Marathon orgies. Multiple orgasms. Eye-locked lovemaking. Likely, the term "tantric sex" brings to mind at least two people going at it. But while tantric sex can be with another person or persons, tantric sex can also be a solo venture. Introducing: tantric masturbation. Here's how to start touching yourself tantrically—plus, the health benefits of a tantric solo sex practice.
Om your marks, get set, O.
What is tantric masturbation?
Tantric masturbation involves making love to yourself through touch, breathwork, and meditation. The antithesis of rubbing one out or "maintenance" masturbating, tantric solo sex is more spiritual, explorative, and mindful than the average wank. Far from being tantra light, tantra educator Leah Piper says, "Solo tantra is the first step in having a partnered, tantric experience." Tantric masturbation is the best place for everyone—partnered, multi-partnered, or single—to start their tantric sex journey.
Tantra itself is an ancient spiritual practice with roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jain traditions that's thousands of years old. Today, "tantra as we know it is a heart-centered, embodied spiritual practice that embraces every aspect of life and says, 'This could be a path or vehicle to enlightenment,'" explains Barbara Carrellas ACS, AASECT, author of Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the 21st Century. Walking the dog, doing your homework, and navigating traffic can all be done tantrically. And yes, so can masturbating.
How to practice tantric masturbation:
1. Set an intention.
There are no goals in tantra—only intentions. "Tantra never has orgasm as the goal, only the intention of raising and exploring sexual energy," says Carrellas.
This can and should be tailored to your personal needs and wants in the moment. Are you experiencing sexual shame? Your intention for the practice might be to become more comfortable with your sensual self. Are you feeling meh about your belly or thighs? Your intention might be to show those areas love. Are you feeling stressed? Your intention might be to release stress and invite relief.
If no intention comes to mind, Piper recommends asking yourself the following questions and letting the answers guide you:
- What would I like to release from my life that is no longer serving me?
- What would I like to bring into my life that could serve me?
2. Prep your environment.
"You want to ritualize the experience of making love to yourself," says Piper. Light a candle, draw the curtains, set the room to a comfortable temp, and fill the room with a scent that smells relaxing or sensual to your nose, she suggests. (Here's our full guide to creating a romantic bedroom environment for tantric sex.)
Then, create a sex nest. "Sexual energy only moves when you're comfortable," says Carrellas. So arrange a sea of pillows and throw blankets, either on your bed or not, so that you are at peak comfort during your session.
And feel free to put on some mood music. Don't worry; Carrellas promises, "There doesn't need to be Sanskrit chanting or New Age tunes playing in the background, just something that feels sensual, romantic, or meditative to you."
3. Set a timer...if you need to.
If it's Sunday and you've got nothing to do but solo tantra, skip this step. But if you have other obligations later in the day, Piper recommends setting a timer for 30 to 45 minutes. That way you can be fully in the moment for that chunk of time—as opposed to worrying about being tardy.
According to Carrellas, masturbating tantrically counts as medabation (no, not a typo!). Medabation is the love child of masturbating and meditating. Knowing that, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that the first step in actually getting into it is to breathe. "Breathing can take us to another world; it can move energy throughout our body," she says.
Not just any ol' breathing will have this power. "It should be a kind of conscious breathing that's more full and deep than usual," she says.
Box breathing: If having a more specific breathing pattern is helpful for you, Candice Smith, M.Ed., chief intimacy officer with Tango, recommends starting with box breathing, which entails following a pattern of fours. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four. "Continue this for at least four rounds, as long as you feel like counting," she says. "It will help quiet your mind, make you more present, and keep your mind from wandering to other things."
If you're new to breathwork, counting your breaths may feel distracting. If that happens, Smith recommends moving into long, even breaths. "As you breathe, think about the sensation of the breath: how it feels entering your lungs, the sensation of the air entering and leaving your nostrils," she says.
