Tantra © by Alex Grey, American artist b. 1953
Most people think tantric sex is sex that lasts for hours and hours, and while tantric sessions tend to last longer than typical sexual episodes, the majority of that time isn’t spent on the actual sex part. So don’t worry, you’re not going to have to run a marathon! Tantric sex is slow lovemaking that doesn’t necessarily result in orgasm. Successful tantric sex is about connecting more deeply with your partner, and finding pleasure in the process. Tantra itself is the Sanskrit word for “woven together,” and refers to the weaving together of your physical and spiritual self, as well as a “weaving together” with your partner.
Osho describes tantra in his book of the same name as a process that begins with the body. “The body is your base, it is your ground, it is where you are grounded… Your body is your temple. Tantra teaches reverence for the body, respect for the body, gratitude for the body… Tantra is the religion of the body… This is the map to turn you on, and to turn you in, and to turn you beyond.” He emphasizes the importance of communion – where two hearts meet – rather than communication – where two heads meet, and he speaks of the possibility of experiencing Mahamudra – a total orgasm with the universe:
If you have loved somebody, and sometimes you have felt a melting and merging, the two are no longer two. The bodies remain separate, but something between the bodies makes a bridge, a golden bridge, and the twoness inside disappears; one life energy vibrates at both the poles.
How to get there via sex? It all goes back to your breath. If you have never attempted tantra, here is a basic 10 to 15 minute exercise to try with your partner: sit on a comfortable surface facing each other and stare into each other’s eyes, holding their gaze. You can be naked or clothed. While you are doing this, coordinate your breathing with your partner’s so your shared breathing becomes a rhythm. Try and relax and not take it too seriously; it’s ok if you feel like you’re getting lost in the exercise or decide to switch up the breathing pattern. At some point you can work up to a breath exchange where you’re inhaling when your partner is exhaling, allowing both of you to breathe each other in.
If you found that exercise relaxing or enjoyable, try taking the experience to the next level. Tantric sex is about giving and receiving, so remember to “pass” the pleasure back and forth equally between you and your partner, making it deliberate and purposeful. When it’s your turn to give, give fully, and when it’s your turn to receive, receive fully. You can start by kissing without touching, or touching without kissing. Take your time so you can really feel your own body and the movement of your partner’s. After that you can move on to more massage-like touching; notice how your partner responds to different parts of their body being touched. When you are being massaged, make yourself aware of your reactions and how your body feels as it is touched. You could also incorporate kissing each other’s bodies into the massage. More tips here from tantric teacher Michaela Boehm.
If anything feels a little off or uncomfortable, mention it gently to your partner, but also make an attempt to gradually move out of your sexual comfort zone. Notice any ways that you might feel the pressure to provide pleasure to your partner while touching them or even pressure to feel pleasure as you’re being touched, and let it go with your exhale. Doing this will have a liberating effect that allows you to feel pleasure more deeply, and in places you might not have been aware it was hiding.
After this, take a moment to talk to your partner about what you liked and ask them what they enjoyed. Communicating after an exercise like this is important because not only are you reconnecting with your own body, you’re slowing down enough to really feel the sensations and intention of your partner.
Diana Richardson adds onto this in her book, The Heart of Tantric Sex: A Unique Guide to Love and Sexual Fulfillment, saying:
Sexual rapport creates possibilities for intimacy and honesty, and a bonding, loving union… The spiritual phase of sexual energy arises as men and women learn to relax together during sex. This is contrary to the popular experience of sex as effort, an activity involving tensions and pressures. We believe that the more we do in sex, the more will happen and the greater the reward. We hardly think of taking it easy! What we don’t realize is that genuine sexual ecstasy goes hand-in-hand with physical relaxation. The more we relax, the more we feel. In fact, ecstasy and tension are diametrically opposed; tension creates heat and restlessness while ecstasy arises from a coolness and an inner peace. Tension narrows and contracts, while relaxation opens and expands. Tension creates a peak, while relaxation creates a valley. Tension forces a release, while relaxation allows absorption.
Relaxation is the whole ambience of Tantra. It means that when we relax down into our sexual energy, instead of building it up to a peak and then releasing it, the outcome will be more life energy and more love. In re-directing seuxal energy through relaxation, we can turn it inward and upward, where it is automatically re-absorbed by the body and re-circulated.
It is helpful to check in so each person can find out what made the other truly feel good and what areas need some extra love. You can repeat these exercises at a later time, or continue exploring. For some people, tantra can be the first step on a journey towards erotic enlightenment, for others it’s simply a great relaxation technique to bring higher awareness to the body.
The yin-yang is sometimes associated with tantra as it describes how opposite forces are interconnected in the natural world, in this case with the harmony of black and white. The shapes are the same but not symmetrical, also containing a small part of the other, which shows a complimentary balance. The dualities of man and woman are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept.