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When it comes to tantric sex, sometimes the unknown — or at least the misunderstood — can be a little intimidating.

Tantra and tantric sex might have a reputation for some intense bedroom sessions (marathon orgasms, anyone?) but the traditions linked with tantric sex might actually be beneficial for your sex life.

What is tantra?

Tantra is an ancient spiritual practice that involves exploring your personal identity. It’s meant to help a person “experience the truth and reality of oneself and the world.” In simpler terms, tantra is a pleasure-centric practice that encourages self-exploration and mindfulness. It’s similar to meditation and can have benefits both in and out of the bedroom.

“In the early 19th century, tantra and tantrism was associated with secret occult power,” says Dr. Janet Brito, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist with the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health. “By the mid- to late 20th century, tantra meant sexuality, openness, and liberation…[but] there’s no consistency in its denotations and connotations.”

These days, tantric sex practices place a heavy emphasis on intentionality and self-exploration. The emphasis on individual pleasure means that masturbation is a great way to try it out. You’ll be able to explore what does and doesn’t work for you without the added pressure of trying something new with your partner.

“[It’s] less about performance and more about pleasure, deep connection, solo intimate pleasure,” Dr. Brito explains. “It isn’t just to get the job done and get off, but about slowing down and getting to know yourself more erotically. It’s about having a pleasure-based mindset, full of curiosity and self-discovery.”

That’s right, tantric masturbation isn’t just about reaching the big O. Studies show that orgasms and sexual activity provide a whole host of benefits. But there’s more to masturbation than simply crossing that finish line.

According to Planned Parenthood, masturbation can help you:

And, because of how deliberate tantra is, Dr. Brito explains that this “pleasure-based sexuality” places a much higher emphasis on knowing yourself and how you experience pleasure versus pleasing someone else. (And, yes, that basically makes tantric masturbation a form of self-care.)

How to perform tantric masturbation

When it comes to trying out tantric masturbation, it’s all about exploration. Dr. Brito suggests taking time to know and understand your own sexual story as you practice self-acceptance — without any judgment whatsoever.

“Slow down, take your time, make the time to get to know yourself,” Dr. Brito says. “It’s fine to have fantasies [or] engage in sexual imagining… [just] listen to your body.”

There aren’t any specific rules for how to perform tantric masturbation because there’s no set formula for sexual pleasure for all individuals. What works for you might not work for someone else, and that’s perfectly normal. It’s also important to remember that tantric masturbation is less about achieving a certain destination (or a single orgasm) and more about exploring the different sensations in your body.

If you’re looking to try tantric masturbation for yourself, here are some general tips for getting started:

1. Create an environment that’s safe, comfortable, and relaxing

Set yourself up for relaxation and be sure to give yourself enough time to explore. Lighting a candle might be a great place to start. But make sure you’re engaging as many of your senses as possible and really allowing yourself to focus on, well, you. What sort of environment will you enjoy most?

Remember that tantra is more of an ongoing practice that can lead to greater awareness of your sexuality versus a specific masturbation strategy for achieving orgasm. The goal is to learn more about yourself and what you enjoy as you explore. And, if that concept makes you a little nervous, focus on this simple strategy instead: find your bliss.

2. Begin exploring your body and your preferences

Remember to breathe and focusing on the overall sensations. Whether or not you start with a fantasy or some kind of sexual imagery is completely up to you. What’s important is finding things that you enjoy without any sort of judgment or self-censorship involved.

Eliminate pressure or expectations for what you “should” be doing and focus on learning about what you enjoy with regards to sex and pleasure.

3. Move slowly

It can be tempting to rush to your destination — whether that’s through clitoral stimulation, penetration, or another method of orgasm entirely — but tantra is about enjoying the journey and understanding more about yourself.

One study suggests that while over a third of women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, the type, location, pressure, and even pattern of touch used to bring pleasure varies greatly from woman to woman.

This means that a little self-exploration can definitely go far. For you, this might involve exploring your erogenous zones or discovering different ways to bring yourself pleasure, such as learning to find and stimulate your G spot. It could also mean experimenting with your fingers or a sex toy.

Focus on your individual preferences, whether that’s finding out what they are or simply enjoying the things you already know you like.

4. Don’t stress about it

If it takes a little bit of time to get into it, that’s totally fine too. Tantra is about learning what makes you happy and discovering how to love yourself.

Dr. Brito explains that a little self-love has some totally worthwhile benefits too. She explains that engaging in tantra and tantric masturbation can help increase your overall body awareness, boost your connection with yourself, and help you better understand your own sexual needs, which helps improve your overall sex life.

The bottom line

Regardless of why you’re interested in tantra and tantric masturbation, the beauty of the practice is that it places emphasis on the individual. Instead of following a set of rules or established guidelines, it’s about finding what you like — which is always good.

For women in particular, the days of accepting bad sex as normal are over. Finding what feels great and enjoying the benefits? That’s something we can all get behind.