Most people have heard of Tantric sex. It’s all about doing the deed with robust, expansive awareness, both of oneself and one’s partner. At its foundation, Tantra is a set of an ancient spiritual practices rooted in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jain traditions dating back thousands of years. The term “Tantra” is used to describe a wide range of spiritual practices but in the Western world we most commonly use it to describe a sacred, mindful approach to sex and sexual pleasure.

As tantric embodiment coach Maisha Najuma Aza puts it, Tantric sex is “bigger than sex, and it's more expansive than getting off or scratching an itch.” When practiced with a partner, it can lead to stronger communication, deeper connection, and a more fulfilling sex life. Psychosexual and relationship therapist Carolyn Cowan goes further, pointing out that although “historically, the traditional path towards Tantra happened between a man and a woman, [which] was believed to create a circular flow of energy between the male and the female, allowing them to achieve a perfect state of union,” each one of us also contains both masculine and feminine energies, which means we can create this circular flow of energy (a type of union) within ourselves as well.


What is Tantric masturbation?

The crowning principles of tantric masturbation are slow, delicious, meaningful and mindful self-pleasure and self-care. What could be more key to healing in these trying times? Just as with Tantric sex, the (anti-)goal of Tantric masturbation is to savor the journey. Think of it as a form of meditation. Just as with meditation, the main requirement is being open to getting to know yourself more deeply. Another key to Tantra is that climaxing is not the goal. There is no goal, as exploration is the entire point. As a matter of fact, the longer you can explore without reaching orgasm, the more energy you will build up. If you do ultimately reach orgasm, expect that it may be very intense relative to your typical solo sessions. And if you don’t typically attain orgasm, my advice is to go into this without expectation. The more you are able to feel every moment without trying to get anywhere, the better off you’ll be. Yes, maybe you’ll orgasm today—or maybe you will on your tenth try. It’s all groovy.

Here's how to explore tantric masturbation.

1. Clarify your intentions

In case it’s not clear by now, Tantra is about setting intentions rather than achieving goals. Think about what you would like to get out of your experience, while remaining open to possibilities you haven’t imagined. Your intentions should reflect your needs and desires. For instance, maybe you’re trying to find new ways to arouse yourself, or maybe you want to feel more confident and empowered about masturbating. Maybe you’re just looking to try something new or reduce your stress. Maybe you’re looking to sever your ties with shame. Just keep in mind: it helps to have a purpose in mind, but there’s zero pressure to ‘get’ anywhere. 


2. Set the stage

Just as you might set a romantic setting for a partner, show yourself some love by creating an environment conducive to your exploration. Create a space you that is comfortable, and that relaxes you. You might throw down plush pillows, light candles or incense, and play tranquil, sexy, or enchanting music—anything to rouse your senses and promote serenity. Treat yourself like you would a lover, and you’ll discover a whole new depth to this idea of self-love.

3. Make time…to be present

Particularly if you’re usually quick to rub one out and get to sleep (we call this maintenance masturbation), try to carve out a longer period of time for yourself in order to commit to a lengthier exploration. Tantric masturbation should never feel rushed. The energy you create and harness while feeling your way along (literally) should be the result of setting your own pace. Here’s a revelation for you: being in your body (rather than in your head) and being present in the moment are one and the same. That is to say, you can’t have one without the other.

4. Breathe

There are no hard and fast rules, but try to breathe consciously, deeply, fully. Chief intimacy officer Candice Smith recommends starting with ‘box breathing,’ which basically comes down to fours: breathe in while counting to four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four. Only count as long as you feel it helps, but if it distracts, let it go. Another option is taking long, even breaths while paying special attention to the sensations that breathing deeply creates in your body. Cyclical belly breathing may too be helpful: inhale, letting your stomach inflate. Then, exhale, drawing your navel toward your spine. Repeat. Really, it’s best to find what works for you. Check out this guide to Tantric breathing techniques for further inspiration.


5. Touch yourself deeply

First non-rule: don’t begin immediately with your poom-poom. Instead, start with your other erogenous zones–maybe your ears, breasts, elbow creases, or thighs are calling out for attention. You might also try continuing your cyclical breathing while contracting your pelvic floor muscles with each exhalation. Yeah, that might be a delicious ticket, just saying’. Massage yourself. Eventually, move on down south if you feel like it. Experiment with your arousal. Tease yourself. If you get too close to orgasm, try stopping and taking it down a notch. Build it up and draw it out. Make it slo-mo. Sex toys are allowed as long as they don’t create a distraction!

6. Experience your bliss

Let go, make sounds without holding back, move as you wish, and cry or laugh as needed. If/when you’re ready, yes, you might allow yourself to freely release. Orgasm may not be the goal, but that doesn’t mean you can can’t choose to overflow into a climax state of mind. To enhance orgasm in such a case, Barbara Carrellas, author ofUrban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the 21st Century, says, “If you feel orgasm come, keep breathing. We tend to hold our breath or breathe shallowly when an orgasm is coming, but keep breathing.”

7. Recalibrate with self-love

Whatever you do, whether you climax or not, don’t masturbate and mosey on. This ain’t no one night stand, y’know. After all, there’s no getting away from your sweet self so you might as well be a courteous lover. You might cuddle yourself, or simply spend a few more moments alone, breathing, reveling, letting it all sink in. Tantric masturbation should be satisfying and pleasurable, but it also has the potential to be a transformative force in your life, particularly in your relationship to yourself.

Bottom line: around the world, people are struggling. Whether you’re living alone or with a partner at this moment in time, self-love has never been more important. Without it, we have a lot less to give to others. So my lovelies, carve out the time to be with yourself and see if your inner world gets even a tiny bit brighter as a result. I’m betting it will.