If you're looking for new things to try in the bedroom, you might be interested to know what tantric sex is.
What is tantric sex and how can it spice up your relationship? Put simply, this ancient practice involves slowing down and enjoying the build-up to the main event, rather than rushing to get there. The opposite of a quickie, tantric sex is all about enjoying each other and increasing intimacy - and it could be the key to taking your sex life to new heights.
On top of work, parenting, and the mental load, it's normal to have a low libido and be left wondering why you’ve gone off sex. And while you might feel like you have little time to revamp your sex life, that's exactly why tantric sex is worth trying, because it's all about connecting with yourself or with your partner.
Co-founder of the Healthy Pleasure Group, Dominnique Karetsos, says, "When it comes to sex, we often view it in an isolated sector of our lives, away from our physical and mental health. In reality, everything about our wellbeing - including our pleasure - is interconnected. When we become more aware of ourselves we are better able to live within our experiences, and this is true for sex." With this in mind, we've found out what tantric sex is and the benefits it could bring to your relationship...
What is Tantric sex?
Tantric sex is a slow form of sex that brings together spirituality and sexuality. It's said to increase intimacy and create a mind-body connection that can lead to powerful orgasms.
Emily King, sex therapist and sexologist at women's sexual wellness platform SheSpot, explains: "Tantra is a spiritual practice. It is a Sanskrit word that translates as 'to weave'. Tantric sexuality encapsulates this definition in essence: to weave/connect to your true self, to others and to the world. Sex is a physical act, but tantric sex weaves spirituality into it so that it transcends physicality alone."
Tantric sex - or tantra as it's often known - can be done by anyone interested in rebooting their sex life and finding new depth to their love-making. If that sounds confusing, think of it this way: if quickie sex is the sexual equivalent of a takeaway, tantric sex is a Michelin-starred meal, slowly and lovingly prepared and all the more delicious thanks to the wait.
But it's not just about sexual pleasure, it's also about feeling a heightened sensuality and enjoying your body. Sexual intercourse can enhance your experience, but you can also practice tantra to feel more connected to your own mind and body and give yourself pleasure. And you can do tantric sex solo too, you don't need a partner to try it.
How to try tantric sex solo
- Start with a self-love ritual: A hot bath with rose petals, or perhaps watching yourself undress in a mirror by candle light. Your favourite slow, sexy music can help you to move into the body, utilising breath and movement before you touch yourself.
- Get comfortable: When you are in a quiet and relaxing place, maybe your bedroom, lie or sit down with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing.
- Build awareness: Place one hand on your heart and one on your genitals and breathe into the connection. Stay like this for as long as it feels natural, you could even try squeezing and releasing your pelvic floor muscles in line with your breathing.
- Take it further: If you want to begin to explore further you can begin to move the hand on your genitals in a way that feels good for you. Take it slowly and be mindful of everything you feel.
- Don't set a goal: It shouldn’t be about reaching an orgasm or feeling anything in particular, but rather just experiencing your body as it is.
- When you feel ready, you can try doing something similar with a partner.
Going solo for your first try at tantric sex can not only improve your experience, but help you to get your head around the concept before trying it with a partner.
Emily's advice for first-timers is to "rephrase tantric sex to tantric touch" and "put any expectations or definitions of sex on the back burner". Orgasm is not the focus of tantric touch, but rather presence and energy building and/or exchange. She adds that you can "never, ever go too slowly."
How to try tantric sex with a partner
- Set the scene: Start by turning down the lights and shutting out the rest of the world. You could also light candles and play some soft music.
- Loosen your body: Tantra is about moving energy through the body, so sex expert Louise Van Der Velde suggests "shaking your limbs vigorously to energise and unblock your system before you start."
- Stay off the bed: This can trigger the 'sleep button' in your brain, which, according to Louise (AKA The Pleasure Professor), "means you'll be settling for a quickie romp instead of deep connection and loving sex, which is ultimately what Tantra is all about."
- Get comfortable: Try lying down with your partner on the floor and slowly start to touch each other, taking your time to leisurely make your way around their body.
- Experiment: Try a variety of touches - firm massage, light feathery touches, and gentle stroking. The aim here is to heighten his senses in a slow and intense way so that you're building your partner to a peak but not taking him all the way and vice versa. Performed in the right way this can prolong sex and your pleasure for hours.
- Focus on your breathing: If you find your mind starts to wander, re-focus on your breathing. Inhale as your partner exhales and vice versa - it can help improve the connection between the two of you and keep your mind on what's happening.
- Don't give up: If you don't last beyond 10 minutes, try again. Tantric sex takes time to get to grips with because many of us are used to sex in a Westernised way - this means we expect sex to have an obvious start, middle and end.
The good news is tantric sex isn't 'goal oriented', which means you don't have to work hard at learning what to do. The trick is to take your mind off your orgasm and instead focus on making foreplay enjoyable and rewarding until you're ready to take it to its natural end.
What are the origins of tantric sex?
Tantra is an ancient Indian practice that dates back more than 5,000 years, to as early as 500AD. It originated in India and is a Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, and in Sanskrit, the word 'tantra' means 'woven together'.
The ultimate goal has always been to help people find enlightenment, spiritual connection, and a higher state of consciousness, though nowadays tantra is considered synonymous with sex.
These days when we talk about tantric sex, we are often referring to neotantra, a westernised version of tantra that emerged in the 1960s and is partially based on the spiritual traditions of tantra.
What are the benefits of tantric sex?
Tantric sex experts believe that the practice can solve problems in the bedroom such as premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction or anorgasmia. They also believe that if you extend the time and effort you put into sex, you will reach a higher and more intense form of ecstasy.
Dominnique Karetsos explains, "Tantra can teach you balance and connection, which will not only help you build intimacy with your partner but also greater awareness of your own body."
