Original Post by Dina Cheney The Knot Contributor Updated Jun 30, 2023
Consider this your go-to guide to the ancient sex practice.
While new dating terms and trends (like beige flags and situationships) are seemingly popping up every day, there's still plenty to learn about sexual intimacy and relationships from generations past. Case in point? Tantric sex, a form of sexual intimacy based on the ancient Indian philosophy of tantra.
For the lowdown on what tantric sex is, its benefits and how to practice it, we spoke with two experts: Katie Silcox, M.A. is the Founder and Executive Director of The Shakti School, an online Ayurveda certification school, and the author of the forthcoming book Glow-Worthy. And Sally Valentine, PhD, LCSW is an AASECT-certified sex therapist who leads tantric workshops for couples from her private practice in Boca Raton, FL.
What Is Tantra?
As Silcox explains, Tantra is a highly debated oral tradition dating back thousands of years to India. The word comes from the root "tan" (meaning to become expanded) and "tra" (a method for doing so).
So, tantra is literally a method for expansion or moving beyond limiting beliefs. Because tantra is such a broad concept, it's accessible to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs, and its intertwining of spirituality and increased mindfulness can be applied to a variety of situations—the most well-known of which is (you guessed it!) tantric sex and tantric sexuality.
What Is Tantric Sex?
Tantic sex focuses on establishing a spirtual and energetic connection with a partner during initmacy. As Silcox explains, Tantric philosophy was actually one of the first traditional doctrines that did not see the body and sexuality as problematic or separate from god and spirituality. Conscious sex, as she prefers to call it, is a form of meditation.
Rather than emphasizing sex acts, Tantic sex is more about the whole person and the mind-body connection. When you combine sex with mindfulness and a positive regard for your partner or yourself, there's magic there, Silcox says. That magic? It's the ultra-intimate connection you'll ideally feel with your partner, as energy moves within and between your bodies.
What Are the Benefits of Tantric Sex?
Tantric sex is a sacred practice that may take, well, practice. To derive the full benefit, remember that energy (or prana) comes from the mindful, loving attention between partners, explains Silcox. Intrusive thoughts can, of course, get in the way of this and block the flow of energy. Practice shutting off your thought processes to experience the full effect of Tantric sex, she counsels.
1. Supports Health
Studies show that mindfulness and various forms of meditation (including tantric sex) offer numerous health benefits. According to the National Institutes of Health, research suggests mindfulness-based treatments can possibly lower blood pressure, improve sleep and aid in pain management.
2. Increases Closeness
Looking to nurture intimacy within your sexual relationship? With Tantric sex, partners are truly present with each other, which helps them feel more connected, explains Valentine. You'll likely experience feelings of intense connection and a flood of loving emotion towards your partner.
3. Reduces Anxiety
Tantric sex (and meditation in general) can help calm the nervous system, according to experts. "All of us are walking around with hardened armor in the form of stress," says Silcox. "Being present enables us to soften."
Tantric Sex Positions to Try
If you associate tantric sex with the Kama Sutra (an ancient Indian text on love and sex), you're not alone. However, poses like the lotus or closed box are not part of the tantric tradition. In fact, specific sex positions are not important to tantric sex: "In tantric sex, there are no rules," Silcox explains. "No one should be telling you what to do. Tantric sex is intuitive, creative and spontaneous."
Instead of focusing on positions, try to be present and take it slow. Whichever positions you choose, make sure they're comfortable and right for your body. To start, feel free to try these intimate sex positions, tailoring them to suit your needs. You can even try these positions clothed for a non-sexual connection.
This position focuses on the union of your joint energies. To try it, have one partner sit cross-legged, while the other sits on their lap and wraps their legs around their partner. The "base" partner's arms should encircle their partner's waist, and the top partner's arms should wrap around their partner's shoulders. Gaze into each other's eyes and coordinate your breathing while you move together slowly, encourages Silcox.
Hand Over Heart
While looking into each other's eyes and breathing together, bring your hands to your own heart. Then, place your right hand on your partner's heart while they do the same to you. Next, each of you should place your left hand over your partner's hand that's on your heart. Meanwhile, reflect on your feelings of love or desire for them, coaches Valentine.
"Focus on the energy within your heart. Then imagine moving that energy down your arms, out to your hands and to your partner's heart," she explains. "While you're sending out heart energy to them, they're doing the same for you [and] it becomes an energetic circuit."
Tantra Massage Techniques to Try
A massage can help prepare the nervous system for sex, explains Valentine. Slow down and focus on your partner's body. Then, when it's your turn, they'll devote their attention to you.
"In ancient tantra tradition, breasts were considered to be the guardians of the heart and womb," says Silcox. "You had to calm the guards down for the rest of the woman's body and heart to open." Breast tissue takes 15 to 20 minutes to become fully aroused, she notes, making a solid case for nipple play.
Yoni and Lingam Massage
Yoni refers to the vagina and clitoris, while lingam refers to the penis. "Science has confirmed that it takes a woman's genitals up to 45 minutes to become fully engorged," says Silcox, encouraging couples to slow down and take their time. It is all about being mindful, after all!