Sex

A No-Bullshit Guide To Getting Into Tantric Sex

“The idea that tantric sex is all about delayed orgasms is misguided. It would mean that delaying your orgasm is a challenge that you must win.”
brightly colored illustration of a couple having tantric sex in the yab-yum position
ILLUSTRATION BY SOFIE BIRKIN

Prem Vismay first encountered the world of tantric sex at a trance party he’d attended nearly a decade ago in the Indian capital of mystics, Rishikesh. “Somebody I met there told me about Ma Ananda Sarita’s book Divine Sexuality: The Joy of Tantra,” the 45-year-old teacher of tantra told VICE. “That was a turning point for me.”

At the time, Vismay was spending endless nights frustrated with his condition of premature ejaculation. “It would leave me depressed. But after practising tantra, I was able to overcome it all and truly enjoy my sex life. After all, tantric sex doesn’t mean wild orgies and polyamory even though it doesn’t constrain you from these things either. On a basic level, though, it is trusting in yourself to find your own way.”

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For many in the West, the word “tantra” conjures up images of Sting engaging in seven-hour marathon sex, but the practice has roots in both Buddhism and Hinduism going back thousands of years, and it contains many facets. According to the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, tantra is an umbrella term that refers to a range of esoteric, spiritual and sexual schools of thought that “span several religious traditions and cultural worlds.” It seeks to address everything, from our understanding of liberation to pleasure, hedonism and death. Tantric sex, for its part, forms a crucial part of the larger tantra canon. 

According to Mohini Srishati, a 40-year-old teacher of tantra, tantric sex must be understood beyond the clichés it is currently chained to in popular imagination. “It is truly magical and exotic,” she told VICE. “Tantric sex is meditative sex, which includes practices such as using breathwork, your own creativity in bed, unlearning your sexual and religious conditioning patterns as a child, and respecting your sexual energy as a means to connect with the divine.”

From practising mindfulness, having open communication with your partner to becoming aware of one’s senses, the idea of bringing a meditative, slowed-down quality to sex is one of the central tenets of tantric sex.

Around the Indian subcontinent, the history of tantric sex dates back to many millennia – referenced across ancient Buddhist and Hindu texts. In The Origins of Yoga and Tantra: Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century, British Indologist Geoffrey Samuel refers to tantric sex as “sexual yoga” that was widespread around the third and fifth centuries, and finds mention in Hindu philosophical texts such as the Upanishads. In Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire, Tibetan lama Thubten Yeshe posits that the idea of “tantric sex as a means to give proper shape to your desire” was influenced by the evolution of similar ideals in Tibetan Buddhism in the early second century. 

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Looking to bring this ancient practice into your bedroom? Here’s a handy guide to getting there.

Beware of quacks 

As with all things seemingly “exotic”, tantric sex is also advertised by teachers who just want to exploit and make a quick buck at your expense. Pallavi Barnwal, a 39-year-old intimacy coach based in New Delhi, shares how her first experience with tantric sex was borderline abusive. 

“He is a very popular guru in this field,” she told VICE. “In the first online session, which was supposed to be audio-only, he wanted to teach me the importance of self-pleasure through a special kind of masturbation called the yoni massage. Barely minutes into the session, he told me to switch on my camera under the pretext of wanting to see how my energy was moving.” 

According to Barnwal, in a country like India where conversations on sex are still widely stifled, any opportunity to liberate yourself through such practices may make you vulnerable to such quacks. “A real guru will never ask you to strip down and offer yourself to him. You don’t have to sleep with anyone or reveal yourself to any guru to understand tantric sex.” 

Be creative and slow 

According to Srishati, who has been practising tantric sex for a decade, the idea that you need to have an orgasm and quickly get it done is antithetical to tantra. 

“That would mean you want to quickly get rid of the sexual energy,” she says. “In tantric sex, there is no agenda of compulsorily penetrating or ejaculating. You can experience orgasm by simply looking into each other’s eyes without actually ejaculating. The idea is to ride the peaks and waves of different kinds of orgasms – not just genital release.”

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She also adds that the idea that tantric sex is “only about delayed orgasms” is misguided. “It would mean that delaying your orgasm is a challenge that you must win. Your body would become very stiff in such a scenario.”

Vismay said it is also important to treat the space where you are being intimate as a “divine site of energy and healing,” and build a setting using candles, flowers and light ambient music to spruce it up. “Avoid white and flashing lights, mobile chargers, a beeping timer or a clock because tantra asks you to bring your awareness to sex and minimise any time or space distractions.”

Choose your energy wisely 

“Tantric sex is all about regulating your energy and being in tune with your own needs and desires,” Alessandro Di Benedetto, a 29-year-old teacher of yoga and tantra told VICE. “You have to be able to connect with the other person before you have sex with them. Look into their eyes, understand where they are coming from, and hold hands.” 

In cases where you meet someone but the vibe seems completely off in the first meeting, Di Benedetto suggests moving on and not wasting one’s time. “If the person is genuinely ready to grow and evolve with you and you want the same, then maybe you can rethink the equation.” 

Experiment with breath and sound

Considering that tantric sex revolves around regulating one’s energy, Srishati suggested playing with sound and breath to maximise one’s pleasure. 

“There are various techniques to go around this,” she says. “You must let yourself experience everything in the moment – be it crying, moaning or different positions. And experiment with breath, movement and sound.”

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Breath in tantric sex, according to Srishati, is an important tool to shape your energies. “For the woman, you must visualise breathing in from your sex chakra and breathing out from your heart chakra, and vice versa for the man,” she said. “The idea is to let every bit of the sexual energy flow through you. This helps in aiding a full-body orgasm because every pore of your body is making love.”

In tantric sex manifestos, the sex or the sacral chakra is located below the navel while the heart chakra is, well, located at the heart. Visualising your breath flowing in and out of these chakras is said to help in a fuller, more realised experience.  

Unlearn childhood conditioning 

Anand Kumar, a 28-year-old business analyst who has been practising tantric sex for the last couple of years, had to work with his guru to unlearn his childhood biases related to shame and self-esteem. 

“I always saw my body as a political space that had too many conditions tethered to it,” he said. “I was disgusted by my own body hair for the longest time because I was shamed for it by my own siblings. Tantric sex made me fall in love with my own image.”

According to Srishati, such conditioning begins early on. “You see parents shaming little children even when they touch their own genitals. This is the reason why so many people then grow up feeling guilty and ashamed immediately after they masturbate or indulge in [any other act of] self-pleasure.”

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A major element of tantric sex, according to Srishati, is thus not just the act itself but also radically unlearning these biases that act as “mental barriers” to truly enjoying the act. 

Experiment with movement

Barnwal prefers the yab-yum position of tantric sex where the woman sits on the lap of her partner like a lotus, wrapping her legs firmly around the man. That’s the traditional depiction of the position, though it can be done between any gender.

“Your chakras are perfectly aligned in this position with your partner,” she said. “You are physically touching each other’s forehead, heart, and genitals. The intimate connection becomes evenly spread across the body.”

Vismay added that tantric sex does not involve any special “acrobatic sex positions,” and that it all boils down to taking your time to be rooted in the body and not being stuck in your thoughts. 

“I heard (controversial mystic and cult leader) Osho say in one of his discourses that the bodies will find their way to the most comfortable positions. The idea is to bring a sense of peace and prayer to lovemaking and not approach it as a mechanical act that must tick all the boxes.”

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