What comes to mind when you hear the word “tantra?” A group of long-haired hippies lying naked in a field, fondling one another in an epic free-love orgy? Common perceptions of tantra yoga reduce the spiritual practice into sexual terms. In fact, tantra yoga is the rather scientific art of sacred sex. This article explains how- how it tantra came to be, how it impacts a yogi’s life, and how to bring the practice to your own bedroom.
What is tantra?
Advanced Yoga Practices: Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living defines tantra this way: “In tantric sex, we are learning to engage in sex for the purpose of cultivating energy upward…Spiritual cultivation of sexual energy first, orgasm second.” Yogis call energy prana. They believe that the greatest amount of prana is stored between the hips at the base of the spine. A man loses extreme amounts of prana in orgasm. Tantra is the practice of withholding orgasm so that the man can stay vibrant, longer. Tantra makes sex into a meditative experience, a blissful union lasting hours, days, or years (as legend has it).
Feminists, rejoice: yogis believe tantric sex is a fundamentally equalizing practice. Some yogis believe that masculine repression of women is related to men’s subconscious recognition of female sexual superiority. Yogis practicing tantra put their partner’s pleasure before their own. They work together for long-lasting and luxurious lovemaking. Sex becomes an expression of divine union, “more charming than the jerking and lurching of genital orgasm,” says Yogani, author of Advanced Yoga Practices.
While tantra is about merging one’s sex life with their spiritual pursuits, it is not a requirement for enlightenment. It is like a booster pack for an already-revved yogi. “For those who are light to moderate in their sex life, there is not a great necessity to introduce yogic methods to sexual relations, although learning tantric sex will enhance love making and the rest of your yoga practices as well,” Yogani states.
Tantra is based on the same principles as the asana (movement-based yoga) that Western Yogis practice in public studios. According to ancient Eastern scriptures called The Vedas, tantra yoga is the term for all externally-oriented yoga practices, from Ashtanga to Bikram.
The Vedas explain that physical yoga practices are located on the “hands” of 8-limbed yoga philosophy (the other limbs are internal practices, like pranayama and Buti). Right-handed yoga practices are those that reject material pleasures (the socially acceptable practices like chanting). Tantrism is on the left, alongside other practices that regard sensuality as a conduit for consciousness.
Because nearly every society has deemed sex as something personal, dangerous, and secretive, tantra yoga was never widely accepted. It was not until hippies discovered the yoga of sex that tantra became more socially prevalent, in the East and West. Unfortunately, hippies reduced the meaning of tantra yoga to something like “ecstatic sex” or “spiritual sex,” or, simply, “more sex.” Actually, tantra is about ritual, pleasure, and awareness.
Let’s Try It!
Hold your yoga pants! There’s a few pre-requisites for divine sexual union. First of all, you’ve got to get the parts. Tantra refers to the male organ as the “lingam” and the female organ as the “yoni.” Next, both partners must commit to focusing solely on the other partner’s satisfaction, refusing the temptation of personal triumph. Third, the tantric yogis must also have strong yoga practices in the other realms. After this, there are few rules about what actually happens during tantric relations.
In tantra, male and female yogis carefully cultivate the sexual process to withhold the male orgasm, much like a yogi uses ujjayi breathing to control their energy during a yoga class. Just as yoga isn’t about asana, neither is tantra about sex. It is about creating a more sensual, spiritual, and divine relationship. Here’s your tantra yoga starter kit.
Set the Scene
Like yoga, tantra is all about the mindset that ritual creates. Begin your tantra practice by creating the right physical environment: light soft-smelling candles and burn incense; prepare a tray of luscious finger foods and a decanter of wine; arrive freshly bathed, with soft skin. Then, prepare the mind. After sitting in loving, light conversation, look deeply into one another’s eyes. Concentrate on the visual image of your partner’s lingam or yoni. Imagine it connecting to yours. Imagine, as well, the connection between each of your cakras, bright energetic lights merging together.
After mental arousal comes physical. Start in a position whereby you can look into your partner’s eyes. The man playfully inserts and removes the lingam into the yoni, pausing between insertions at random intervals both to tease his partner and to retain his energy. Also called “the valley method,” this involves a slow build-up toward an eventual peak. For her part, the woman coaxes the man along the cusp, without allowing him to spill over. She also curbs her enthusiasm. Stop completely at intervals, staring deeply into one other’s eyes, imaging a deep red orb around the genitals. Stoke the passion!
For those yogis who struggle to contain their enthusiasm, blocking is the next-best option. Just before the man is about to ejaculate, he inserts two fingers directly onto his perineum, pressing inward and forward to block the urethra channel. While the man will still feel orgasmic convulsions, he will not lose sperm, and will therefore retain some prana. The woman might also assist with blocking, but she’s less effective in that she probably inspired the premature ejaculation in the first place.
While the primary role of the female in tantra is to “coax” a man’s interest and then to “teach” him how to practice careful intercourse, she also use her own physical methods. By tightening and releasing muscles on the pelvic floor, also known as Kegels, the woman can aid her man in climbing and descending the valleys of passion. Traditional tantric teachers call this “milking.”
Practice makes perfect
Just as devout yogis practice asana daily, so can tantric yogis practice their skills. The means masturbation. Yogani explains that tantric masturbation is a way to train the nervous system to slow down, similar to other yoga practices like mulabandha and siddhasana.
While it is undoubtedly exciting to think that one’s sex life might merge with their spiritual practices, tantra is not an ends unto itself. Tantra requires patience and commitment from two partners who are already tuned-in to the divine yoga practices. Tantra just introduces a bit of lovin’. As Yogani says, “tantric sex is not something we do to get ourselves to become more sexually active. It is something we can do to improve our yoga if we are already sexually active.” Namaste!