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Tantric Sex For Beginners: It's Not All About The Orgasm

Still, tantric orgasms are a thing...

by Jenn Sinrich and Gabrielle Kassel
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Between work, kids, and other daily stressors and responsibilities, sex can start to feel less like a priority and more like something you squeeze in whenever you get the chance. And while there's nothing wrong with the occasional quickie, slower, longer sex can help foster intimacy, emotional connection, and even more orgasms. Enter: tantric sex.

Tantric sex is that long, slow, "souls-connecting" type of sex that prioritizes pleasure and connection over all else. “It’s sex that’s characterized by its emphasis on deep intimacy, sensuality, and mindfulness,” says Melissa Cook, an AASECT-certified sex therapist.

Intrigued? Talk to your partner about why you'd like to try tantric sex (whether it's to enhance intimacy, have longer sex, or just enjoy a fun, new experience). Once you're both on board and ready to make your next night unforgettable, here's everything you need to know about how to get it on—tantra-style.

Meet the Experts:
Dawn Michael, PhD is a certified sexuality counselor, clinical sexologist, and author of My Husband Won't Have Sex With Me.

Patricia Johnson and Mark Michaels are the co-authors of Tantra for Erotic Empowerment and The Essence of Tantric Sexuality.

Barbara Carrellas, ACS is an AASECT-certified sex therapist and author of Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex For The Twenty-First Century.

Tammy Nelson, PhD is a licensed psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of Getting the Sex You Want.

Sally Valentine, PhD is a certified sex therapist in Boca Raton, Florida.

Alexandria Saunders, PhD, LCPC is an AASECT-certified sex therapist and Tantra teacher in Montana.

David Yarian, PhD is a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Nashville, Tennessee.

What is tantric sex?

"Tantra is an ancient Hindu practice, translating to the weaving and expansion of energy, that promotes deeper intimacy by using breath, slower touch, energy, and delayed orgasm," says Dawn Michael, PhD, certified sexuality counselor, clinical sexologist, and author of My Husband Won't Have Sex With Me.

The biggest hallmark of tantric sex, though, is intent. Oftentimes, sex tends to prioritize orgasm over all else, but tantric sex is "not orgasm-focused, so it works for individuals who may have anxiety achieving an orgasm too fast or not at all," Michael adds.

At the heart of tantra are sexual rituals that get you in the mood and help you connect with your partner. One biggie: "worshipping" or serving each other. Partners turn the focus on one another through massage, which prolongs and builds arousal, say Patricia Johnson and Mark Michaels, co-authors of Tantra for Erotic Empowerment and The Essence of Tantric Sexuality. Sexy, right?

What are the origins of tantric sex?

These days, tantra is considered synonymous with sex. But tantra is actually a way of life, not just a way to have sex. Sexuality is just a very small part of the ancient practice that dates back thousands of years, says Barbara Carrellas, ACS, an AASECT-certified sex therapist and author of Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex For The Twenty-First Century.

The tantra philosophy was first developed in India around the 6th century. The ultimate goal has always been to help people find enlightenment, spiritual connection, and a higher state of consciousness, says Carrellas. “Tantra followers believe that all humans have energy, and by channeling and circulating that energy, they can become more creative, spiritual, and at one with their surroundings and with others,” she explains.

Today, when experts talk about tantric sex, they're really talking about neo-tantra—a contemporary, westernized version of tantra that emerged in the 1960s, inspired by those traditional tantric beliefs. Even now, though, sex is still just one part of neo-tantra. You can still channel and circulate that spiritual, creative energy through yoga, meditation, intentional eating, and breathing, Carrellas says.

What are the benefits of tantric sex?

Tantric sex can benefit everyone, sexually and emotionally. Broadly speaking, it can help your relationship in and outside the bedroom by improving intimate communication, says Cook.

It can also prolong sex for people who want to last longer in bed. "Tantra can help individuals suffering from premature ejaculation because it slows down the process of sex and removes the pressure to perform," says Tammy Nelson, PhD, licensed psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of Getting the Sex You Want. And for people who struggle with pressure to orgasm, "learning to relax and be in the moment can help with orgasmic function, as well as building desire," she adds.

Plus, while orgasms aren't the goal, they can happen—and they're pretty life-changing. "Tantric orgasms" are often referred to as transcendental experiences, says Sally Valentine, PhD, a certified sex therapist in Boca Raton, Florida.

And you don't need a partner to enjoy these benefits, either! It's easy to incorporate the below steps and the core values of tantric sex (like patience, relaxation, and a focus on pleasure over orgasm) into your solo sex life. “Tantric masturbation gives you a place to learn what turns you on and how you like to be pleasured,” says Carrellas. “It also gives you a way to enjoy expanded, deeper, longer-lasting orgasms.”

Ready to get started? Read on for the basics of tantric sex.

