What is Tantra? Books Behind the Ancient Sex Practice
There’s a gift you can give your partner that'll blow both your minds, bring you closer as a couple, possibly give you glimpse of spiritual enlightenment and won’t cost you a penny: That’s according to authors of these guides to tantric sex, an ancient sexual discipline inspired by Buddhist philosophy.
Tantric sex comes in a variety of forms, but as a general rule it is a much longer, slower, more conscious, and more spiritual version of your average do-the-deed encounter. Tantric sex involves aspects of meditation, yoga, and mindfulness and often requires a great deal of restraint—all in the service of elevating sex to an exercise of the soul as well as the body.
Buddhism in the bedroom
Lama Thubten Yeshe’s authoritative text explains the spiritual foundation of tantric practice, making complex Buddhist theories on desire, purity, and happiness accessible and inviting. He provides a history of the practice, which has its beginnings some 2,500 years ago, and explains the ways in which tantra is seen as both a transformation of human desire and a direct route to enlightenment. “Through the proper practice of tantra,” he writes, “all of our energies… are harnessed to accomplish the greatest of all transformations. This is our evolution from an ordinary, limited, and deluded person…into a fully evolved, totally conscious being of unlimited compassion and insight.”
A basic primer
If you’re new to the spiritual path or you’re just looking to try something different in the bedroom, 28 Days to Ecstasy for Couples, by Pala Copeland and Al Link, lays out a beginner’s course to mastering tantric techniques. Taking into account the realities of daily life, the authors boil down the practice—which is infamously time-consuming—to four weeks’ worth of 20-minute sessions. The exercises retain the spirit of tantric practice while aiming to cultivate greater intimacy and consciousnesses in the bedroom. They’re also probably best paired with the regular shebang, as it were—otherwise on Day 13 you’ll have to call it quits after a round of soft breathing and whispered endearments.
For the Fifty Shades lovers
Maybe you’ll spring for the heavier stuff. Sex expert Barbara Carrellas’ Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century is a street-smart, hard-edged take on the practice “for modern sexual explorers desiring to push past their edge in search of the great cosmic orgasm.” Introductory chapters teach readers to breathe properly, identify their chakras, and cultivate resistance—an essential component to successful tantric practice. She devotes later chapters to "solo tantra" and expert orgasms (such as “the firebreath” or “the clench and hold”), as well massage techniques. Wannabe Anastasias will be pleased to find a section on tantric BDSM.
For the gents
Tantric sex requires a patience that, ahem, doesn’t always come naturally to men. It’s the reason guys are sometimes hesitant to take the plunge, but it’s also the reason tantra can be so rewarding when done correctly. Tantric Sex for Men, by sex educators Diana Richardson and Michael Richardson, lays out a guide to perfecting the techniques essential to satisfying tantric sex: orgasm delay, semen retention, and a mysterious practice called foreplay, among others.
Even if you begin practicing tantra purely as a sexual diversion, you may find its potential for spiritual empowerment alluring. The Tantra Experience and Tantra: The Supreme Understanding, by the world-renowned spiritual teacher Osho, present a comprehensive looks at tantra’s mystical side. Drawing on ancient writings, Osho suggests that tantric practice helps us to feel more present in our bodies and enables us to contact ultimate truths of existence. He writes: “The first thing is to learn respect for your body, to unlearn all the nonsense that has been taught to you about your body. Otherwise you will never turn on, and you will never turn in, and you will never turn beyond.”
This article was updated September 24, 2014