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Illustrations by Lauren Park

Although often synonymous with sex, tantra is really about connection — whether that’s with yourself or between you and a partner.

After all, the word itself — derived from the ancient Sanskrit — means “web” or “to weave energy.”

In practice, tantra is about enlightenment: to transcend both the sexual and spiritual planes by engaging in deeply meditative, spontaneous, and intimate sex.

Like yoga, tantra is all about physical and spiritual awareness.

When you learn and practice tantra, you become more in-tune with your body, what gives it pleasure, and the way it feels pleasure. This allows you to pay better attention to your body’s wants and needs and make sure they’re fulfilled.

Plus, the energies you channel during tantric sex flow throughout your body and can intensify your orgasm.

Tantra isn’t only focused on reaching a higher state of mind-body consciousness. It can also be about creating a deeper, more harmonious bond with your partner.

When you practice tantra, you and your partner learn to be physically aware and spiritually present, feeding each other energy that continues to grow well after you’ve finishing having sex.

Tantra also allows you both to explore and expand all aspects of your personalities, so that you begin to truly know the other person inside and out.

Interested in practicing tantra, but don’t know how to approach this conversation with your partner? Sofia Sundari, a writer and sex empowerment coach, suggests the following tips on her blog:

  • Try not to overwhelm your partner with information. Instead, explain to them what you enjoy about your sex life and how you could enhance the experience.
  • Listen to what they have to say. Your partner may give you an enthusiastic yes or a hard no. Or they may be somewhere in the middle. No matter their response, listen to and respect what they have to say.
  • Let a teacher lead the way. If your partner is open to tantra, seek out a teacher who can guide you both as you learn more about the practice.

Tantra is a spiritual practice, which means your mind comes into play as much as your body.

When you practice tantra, you’re connecting your body, mind, and soul. A clear mindset and willingness to step out of your comfort zone are important to uniting those parts of yourself.

Some people find that spending 10 to 15 minutes in meditation can help prepare your mind for tantra practice, as it allows you to go inward and examine your thoughts.

Try this

  • Focus on breathwork. Take 15 to 30 minutes to breathe gently all the way down into your belly and lower back, and get in touch with what’s going on in your mind — whether it’s stress or fulfilling your desires.
  • Stretch for a few minutes. As you stretch each limb, clear your mind of any negative thoughts that are weighing you down. The more you unpack, the lighter you’ll become.
  • Spend at least 30 minutes a day journaling. Work through the thoughts that may be blocking your spiritual growth by writing them down.

Tantra is a holistic practice. It isn’t about sex or orgasm — it’s about the journey to get there. Your environment has a direct impact on your mindset and your ability to relax and enjoy that journey.

Try this

  • Make sure your space is at a comfortable temperature. If it’s cold, turn on the heat an hour before your practice so that your room is cozy and warm. If it’s hot, turn on the air conditioner, but set it to the high 70’s, so that the space is cool, but not chilly.
  • Set the mood with candles or tinted light bulbs. Candlelight will add romance to the space, while soft red bulbs will give the area a sensual touch.
  • Fill the space with your favorite scent. Light a scented candle, diffuse an essential oil, burn incense sticks, or hang flowers. Pick a smell that makes you feel sexy, but isn’t overwhelming.
  • Soften your space. Lay down a satin throw blanket and a few plush cushions.
  • Create a romantic or sexual vibe. Playing some music that you can move to, either by yourself or with a partner.

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There are many ways you can implement tantric principles when you’re alone. But remember, the end game isn’t always masturbation — you can work up to solo play or decided not to go there at all.

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to free yourself of all that’s holding you back. But instead of letting the energy flow out of you, ground yourself. As you meditate, let your energy flow downward into the earth. Let that energy build and spread throughout your body, giving you strength.

Self-massage

Make your self-massage a full-body experience. Get your favorite oil or lotion and pour it all over your skin. As you rub your oil or lotion in, spend time massaging your belly, groin, inner thighs, arms, neck, and chest.

