Spoiler: It's not as crazy as you think. Experts share what tantric sex is, exactly, and how to enjoy tantric sex solo or with others.

By Gabrielle Kassel
Updated March 24, 2021
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You've likely heard the phrase a million times before — but what is tantric sex, exactly? To understand what tantric sex is, first, you need to get to know tantra.

Tantra is an ancient spiritual belief system that originated in India and has been around for thousands of years. "Tantra was this radical belief that said anything can be part of your spiritual path (eating, meditation, exercising, etc.), and unlike other spiritual outlets at the time, that included sex," explains Layla Martin, a highly-regarded tantra teacher and host of the YouTube series Epic Sex & Legendary Longing.

Credit: Arman Zhenikeyev/Getty Images

Historically, sex was only a very very small piece of the tantra pie; however, people have zeroed in on this portion, likely because it awesomely aims to replace feelings of shame around sex with deeper, more pleasurable feelings, says Martin. "Tantra gives people the opportunity to put sacredness, intimacy, and gratitude back into their sex lives," she says. "And I think people gravitate toward that because they want to feel that sex is holy."

Anyone can take advantage of tantra and try tantric sex. "Even though tantra is a spiritual path, you don't have to be spiritual to do it," explains Martin. "It's the same if you practice yoga, which is also a spiritual path. You'll still experience more connection, pleasure, aliveness, and deeper intimacy." (Here's why yoga is more popular than ever before.)

Sounds awesome, no? But what is tantric sex, exactly, and how do you have it? Read on for a tantric sex definition plus tips and tricks for having tantric sex — whether you're solo or partnered.

What Is Tantric Sex?

Basically, tantric sex is a slower, more mindful way to practice sex in which orgasm isn't the main goal — rather, it's enjoying the sensations, pleasure, and connection that come with the process. "Tantric sex is sex that's a mind-altering journey," says Martin. "It's an exploration of how much deeper, dynamic, healing, creative, and inspiring sex can be when you allow it to be about more than just the orgasm."

If you take anything away, make it this: Orgasm is not the goal of tantric sex. "In tantra, we avoid goals entirely," says tantra expert Barbara Carrellas, a certified sexologist and author of Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex For The Twenty-First CenturyRather, the intention is to worship yourself and/or your partner. #blessed

Tantra sex can be officially divided into two categories: red tantra and white tantra. White tantra is the solo practice, while red is the tantra with a partner — "it's where you take everything from your solo practice and bring it into the lover," explains Leah Piper, a tantra educator who conducts More Love seminars.

How to Have Solo Tantric Sex

Now that you know what tantric sex is, want to try it? While tantric sex can be practiced both individually and with another person (or persons), tantra experts suggest starting solo. "If you shift your solo-sex practice, you can shift how you have sex with a partner," explains Martin. "If you haven't practiced this tantric shift in how you masturbate, it'll be harder to allow it to happen with someone else." Use the four steps below to guide your solo play. (Related: How I Taught Myself Mindful Masturbation — and Why You Should Too)

1. Set up.

The first step is to "transform your bedroom into a temple," says Sofia Sundari, international tantra teacher and founder of the Tantra Mystery School and the Priestess School. Make sure it's clean, choose music that puts you into a sensual mood, dim the light, use essential oils that are pleasant to your senses, and make sure the room temp is comfortable. "The ambiance you create should feel nourishing," she says. (It'll probably also help you sleep better, for the record.)

2. Breathe.

Now, try diaphragmatic breathing — also called relation, belly, or abdominal breathing. To try it, put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take a deep breath through your nose and feel the sensation of your belly expanding. Inhale for four counts, then slowly exhale through your mouth for four counts. "This will help calm your adrenals and bring you into a relaxed state where a transcendental experience is possible," says Piper.

(BTW, did you know you can have an orgasm just from breathing? Carrellas says it's true. She even made an mp3 to teach you.)

3. Explore your *entire* body.

"Your whole body is your instrument of pleasure and expansion, not just your genitals," says Sundari. That's why she suggests exploring — spending extra time on your neck, chest, abdomen, inner thighs, and ankles, which are the bodies main "chakras" (AKA erogenous zones) — through self-massage and touch. (You might even use one of these luxe bath oils, which are good for your mind and body.) As you do this, pay attention to the sensations happening in your uterus, your pelvic floor, your cervix, and your vagina, suggests Martin.

4. Masturbate...slowly.

Surprise! The groin is also a chakra. If you're feeling it, go ahead and touch yourself. But slow it down. "Do everything twice as slowly as you usually do," says Carrellas. In tantra, there's a saying: Three strokes for thirty. "This means it's better to touch three times with exquisite consciousness than thirty times with a lack of full attention," she explains. (Here are more masturbation tips that will totally change how you self-pleasure.)