5. Start touching your secondary erogenous zones.
Erogenous zones are the nerve-dense spots on your body that love to be stroked, licked, nipped, and kissed. While your genitals certainly qualify, during your tantra practice, you're not going to start with your slit, sausage, nips, and nubs. You're going to start with your secondary erogenous zones.
Piper explains: "Beyond the yoni (vagina) and the lingam (penis), we have other places on our body that can help us experience ecstasy," she says. "In tantra, these are called our secondary erogenous zones, and they're the places on our body that fold like our elbows, hands, wrists, knees, inner groin, and ankles."
Use your fingers and hands along each of these to stroke, lightly tug, tickle, tease, and massage yourself. Experiment with the pressure, intensity, and quality of the stroke, staying with the spots and techniques that feel good. "This is how someone can learn to have a full-body orgasm," according to Piper.
6. Masturbate, but make it slow-motion.
You don't want to rush right to your goodies, but you can eventually move south if you want to. Just be sure to start slower than slow. Your touch should not be vigorous, hard, rushed, or intense. You're not "rubbing one out." This is not maintenance masturbation.
"Stoke yourself slowly and softly. Touch yourself as if you're in no rush at all," says Piper. "Experiment with new types of strokes and ways of touching," she says.
If you have a vulva, you might try:
- making circles around clit
- using diagonal strokes
- windshield-wipering your fingers
- moving counterclockwise
- tapping your clitoral hood
If you have penis, you might try:
- two-handing your shaft
- cupping your balls
- tapping or pressing against your perineum
- using your nondominant hand
- create a ring with your thumb and forefinger and squeezing the base of your shaft
If you have lube (more on that below!), you might use now as a time to explore a little bit of anal play as well. Use your finger or a plug to circle your entrance, eventually easing it inside you if the pressure feels good.
7. Use lube.
Lubricant is encouraged, says Carrellas. And that holds true whether you're touching your primary erogenous zones (your penis, vagina, or nipples) or secondary erogenous zones (the spots that fold). If you want to use lube all over your body, grab your favorite body lotion or massage oil and massage or rub it into your nongenital erogenous zones.
8. Make sound.
Making sounds can help move energy in your body, according to Carrellas. "Different tenors of sound activate different chakras in the body." Your chakras are a set of seven energy centers in the body, located from the top of your head down your spine, with the lowest being by your genitals. "You make lower sounds to activate your lower chakras, middle pitches for middle-body chakras, and higher pitchers for high-up chakra," she explains.
If you're not sure what any of that means, don't stress. Just make whatever noises come naturally, and don't be afraid to be loud!
9. Bring in other aids, if wanted.
Yep, sex toys are allowed! So long as they enhance the experience, not detract from it. "Penetrative toys, glass toys and dildos, steel wands, sensation toys, and vibrators are all welcome," says Carrellas. (Just remember that if you use silicone-based toys and are also using lube, choose a water- or oil-based lubricant. Silicone-based lube can fudge with the texture of silicone toys, making them tacky.)
Instead of going right for your clit or penis with the pleasure aid, Carrellas says to "start by running the toy up and down your abdomen while you breathe, use the toy to bring you closer to your body and intention." (Not specifically to bring you closer to orgasm.)
Piper recommends vulva owners use G-spot wands. "There is a chakra located inside the G-spot, so massage that spot and you have the ability to touch inside that chakra. It's pretty amazing."
10. Keep breathing.
Orgasm may not be the goal, but the above tips will get you there. "If you feel orgasm come, keep breathing," instructs Carrellas. "We tend to hold our breath or breathe shallowly when an orgasm is coming, but keep breathing."
You may feel like the orgasm is getting away from you, she says. But don't worry about it. "It's there. Keep breathing. It will make the energy you have to orgasm that much more intense if/when you finally let go."