Masturbation

Solo play doesn’t always have to be about achieving orgasm. Instead, take the time to really explore your genitals, and what gives them — and you — pleasure. Touch yourself in new ways. Slow down your strokes. Soften the way you play with yourself.

Remember to

  • Breathe deeply and slowly. Whether you’re meditating or masturbating, allow your breath to connect with and send tingles down your body.
  • Be present with your sensations. Instead of letting your mind wander, pay attention to everything your body is feeling.
  • Allow yourself to experience a full range of emotions. This will enable you to fully tap into your energy and power.
  • Set an intention for your practice. Know what you want to get out of your tantra session, whether it’s to have a better orgasm or to feel more comfortable in your skin.

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Remember, tantra extends beyond sex — you can work up to that or choose not to go there at all. You and your partner can implement tantric principles into other practices that can build up the moment.

Foreplay

Foreplay can be anything you want it to be — oral, a massage, taking a shower together. But whatever you do, make sure you and your partner are fully present.

Sit in front of your partner. Look into each other’s eyes. Start to move your bodies slightly as you breathe.

After five minutes, start to touch each other sensually, taking turns massaging each other’s arms, legs, neck, and other parts.

After another five minutes, begin to kiss — and only kiss. Focus on every physical sensation you’re feeling in the moment.

Sex (is optional!)

You can build up to sex— or not! Tantra is more about connection than anything else.

If you choose to have sex, go slowly. And don’t be afraid to be creative! Try new positions, touch each other in new ways, and explore unearthed desires.

But, most of all, immerse yourself fully in the experience, letting the tension build as you spend time on one sensual practice before moving on to the next.

Laying together or cuddling

Laying with your partner allows you to exchange and weave energies, nurturing a deeper connection.

To do this, consider a spooning position. The partner in the back will send energy (giver), while the partner in front absorbs it (receiver).

Snuggle close together, with your heart and stomachs aligned. The giver should have their arms wrapped around the receiver, with their hand over the receiver’s heart. The receiver should rest their hand on top.

Lay still for a few moments, then start harmonizing your breath and let the energy flow freely between you.

Remember to

  • Let the intensity build. Gaze into each other’s eyes without blinking for as long as possible.
  • Synchronize your breathing. You can try inhaling and exhaling together, or inhaling as your partner exhales.
  • Tell your partner what you like. When they touch and play with you, call out what you’re enjoying and ask them to continue. Have your partner do the same.
  • Set an intention for your practice. Whether it’s to have better sex or to strengthen your relationship, you and your partner should go into the session knowing what you both want out of it.

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Tantra isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are a few things you can do to enhance your practice to make it a satisfying — and unique — experience:

  • Being naked is optional. You can start clothed and stay clothed or remove every inch of fabric. The key is to do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Whether that means being naked or not is up to you.
  • Pay attention to your breath. Deep breathing is a vital part of tantra. By focusing on your breath, you allow yourself to be present in the moment and immerse yourself in the experience.
  • Engage all of your senses. Light some scented candles. Play some soft, sensual music. Touch yourself or your partner slowly. Stare into each other’s eyes. Savor the taste of your partner’s kisses. Engaging all of your senses during your tantra practice will help you feel every pleasurable sensation more fully.
  • Go slow. An important part of tantra is learning to feel and experience everything more deeply. And the way to do that is to go slow. Don’t rush tantra — instead, relax your mind and enjoy every second of the practice.
  • Explore all of your or your partner’s body. Stroke your hands slowly over your or your partner’s body. Let them use their tongue to explore your mouth while you kiss. Or gently glide their lips up and down your chest. Do the same to them.
  • Experiment. Kink and BDSM, for example, often incorporate tantric principles. So, when you practice tantra, you don’t have to stick to tradition. Think outside of the box — and if that means using a box, have fun with it.
  • You don’t have to go full tantra. You can add elements in to what you’re already doing in the bedroom — either by yourself or with your partner. That could mean incorporating meditation into foreplay or focusing more on deep breathing during a solo session.

