Why would you masturbate if you weren’t guaranteed an orgasm?
Tantra actually offers something “a little different” for masturbation month – or any month. It promises to take you on a journey of self-discovery that doesn’t have to end in climax or ejaculation. In fact, orgasm is merely the cherry on top of the long and delicious indulgence that is tantric masturbation.
What is Tantra?
Born in India and founded in the esoteric traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism, Tantra is an umbrella term used to describe all kinds of sexual practices – and spiritual practices – from yoga to sex. The phrase “Tantra” is formed from two Sanskrit words: “tan”, which loosely translates as expansion, and “tra,” meaning tool.
Tantric traditions are primarily based on mantras, the short words or sounds repeated during tantra in order to keep the mind and body focused. The derivation of those mantras has changed over the centuries, but they’re mostly based on Vedic deities and universal forces like Vishnu, Kali, Shiva and Shakti (Shiva is the Supreme Being in Shaivism), or the Buddhist traditions known as Vajrayana.
Other Eastern religions like Jainism and Tibetan Buddhism practice forms of Tantra, and it has spread to the Western world over the last two centuries as “Neotantra.” Neotantra gained widespread popularity beginning in the mid 20th century, due to its focus on enhancing sexual pleasure as well as spiritual growth and wellness. Its tenets have also encouraged the enormous popularity of mindfulness, techniques which allow practitioners to fully focus on the present moment.
At its core, though, Tantra is what its name says: a tool of expansion. Exactly what you’re expanding depends on the type of tantric practices you choose. It could be your consciousness, your orgasmic capacity, or your ability to achieve maximum self-pleasure.
What is tantric sex?
This ancient practice, focused on sacred sexuality, is rooted in an outdated binary approach towards sexual ecstasy. “Historically, the traditional path towards Tantra happened between a man and a woman,” says Carolyn Cowan, a psychosexual and relationship therapist. “This was believed to create a circular flow of sensual and sexual energy between the male and the female, allowing them to achieve a perfect state of sexual union.”
Cowan is also a teacher of Kundalini yoga, another years-old philosophy that tells us we each contain both masculine and feminine energies. We can therefore create this circular flow of energy – or union – within ourselves. So tantric sex can be practiced between two people (regardless of gender) or even alone.
The goal isn’t simply improving the quality of sexual intercourse or orgasms, although both can certainly be experienced during tantric sex. Tantra is better thought of as extended foreplay (or exploration of your own body during self-pleasure); the goals are improved sensual understanding, communication, mindfulness, connection and peace. In tantric sex it’s those achievements, not mind-blowing climaxes, which truly enhance a practitioner’s sex life.
What is tantric masturbation?
“It’s a very slow form of self-pleasure that removes the goal of orgasm, and climax becomes a gift at the end instead,” says Cowan. “It’s also an act of radical self-love, especially for vulva-havers, since 30 per cent are unable to orgasm. It’s a way of saying, ‘I deserve to light candles and burn incense and have an intense sexual experience with myself.’”
Given their esoteric origin, Cowan recommends treating tantric practices as a sacred ritual. “Porn tells us we can rub one out in 30 seconds, which we often try to do because we’re anxious and want to feel something other than anxiety. We just want to get the orgasm out of the way so we can change our energy.”
By contrast, the tantric approach slams on the brakes. “It’s an opportunity to explore your body and discover exactly what it is that you find arousing. So be gentle and enjoy creating a sense of connection with yourself.”
How do you do it?
Begin with the face and travel down the body. “The aim is to create an energy flow downwards. We’re stuck in our heads so much of the time, because of the news and social media, that we end up in a state of angst about things we have no control over. It’s no surprise we have an intense imperative to abandon ourselves to orgasm at every opportunity.”
Tantric masturbation therefore brings you back to yourself – or gives you back to yourself, if you like. Start by clearing your mind, focusing only on the present and shutting out the rest of the world. Repeat a mantra of your choice and take rhythmic deep breaths (breathwork is crucial for both tantra and mindfulness), until any other cares or concerns disappear for the moment.
“You move out of your head, moving down to research your whole body and achieve an exquisite state of arousal. Take it very slowly, exploring your skin inch by inch. Stroking your breasts, inner thighs, and perineum can feel sensational. Use oils or lube and wet your fingers with saliva as you massage your labia or balls.”
One of the bedrock beliefs in tantric practice is that the body has seven main chakras, or energy centers, from the crown of the head to the base of the spine. These “wheels of energy” are associated with various aspects of our life, from love and sexuality to spiritual realization, and a proper balance between them is responsible for maintaining our physical and emotional well-being.
One way to enhance tantric masturbation is by paying attention to your body’s chakras. Many tantric and yogic practitioners believe that “breathing through the chakras” during tantric sex moves energy between them, and re-establishes the balance necessary for a satisfying experience. That’s just one more reason to explore your entire body, and not just your genital area, during tantric masturbation.
How long does it take?
It takes as long as it takes, if you don’t jump straight to your genitals. Get to know every part of your body on the way down and make it ceremonial. “The left nipple is linked to the clitoris,” adds Cowan, so just imagine what other surprises might be waiting for you if you use both your left hand and your right hand during tantric masturbation. “If you think of intimacy as ‘into me I see’, this becomes a voyage of self-discovery.”
“Many people find slowing down to be hard, since it shows you where the cracks are. Can you enjoy your body without orgasm? How do you really feel about touching yourself? What’s it like to share your body with yourself? It’s interesting to see if you find it difficult. Observe whether you think you’re deserving of such pleasure and get used to how gentleness feels. The sensation is extraordinary.”
Can I do it with my partner?
Yes, you can. “The need to orgasm can be such a curse for some couples, but tantric masturbation takes away the external pressure to achieve arousal, as well as the urge to penetrate or climax instantly,” according to Cowan. “It allows the energy to descend gradually and brings the experience back to intimacy.”
Deep eye contact and synchronized breathing during tantric mutual masturbation can enhance the connection between partners. Sharing the experience may also level the playing field, if one of you takes longer to become aroused.
“A man needs, on average, three minutes to achieve orgasm,” Cowan says. “A woman needs anything between twenty and ninety minutes, but often there’s just no time given to her arousal.” Which is why giving more time to your own pleasure becomes mutually beneficial. If you both know exactly what you like, it becomes easier and more enjoyable to share your discoveries with each other.
Tantric masturbation can lead to many other joys, such as the exploration of famous tantric sex positions like the “full embrace” yab-yum, which you may know as the lotus position. The yab-yum represents the union of wisdom and compassion, and provides an exceptional method for complete connection between partners. It doesn’t require penetration, of course – but may often lead to it, with extremely satisfying results.
On the other hand, you may even take sex off the table for a short while. “No penetration, no oral, nothing. Simply stroke each other gently, touch each other’s faces and talk in whispers. Dare to show yourselves to one another, which is challenging.” Equally, do you dare to show yourself to yourself in the process? “Imagine you’re so exquisite that you’re not just making love to yourself but your own image of the divine – believe you are that lovely.” Amen to that.
Engage Your Mind & Body For The Best Sex Ever
Use mindfulness to have the best sex ever in the on-demand workshop Mindful Sex, led by Dr. Holly Richmond, LMFT.