She adds, "Too often we 'just go with it' during sex and don't question if we’re really enjoying the experience as much as we could. Learning to be fully present and engaged can help you feel physical and emotional sensations in their entirety as well as connect to your partner completely. This can lead to heightened sexual experiences with new and intense forms of pleasure."
Sex therapist Emily adds, "Many people over-focus on the functional benefits of tantric sex, ie, ejaculation control, prolonged erections and orgasms, increased stamina. But these overlook the benefits which are the heart of tantra. The emotional aspect of tantric sex invites a deeper connection to ourselves and others. It's a wonderful way to work with any sexual shame as it centres around a deep respect for the body and acceptance of who we are and what we desire."
It's likely for this reason that top celebs like Heather Graham, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, Rita Wilson and Sting are famous fans of the practice. In fact, Rita - whose husband Tom Hanks is also a fan - once reportedly gave out some solid relationship advice around the topic. "You gotta talk, you gotta listen, you gotta laugh. And...you gotta have lots of tantric sex!"
We hear you, Rita. So who is tantric sex suited for?
Tantric sex is good for you if...
- You're looking for something new to do in the bedroom
- You want to become more intimate with your partner
- You want to try to reconnect with your partner
- You struggle to be 'in the moment' when you are having sex
- You or your partner struggle with premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, or anorgasmia
Although tantra is good for all, regardless of gender, Dominnique says that "the concept of slowing down and not being goal-orientated when practising tantra could be particularly helpful for women." She says, "Research suggests arousal and pleasure are far more context-driven for women, who need to feel free from pressure and distractions in order to fully relax and enjoy themselves.
"Tantric sex teaches you to be entirely focussed on what is happening between you and your partner and not worry about what will happen. If you find you struggle to let go of external stressors and concentrate on the moment, I would definitely recommend looking into tantra."
How to ask your partner to try tantric sex
"Tantra is like yoga," she says, "You can add the spiritual side or just do the exercises. Many people choose to do tantra, not because of the mysticism but because the sex tips are better."
Meanwhile, Emily advises reflecting on why you want to tray tantric sex. She says, "Once you are aware of why it appeals to you, then you'll feel more confident telling a partner. There are lots of amazing online resources and workshops that you could suggest you attend together for your next date night."
She adds, "If you can explain to a partner what exactly you find arousing about tantric sex, as well as why you want to share it with them specifically, it makes it a more personable thing to try together."
If your partner is still a little unsure, encourage them to go away and do their own research on the issue and come back with any questions or concerns. Share with them why you want to try it and explain why you might want to slow down and take away the pressure to perform. Having an open dialogue about new sexual activities is always the best way to be.
Tantric sex positions
Emily recommends trying the yab-yum position (also known as the lotus sex position) when trying tantric sex with a partner.
She says, "This fully encapsulates the 'oneness' which represents the true meaning of tantric practice. It can be done clothed or naked, and the heart-to-heart positioning invites deep connection and intimacy. For an even deeper experience, incorporate eye gazing and synced breath."
To try this position, the partner penetrating sits cross-legged on the bed or the floor and the other partner sits on top, facing them. The partner on top wraps their arms and legs around the partner below them and rocks back and forth.
But remember, you don't need to have intercourse to have a sexual experience - it's about your connection with yourself or your partner. You could also try practising breathing exercises or massage instead, or, why not try the hand-on-heart position?
To do this with a partner, sit cross-legged facing each other and place your right hand on their heart, while they place their right hand on yours. Then, close your eyes and tune into the physical rhythm.
To try this by yourself, sit cross-legged with your back straight and place one hand over your own heart. Then, close your eyes and tune into the rhythm of your heart.
Tantric sex tips
- Try the heart breath to tune into each other. Stand opposite one another and look into each other's eyes, placing your left hand on your partner's heart. Your partner should then place their hand over yours and then try to match each other's breathing for at least two minutes.
- Sit face-to-face (this works better if one of you sits in the other's lap). Wrap your arms as tightly around one another and press your body against each other. The skin contact promotes greater feelings of intimacy.
- Work towards a gradual build-up of pleasure. The more slowly you can allow your feelings and sensations to build up, the more intense your eventual orgasm will be.
- Slow your breathing down as you approach orgasm. If you relax your tummy and take slow deep breaths into your stomach, the orgasm will last longer and feel more intense.
As Emily says, "Tantric sex is about embodiment at its core. Even if you don't feel connected to it as a spiritual practice, it offers a lot of inspiration." The more embodied you are, the more access you have to sensation and increased capacity for pleasure. Relaxation and trust are crucial for surrendering to newfound possibilities."
We spoke to the following relationship experts:
Dominnique is passionate about empowering women of all ages to understand more about Sex, Tax and Money, alongside creating good and smart businesses to contribute what she can in creating a better world through behavioural change. In essence, helping people everywhere understand that healthy pleasure is for everyone and sexual self fulfilment and sexual health must be more accessible, affordable and attainable.
Emily is a somatic sex therapist based in Edinburgh. Her background is varied; from literature and creative writing, to criminal justice, global mental health, gender and sexuality. She combines her experience of the gender based violence sector with a fresh, pleasure-focused perspective of working with trauma and the body. Since graduating from her postgraduate degree in International Development in 2020, Emily worked in the third sector to provide holistic support to women in the criminal justice system, sex workers & those affected by sexual violence.
Val Sampson qualified as a couples counsellor with Relate, and since then has spent more than a decade working with clients to rebuild their relationships and create rewarding partnerships. She's the author of four books on sex and relationships, which have been published in the UK, Europe and the USA. She's also written as a relationship counsellor for a wide variety of publications, ranging from The Times to the Daily Mail and Good Housekeeping.
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