Your breath is central to any tantric practice. Breathing allows you to free your mind, connect with your body, and feel every sensation more fully. When you practice any of these techniques, remember to always sit up straight and in a comfortable position.

The stimulating breath

This technique can help raise energy and increase awareness.

To do this:

  1. Close your eyes and soften your belly.
  2. Inhale and exhale quickly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed.
  3. Try three in-and-out breaths per second for 15 seconds.
  4. Breathe normally after the cycle ends, then try again for 20 seconds, increasing by five seconds until you reach one full minute.

The 4-7-8 breath

This technique can help you release tension and relax your body. You can try this technique while sitting across from your partner, synchronizing your breath.

To do this:

  1. Exhale through your mouth, then close your mouth.
  2. Inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale through your mouth completely to a count of eight.
  5. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

The counting breath

This is another form of meditation that allows you to clear your mind, find your center, and connect to your body.

To do this:

  1. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  2. Let your breath flow naturally.
  3. Inhale, then count “one” to yourself as you exhale.
  4. On the next exhale, count “two.” Work your way up to “five.”
  5. Repeat the cycle, starting at “one” and ending on “five.”
  6. Don’t go past “five,” otherwise your mind and attention will begin to wander.
  7. Try counting your breath for 10 minutes.

Any position can be a tantric position, as tantra is about connection and not specific movements. But as you begin your journey into tantric principles, you may want to start with some of the basics.

Yab-yum or lotus

To do this with a partner:

  1. Have your partner sit cross-legged.
  2. Sit on your partner’s upper thighs and cross your ankles behind their back.
  3. Breathe in sync and stare into each other’s eyes.

To do this by yourself:

  1. Sit cross-legged with your back straight
  2. Place your palms on your knees.
  3. Begin to breathe slowly and deeply.

Hand on heart

To do this with a partner:

  1. Sit cross-legged, facing your partner.
  2. Place your right hand on their heart. Have them place their right hand on yours.
  3. Close your eyes, and tune into their heart’s physical rhythm. Then, focus on the emotion and energy.
  4. Let the connection build between your partner’s heart and your hand, and vice versa.

To do this by yourself:

  1. Sit cross-legged with your back straight.
  2. Place your right hand on your heart.
  3. Close your eyes, and tune into its physical rhythm. Then, focus on the emotion and energy.
  4. Let the connection build between your heart and your hand.

The relaxed arch

To do this with a partner:

  1. Have your partner sit upright on the bed or floor with their legs straight
  2. Sit on your knees on partner’s lap.
  3. When comfortable, begin to arch your back slowly.
  4. Rest your head between your partner’s legs, then grab hold of their ankles or feet.

To do this by yourself:

  1. Sit on your knees on the bed or floor.
  2. When comfortable, begin to arch your back slowly.
  3. Rest your head on the bed or floor, then stretch out your arms about your head.
  4. Have your palms facing downward. When ready, use one hand to explore your body.

As you become more versed in tantra, you’ll be able to explore and incorporate more techniques into your practice, such as:

Orgasm control

To do this, bring yourself to the edge of an orgasm, then pull back right before you climax. Let the tingling, orgasmic sensations fill your body, then start again.

Don’t just do this one time, though — repeat the cycle over and over again so you can reach an intense, explosive, full-body orgasm.

Sacred spot massage

To do this, slowly and gently rub your partner’s prostate gland or the upper wall of their vagina — otherwise known as the G-spot. Let the heat and energy build, allowing your partner to release pent-up emotions as they come closer to climax.

When it comes to learning more about tantra, there isn’t a shortage of places to turn to. Sofia Sundari and Layla Martin, for example, are two highly-regarded tantra teachers who also host websites offering tips and techniques to a better tantric practice.

Martin has also created and founded the Tantric Institute of Integrated Sexuality, which offers different tantra programs for women, men, and couples. Other sites, such as Embody Tantra and Tantra is Love, are also excellent resources for getting started in your practice.