11. Add a mirror.
Once you become a more advanced tantric masturbator, Carrellas and Smith say you might consider adding a mirror. "A mirror adds an extra visual element to the self-love practice," says Smith. If you have a full-body mirror, gaze in the mirror; run your hands up and down your body from your extremities to your center, she says. Vulva owners can also use a handheld mirror to examine their vulvas closely: " how your vulva changes physically as you start to become aroused," she says.
Another option: sit in front of a mirror in crisscross applesauce position and try the solo iteration of yab yum, which is known as the tantric sex position. "Place your palms on your knees, gaze into your own eyes in the mirror, and breathe," explains Carrellas.
Benefits of tantric masturbation.
The fun and pleasure of touching yourself tantrically is reason enough to explore solo tantra. But the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional benefits below are a good reason to give it a whirl, too.
Better, more pleasurable sex.
"The best way to learn what your body likes is to have sex with yourself," says Piper. Solo sex gives you the opportunity to learn what touches, strokes, pressures, intensities, and rhythms your body most responds to—and that's especially true during tantric solo sex. Whether you take this knowledge back to your partner or simply use it during your solo sessions, she says, "your pleasure during any sexual moment moving forward will be so much greater."
Again, orgasms are not a goal. But a happy side effect? Heck yes.
"Learning the pleasure potential of your nongenital zones is one of the ways people can become multi-orgasmic and have full-body orgasms," says Piper.
Plus, as Carrellas says, "Most of us interrupt or dampen our orgasms by holding our breath or tensing up during it." So learning to breathe, as one does through tantra, can lead to a less damp finale.
All three tantric experts are quick to note that you don't have to be spiritual to try tantra, but that doesn't mean you won't have a spiritual experience, or feel spiritually elevated with a regular tantric practice. "When you practice tantra, you become the center of your universe. For some people, that will take on a spiritual quality. For others, it will simply make them feel lighter, or more complete," says Carrellas.
Boosted sense of self-compassion.
"You can't think your way into self-love. You have to spiritually, emotionally, and mentally do work to love yourself," says Piper. "And solo tantra is one of the active ways someone can learn to love their body and selves."
As you explore your body and say loving things to yourself, even if you don't believe the things you're saying, over time that voice starts to become louder, and the voice of self-doubt begins to quiet. "When I started tantra, I hated my belly, but after telling myself 'I love my belly' while touching myself tantrically, it became true," she says.
When you masturbate, your body releases a slew of endorphins like oxytocin and dopamine, which have been linked1 to a temporary mood boost and reduced symptoms of stress. Tantric masturbation may have extra stress-busting properties, according to Carrellas, because it's a meditative practice. You get the stress-relieving benefits of both masturbating and meditating at the same time.
Improved skin appearance.
All hail the post-O glow. When you touch yourself (or get touched), your heart rate increases, which increases blood flow all over your body—including your face. This can give you a good 'ol sex-flush. Further, stress can cause a flare-up of inflammatory conditions like psoriasis2 and rosacea. So by reaping the stress-fighting benefits of masturbating, you may reduce your chances of triggering a flare-up.
Period cramp relief.
Next time you're clutching your abdomen when that time of the month rolls around, consider moving your hands a little lower for some sweet, sweet tantric loving. Due to the surge of natural pain relievers (aka dopamine and serotonin)3 we get from an orgasm, masturbating may help ease those cramps.
Using tantric principles in your solo sex sessions might sound intimidating, but as Carrellas says, "Just try it. The benefits, the pleasure, the body-awareness of touching yourself tantrically are all worth overcoming that hurdle of your first time."
Your mind, body, heart, and soul will thank you.
Gabrielle Kassel is a sex and wellness writer and certified CrossFit trainer. She has a degree in English and Women & Gender from Smith College, and her writing on sex, identity, and wellness have appeared on Cosmopolitan, Well Good, Health, Shape, Women’s Health, Greatist, Healthline, and more. She's become a morning person, tested over 300 vibrators, and worn her vaginal ~essence~ as perfume—all in the name of journalism. In her free time, Gabrielle can be found reading romance novels, bench-pressing, and pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.