While Sting may have put the term “tantric sex” on the pop culture radar, the 5,000-year-old approach to lovemaking is anything but a novel idea. And despite common stereotypes, the driving force behind tantric sex isn’t to achieve hours-long orgasms. Rather, it’s much more about sexually connecting with your partner in a way that both unites your individual energies and elevates you spiritually .
“It’s rooted in Eastern culture and philosophy,” says sex coach and tantric sex expert Barbara Carrellas, author of “Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century.” “It’s related to yoga, and it’s related to meditation – it’s a cousin of all those things.”
So what exactly is tantric sex? According to Carrellas, it isn’t just reserved for yogis and meditation gurus.
“In Tantra, we look at sex from a full-body perspective and give the energetic aspects of sex the same importance as the genital aspects of sex,” she says. “When in the throes of a tantric sexual experience, you may feel that you’re connected not only to your partner, but maybe to the rest of the universe, which is why people say it has such a powerful spiritual component.”
Tantra is all about slowing things down, which translates to placing your focus on being in the present moment. This means letting go of any predetermined goals you might reflexively bring to the encounter.
“In tantric sex, we don’t have goals,” says Carrellas. “Orgasm is a goal. Instead, we look at what’s happening in each moment. This way, it becomes much more about the exquisite pleasure of the moment, rather than on the things we’re going to do next.”
For people who feel pressured to perform or feel nervous about doing things “right” in bed, Carrellas says that Tantra can be wonderfully fulfilling because staying present-centered naturally quells overthinking.
“You can actually go into those places where there are no thoughts – just sensations,” she says. “It’s just the experience of being.”
Focusing on the now also has the power to change our perception of time, leading to the extended periods of arousal for which tantric sex is best known.
The power of breathing and sound
Letting go and fully feeling every sensation is the foundation of tantric sex. But for some, disengaging from our thoughts can be easier said than done. For example, it isn’t uncommon for many of us to be worried about our performance, or feel self-conscious about being naked in front of our partner. Focusing on your breath is one of the easiest ways to quiet the mind and bring your attention back to the present moment. In fact, it’s a key element of Tantra.
“Breathing together and prolonged gazing into each other’s eyes creates a deep intimacy that will only intensify your connection with your partner,” says Carrellas. “It’s about breathing deeply and fully throughout sex, and using our imagination to move sexual energy around our own bodies and between our body and somebody else’s.”
Carrellas adds that making sounds and moving the body in ways that feel natural and right for the moment will also up both sexual intensity and intimacy. “When we have sex, we’re also engaging in a whole lot of activities that focus on building sexual energy, not just erotic sensations,” she says.
Interested in getting tantric by yourself? Carrellas is perhaps best known for a technique she calls “thinking off” (aka achieving thought-induced orgasms that involve no touching). To prove it’s legit, she demonstrated the technique while undergoing a brain scan on an episode of TLC’s “Strange Sex.”