1. Set the scene.

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Get into the mood by incorporating rituals into sex. That can be anything, from setting up your space as a sanctuary with candles and pillows to playing soft music. What's most important is that you make this sexual experience feel special.

"You want a sense that sex is something important and distinct from everyday life," say Johnson and Michaels.

2. Start by breathing.

close up of a woman's hand on her chest while doing breathing exercises
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Just as with yoga, tantra begins with and centers around the breath. Try this method recommended by Valentine: Take a full breath in through your nose. On the inhale, fill up your belly with air. Then, on the exhale, empty your belly. (Are you doing it right? When you place your hands over your belly, you should feel it expand as you breathe in and return to normal as you breathe out.)

Visualize pushing the breath down through your pelvis, knees, and floor. Practice the belly breathing technique a few times before you bring it into sex so that it becomes more automatic, Valentine recommends.

3. Make eye contact.

a simple touch can mean so much
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You probably know that eye contact takes intimacy from zero to ten real fast. After all, that’s why missionary sex is often considered the most intimate sex position. Well, there’s a special kind of tantric eye contact known as eye-gazing: Traditionally, you do this by looking into your lover’s left eye, but you can look into both if that's more comfortable to you.

If you’re indulging in some tantric masturbation, you can still try eye-gazing, says Alexandria Saunders, PhD, LCPC, an AASECT-certified sex therapist and Tantra teacher in Montana. “Look into a mirror for five minutes and simply gaze into your own eyes,” she suggests.

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4. Give each other massages.

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Switch between who gives and receives the massage, recommends David Yarian, PhD, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist. For instance, you might ask your partner to give you a foot rub for two minutes, and then you would massage whatever your partner says they’re craving for two minutes.

During your turn, give your partner feedback (for example, “to the left,” “a little more pressure would be great,” etc.). Then, when it’s your partner’s turn, encourage them to do the same. “This is a way to practice an element of love-making very intentionally as a way to learn—learn how to be the best lover possible for your partner,” says Yarian.

5. Pay attention to the movement of your body.

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“Think about what it feels like to move bodies together,” says Yarian. And try not to judge anything you notice or compare it to other experiences you’ve had—just focus on what you’re feeling in the moment (as opposed to, say, thinking about the orgasm you’re hoping you’ll have in a few minutes).

“This is a way of putting the brain in neutral and letting go of the thinking,” says Yarian. It’s also a great way to ensure you don’t miss out on all the spine-tingling pleasure that happens before you get to the finish line.

6. Get in position.

yab yum
Emily Schiff-Slater

For starters, you can try a traditional tantric position called "yab yum" (also known as the lotus sex position) that can “help align energies necessary for a powerful tantric love connection,” Judy Kuriansky, PhD, writes in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex. Ask your partner to sit on the floor cross-legged. Facing them, climb on top and put your legs around their body. If you need, you can put a pillow under your rear.

To be clear, though: “Any position can be done tantrically, so long as you’re breathing and present in the moment,” says Carrellas. Don’t feel like you have to give this one a whirl if it feels awkward or uncomfortable. You can always opt for a tried-and-true sex position, and simply slow things down and focus on intention.

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7. Delay orgasm.

couple sleeping together
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"Delaying orgasm often intensifies the [tantric sex] experience," say Johnson and Michaels. "Remaining in a high state of arousal can also help people experience energetic orgasms, or orgasms without ejaculating."

Delaying an orgasm means bringing yourself to the brink of climax, only to back off and delay it. Called edging, it's best to try first while masturbating to get a handle on the technique.

Practice getting yourself up to the point of orgasm, then stopping, and starting up again. Then, when you're with your partner, you can take turns getting each other up toward climax, sliding back down, and then going back up again toward orgasm before surrendering to the fireworks finale.

8. Be open to whatever happens.

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Hate to break it to you, but a tantric orgasm may not be in the cards for you during your first go-round. And don't be surprised if you experience a different kind of orgasmic release: something Carrellas calls an "emotion-gasm."

Maybe you'll start crying, or giggling non-stop, which could leave you feeling "cleansed and energized," Carrellas explains. While this will likely feel different from a purely sexual release, an emotion-gasm is a full-body experience of freedom, she says.

If you feel nothing, though, don't be afraid to give tantra another shot! “Although many people experience the benefits very quickly, tantra is not a one-night activity—it's a practice,” says Carrellas. The more you practice, the more you’ll discover.

And trust: You’ll probably like what you find.

Headshot of Jenn Sinrich
Jenn Sinrich

Jenn Sinrich is an experienced writer, digital and social editor, and content strategist covering health, fitness, beauty, and relationships. After a decade-long career in New York City working in the magazine industry and at a myriad of digital publications, Jenn returned to her hometown just north of Boston to pursue freelancing full-time.

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Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a sex and wellness journalist who writes at the intersection of queerness, sexual health, and pleasure. In addition to Women’s Health, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Men’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called  

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