What do you know about tantric sex? Or rather, what do you know about it that doesn’t involve rumors of Sting’s 24-hour marathon sex sessions with wife Trudie Styler? I didn’t know much either—so I turned to the experts to find out more:
WHAT TANTRA IS…AND ISN’T
Born in India over 6,000 years ago, the practice of Tantra has to do with much more than sex. Tantra practitioner Matthew Stillman explains, “In the sacred Indian texts the purpose of Tantra (in its overtly sexual and non-sexual forms) is for spiritual awakening, enlightenment, moksha or freedom. That might be outside the experience or language of many people, so a more secular approach might be to help discover and nourish all parts of you and using sexual energy as a door toward that.”
He also cautions against the misconception “that Tantra is all about sex and will make you have sex for billions of hours and ride waves of orgasm into eternity.” You can blame Sting for that one. Instead, try approaching Tantra as a practice in being more present, and deepening your connection with your partner and yourself.
WHY PRACTICE TANTRA
“Our lives are so outwardly focused and predicated on acquisition of stuff, and being busy and productive, that so often relationships slump or crumple under the weight of exhaustion,” Stillman says. Eventually you find yourselves, he continues, “just eating together, talking about your day…as you watch television next to each other on the couch, and then go to sleep.” Sound uncomfortably familiar?
Patricia Johnson and Mark Michaels, co-authors of Great Sex Made Simple, The Essence of Tantric Sexuality, and Tantra for Erotic Empowerment, believe that adding just a few of the basic techniques of Tantra can transform your relationship (with yourself or your partner), creating “the conditions in which you can fall in love with each other again and again.”
As for your sex life? Stillman says that once he started practicing Tantra, he found sex more playful, more curious, and more energizing. “I can also say that some of the most outwardly productive and satisfying times in my life have been aligned when I have been practicing the most,” he adds.
WHERE TO START
EYE-GAZING: Stand facing each other and gazing wordlessly into each other’s eyes. It sounds simple and will take no more than 5 minutes a day, but the results can be transformative. “This practice creates a sense of balance and solidarity and fortifies the feeling of being in a partnership,” say Johnson and Michaels, recommending the exercise be practiced formally and regularly. “Once the habit has been established, eye-gazing can be employed as a way of creating harmony when there’s a feeling of disruption and before having any discussions that might trigger negative emotions.”
TUNING IN: A more advanced variation on the eye-gazing technique, Stillman recommends sitting cross-legged face to face with your partner and gazing into each other’s left eye. Synchronize your breath as much as possible. During the exercise, have one partner offer up a number from 1-10 about the level of attention and devotion they are sensing in the gaze. “Offer the number up without judgment or agenda but just as a snapshot of that moment,” Stillman says. “See how softening the eyes or the mouth changes the number.” Have the chosen partner say a number every 10 or 20 seconds, and see if you can get to above an 8. Once you do, hold it there for a few minutes, and then switch roles.
GOING SOLO: Whether you have a partner or not, you can also explore the benefits of Tantra alone—in fact, the vast majority of traditional Tantric practices are individual, according to Johnson and Michaels. Johnson and Michaels recommend solo eye-gazing, using a mirror to spend 3-5 minutes a day looking deeply into your own eyes. “Gaze upon yourself with a sense of reverence and deep appreciation.”
SELF-PLEASURE: “Bringing a level of attention and patience and willingness to explore your own body can only serve to deepen any Tantric practices you take up with your partner,” says Stillman. He recommends a mixture of soft touch, slower speed, and deep, slow breathing during self-pleasure. “You can find ‘the spot,’ this goes for male and female bodies, and touch it much lightly and/or more slowly and keep the excitement at a comparable level. See if you can find a spot just off the main one that is sensitive too and try to expand the zone of pleasure. Keep trying to expand that zone if you can over time.”