Tantric Sex 101: What It Is, Benefits & How To Do It

Written by Leslie Grace, R.N.

Leslie Grace, R.N., is a certified tantra educator, sexual embodiment coach, and registered nurse. In addition to her tantric training with the International School of Temple Arts and the Source School of Tantra Yoga, her understanding of the healing power of tantra is informed by her background in biopsychology, the Hakomi Institute’s Comprehensive Training in Somatic Psychotherapy, and The Somatica Method of sex therapy and relationship coaching.

Image by Michela Ravasio / Stocksy

In my experience, there's life before tantra and life after tantra. Once you set foot into this luscious, powerful territory of sacred sexual truth and beauty, you will never go back.

Welcome, dear one.

Tantra is a whole new way of being in sexual connection that allows you access to deeper levels of feeling, sensation, and energy, and ultimately more of who you really are. It can help you release shame, trauma, and blocks around sex, unleashing the transformative power of your erotic energy and leading you to some of the most soul-shattering orgasms ever.

This path is simple yet profound: wholeheartedly celebrating the sacredness of these bodies and desires while bringing a quality of mindful awareness to the shared expression of pleasure. Through this holistic approach, sensuality becomes a doorway to beingness, to the divine, and to a more intimate experience of the present moment.

I see sacred sexuality as an integral part of the path of awakening and personal evolution. Tantra could be called "yoga for your sex life," and believe me, it's going to rock your world.

What is tantric sex?

Tantra (pronounced tahn-tra, with an ahh sound in that first syllable) is a Sanskrit term that translates to "weave." It refers to weaving together or uniting the masculine and feminine forces within all of us, heaven and earth, the human body with the transcendent. Collapsing the polarities, the purpose of tantra is to discover an ecstatic union with all of life beyond the separate sense of self. Sacred sex—an aspect of tantra—is seen as one doorway to that transcendent truth, once we learn how to harness it.

The simplest explanation of sacred or tantric sex is that it's about bringing the fire of your sexual energy, passion, and desires into alignment with your heart, your spirit, and a sense of goodness in your life. When these forces come into balance and harmony, the sparks of interpersonal magic really start flying, and sex becomes something healing, empowering, transcendent, and profoundly beautiful.

I'm talking about the kind of lovemaking that feels truly connected, aligned, massively powerful, and filled with the utmost respect and devotion between you and your partner. This kind of intimacy evokes your highest self and leaves you overflowing with love. Time slows down, your intuition expands, and you can find yourself in nearly psychedelic realms of orgasmic possibility that you might have only heard about or imagined.

Sounds pretty good, huh?

How tantric sex works and what it involves.

Tantric sex involves a wide array of erotic activities, not all of which involve the same kind of penetration and physical stimulation of erogenous zones that most people associate with sex.

Tantric sex often involves the subtle realms with slow embraces, gentle caresses, getting present within the body, and focusing on the movement of energy between the partners' bodies. Sometimes during tantric sex you're barely moving, and the focus is on the meditative, devotional dimension. If you relax and take things slowly, or ramp up and slow down the action, you can make love for hours, and the enjoyment can just keep building.

That said, all sexual energy can be tantric when done with awareness. Tantric sex can dive into the raw, intense, and animalistic spaces, where the body's instinctual intelligence takes over and you are blind to pleasure. Dominance and submission can be tantric as well.

Some specific acts include tantric massages, where one partner gets to just lie back and receive, getting the chance to tune into their pleasure and sexual energy and see how it wants to open up through their body, while the other partner moves their hands slowly and meditatively along their body to let them feel every single new sensation. People with penises might explore practices like edging (getting close to orgasm and backing off), which builds their ability to last longer and hold more pleasure before flipping over into orgasm.

Breathwork is also central to tantric sex; people might use their breath and awareness to move sexual energy throughout their whole body, awakening their capacity for full-body pleasure (rather than pleasure localized specifically in the genitalia).

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The purpose of tantric sex.

There can be a whole array of goals and expectations around sex that put pressure on us to be a certain way, as well as routines and habits that keep us stuck in a sexual rut. Tantra is about throwing all of that out the window and starting fresh with a beginner's mind, redefining sex by making it more about intimacy, connection, and playful possibility rather than a race to the orgasm or a box to be checked. When you let go of goals like "getting someone off" or achieving anything in particular, there is literally endless room for discovery and such a wide range of what is possible.

And whatever you're experiencing now in terms of orgasm, you can safely assume there is way more to experience through tantric sex—more powerful orgasms, longer-lasting orgasms, non-ejaculatory and full-body orgasms for men, numerous kinds of orgasms and multiple orgasms for women, deep states of surrender, visionary states, and states of oneness with your partner and life itself. Various spiritual teachers have admitted that orgasm is an experience that gives us a glimpse of divinity because there's a melting of the regular egoic self in those moments of communion. 

A few more benefits of tantric sex:

  • Getting more of what you want in sex
  • Releasing sexual blocks, shame, and trauma
  • Awakening your sexual energy to flow freely within your body
  • Accessing your fullest pleasure and desire
  • Tuning into subtle energy
  • Discovering full-body and/or multiple orgasms
  • For people with penises, delaying orgasm or experiencing non-ejaculatory orgasms
  • Experiencing a new level of heart connection with your partner, a profound sense of intimacy, and loving presence
  • Longer lovemaking sessions, relaxation, and a quality of spaciousness
  • Enhanced communication and communion
  • Holistic mind-body-spirit connection with yourself and with your partner

Classical tantra vs. neotantra.

