I’m having amazing orgasms, other times I’m moving through a block, crying and releasing something from my childhood, or maybe my partner has something from his childhood arise, and so we’re communicating and working through these emotions together,” says Erickson.
Benefits of Tantric Sex
If you’ve read all of the above and still aren’t convinced you should practice tantric sex, like, ASAP, then allow me to shed some light on even more huge benefits it brings.
For one, tantric sex allows you to become more deeply aware and connected to your body’s wants and needs. “If you’re slowing down sex (either with yourself or with a partner) you’re forced to consider, ‘Wow, what actually feels good to me?’ Not, ‘What was I taught should feel good?’” says Lewis. Advocating for yourself can be a major confidence booster, both in and out of the bedroom. Additionally, tantric sex allows you to become more connected to and curious about your partner’s body, making space to experiment with play.
Tantric sex can also be a huge source of liberation from sexual shame and even trauma. In some spaces and communities, sex is still (yep, still!) a majorly taboo subject, and as a result, it’s common for feelings of embarrassment to arise when talking about it. But nothing is more natural than sex, and really practicing slow, mindful, tantric sex can help you totally re-write your relationship to it because it allows you to see it for what it is—something amazing.
“One of the most salient benefits I see is the complete rewriting and reframing of our relationship to sexuality as a society,” says Erickson. “Instead of being this dark shadow thing, sex becomes a source of inspiration, joy, connection and liberation, which is tantra.”
A version of this article originally appeared here on cosmopolitan.com