Tantra stems back to at least the seventh century if not earlier, appearing in various forms and texts in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions. But usually when Westerners use the word "tantra," we are really talking about the field of "neotantra."

There are various complex and rigorous spiritual paths of "classical tantra," which aim at full spiritual awakening or enlightenment as the goal. These include Kashmir Shaivism, a strand of religious philosophies from Kashmir and India, and the Vajrayana Buddhist path of India and Tibet. These paths often involve serious study and personal dedication, meditative practices, and can include various elements of ritual, such as the use of mantras, visualizations, and deity worship. Working with sexual energy was only a small part of the practice and was for advanced students only.

By contrast, neotantra has developed over the last 150 years and aims specifically at more fulfilling intimacy and connection, a deeper connection to one's own body and emotions, healing trauma and blocks, and opening to greater states of orgasmic ecstasy. This body of teachings has been deeply inspired by some of the core tenets of classical tantra, but it is important to acknowledge that much of what is taught and shared among modern tantric sex practitioners is not "ancient practices" in the literal sense, though meaningful and relevant in their own ways.

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A few tantric sex practices to try for beginners:

1. Create a sacred space.

Consciously disconnect from the mundane world and enter the world of the Divine—the world of pleasure. Turn off devices, light candles or incense, and gather any special treats like chocolates or berries. Purify yourself by showering and dressing in something lovely; purify your space by tidying up and putting away the laundry piles. It's also best to skip or go light on the substances in order to be fully present.

Set intentions for this session of intimacy, such as, "My intention is to show you with my body how much I love you" or "I'm curious to explore deeply receiving."

2. Try eye gazing (or "soul gazing").

In the powerful gaze of your partner, there is nowhere to hide, and you practice fully revealing yourself to the other with all that you feel and all that you are. You see them fully while at the same time letting yourself be seen.

Sit up straight on a pillow or chair facing your partner. You can look left eye to left eye or just gaze softly at both eyes, and you can also hold hands if you like. Let the love that is in your heart shine out through your eyes. Gazing at your beloved, see the divine spark in their eyes, marveling at the pure life force that is animating them. Feel the sacredness of this simple moment together.

Try for two minutes. Notice what emotions or sensations come up, or if you feel tempted to look away. It isn't a staring contest, so you can always close your eyes for a few seconds and then open them again.

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3. Hands on hearts circuit.

This one can often flow nicely after eye gazing. While sitting facing each other with a soft gaze, bring your hands to your own heart and breathe up into your heart. As you feel the love that is welling up in your heart for your partner, reach across and place your right hand on your partner's heart (with consent), and they can place their right hand on your heart. Each person's left hand then covers the hand on their own heart. Synchronize your breathing, with slow, deep, nourishing breaths. On the inhale, receive breath and love into your own heart, and on the exhale send that love from your heart down your right arm and into your partner's heart, making a circuit of love and energy flowing between you. Do this for about 10 breaths.

4. Try the yab-yum position.

This classic tantric sex position represents the union of Shiva and Shakti, the two divine energies of masculine and feminine. But remember these are just energies, and it doesn't matter the gender of the participants. Even for relationships between cis men and cis women, it's powerful to practice switching between each role.

  • The base partner (representing Shiva, who is energetically or physically penetrative) sits cross-legged on a pillow in the "holding" position while the other partner (representing Shakti, who is energetically or physically receptive) can either drape their legs over their partner's legs with their butt on the bed or a pillow or can fully sit in the lap of their partner. The base partner's arms should go around the waist of the other partner, whose arms go around the shoulders of the base partner. Your heads can be cheek to cheek, or you can touch forehead to forehead. This position aligns the chakras of the partners and allows for sexual energy to move upward along the spine.
  • Once you come into alignment, start by taking a few deep, slow breaths together, synchronizing your breathing. Then begin to move together in slow undulations, arching, swirling in circles, finding a flow and a rhythm that feels delicious, activating your sexual energy together. The base partner "gives" to the partner on top who is "receiving" that energy up into their body.
  • Connect with your breath to expand the pleasure and sexual energy throughout the entire body, lighting up every cell with that life force. You can try staying with smaller, subtle movements or get as vigorous as you like, but either way, use your breath to draw orgasmic energy from your pelvis up the spine and up to your third eye (the spot between your eyebrows) or crown (the top of the head) and beyond.
  • This position can be practiced fully clothed, naked, or in whatever form of penetration you like. You can even learn to have full-body energy orgasms—with no penetration whatsoever—while remaining fully clothed, though that might take a little more practice!

I feel inspired to teach tantra because I believe most people have a ton of their power and truth locked up in their sexuality, right alongside all the messed up cultural conditioning and trauma most of us carry. When people get aligned in their sexuality, when their sexual "life force" energy is fully activated in them and connected to their hearts and spirits, they can become the most thriving, unstoppable, and inspired versions of themselves to go actualize their purpose in the world.

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