So, can you use toys? "Absolutely," says Carrellas. "We're focused on building erotic energy, so however you want to do that — BDSM, vibrators, butt plugs — is allowed." But, it's still important to slow it down and de-center the orgasm, she says. That's why she suggests running the toy down your abdomen and along your limbs to amplify the sensations. (In the market for a new toy? Check out the best sex toys on Amazon and these best vibrators for women.)

5. Take it up a notch.

Ready to take your solo play to the next level? "Masturbate to the point of orgasm, but before you orgasm, don't — stop it with a breath. Breathe that orgasm up your body and into your heart. Then do that again. The third time, allow yourself to have a genital orgasm. As you do, breath into your heart and allow yourself to have a heart-orgasm at the same time." (If that sounds a little woo-woo for you, check out these seven other types of orgasms).

How to Have Tantric Sex with a Partner

Want to try tantra with a partner? Combine the above steps with the below basic guidelines on having tantric sex. Keep in mind: "Tantric sex might look like every other type of sex on the outside, but what's different is what's happening on the inside," says Martin.

1. Talk to your partner.

First things first: You need to get a partner on board. If you have an S.O., Carrellas suggests broaching the subject by saying, 'I read about this and I've been practicing it, and it's really trippy and pleasurable. It's something I would like to try it with you.' "Present it has something that may be fun to try together," she says. No long-term partner? No problem. That's not a pre-requisite for tantric sex. (For more ideas, also consult this guide on How to Create More Intimacy with Your Partner.)

2. Get present.

Ever have mid-romp thoughts like: 'What are we going to do next?' or 'I wonder if I'll be able to orgasm,' or 'will sex today be better (or worse) than it was yesterday?'

"These thoughts take you out of your body and throw you into your anxious monkey mind," says Carrellas. Instead, she suggests using breath and asking yourself grounding questions like 'Where am I feeling you most intensely?' to tune into the present moment.

"You might try matching your breath to your partner's," suggests Carol Queen Ph.D., Good Vibrations sexologist and curator of the Antique Vibrator Museum.

3. Practice eye gazing.

In other words: Make a lot of eye contact. "If you've never done it before, you'll probably giggle or feel self-conscious at first. Just relax and keep breathing," says Carrellas. "You'll soon drop into a kind of lovely hypnotic intimacy, unlike anything you've felt before."

4. Kiss.

And don't half-ass it. "Each time you kiss your loved one, kiss as if it is the last time you are kissing. Offer all of yourself into the kiss," says Sundari. If this sounds intense, that's because it is — in tantra, kissing is called oral lovemaking, after all. (Related: All The Health Benefits Of Kissing)

5. Make noise.

You should probably wait to have tantric sex until your roommates out of town — it can get loud. "Making sounds helps people experience more pleasure, validates your partner, and helps you stay connected to each other," says Piper. (And, FYI, research has found that people who moan during sex actually have better sex.)

Whether or not that includes dirty talk is up for debate within the tantra community. "In my world, if it helps you go to the deep place of connection, it belongs," says Carrellas.

However, other experts "discourage a lot of words because the left side of the brain is where thinking and language happens, whereas the right side is what helps us go into a fantasy world," says Piper. Using words to describe what you're feeling can light up the left side and keep you from going fully into the right side, she explains. That's why she recommends sticking to making noises.

Regardless, the point is to feel connected to your partner. So use your voice and sounds (whichever feels right for you) to facilitate that connection.

6. Try different tantric sex positions.

Tantric sex is all about the connection, so as long as you're connecting, there's no right or wrong way to do it, says Carrellas. Any position can be tantra-fied (it's a verb, k?) by slowing it down, adding eye gazing, and staying present. (Win-win: Practice tantric sex with these sex positions that promise clitorial stimulation.)

yab yum best tantric sex position
Credit: Emma Darvick

Try experimenting with a position called "Yab Yum," which Queen says is known as the tantric sex position: The penetrating partner sits cross-legged and the receiving partner straddles their lap, facing them, and wraps their laps around the partners lower back, she explains. (Note: the penetration here can happen vaginally or anally). As you embrace, add in eye-gazing and breathing practices mentioned above, if you like. "The embrace is sweet all by itself but it also allows you to control speed and depth, and to pull each other even closer," says Queen.

If you want more ideas, consult this list of tantric sex positions. Keep in mind that deep penetration can be painful for some folks, so foreplay, lube, and honoring your body are key. (Really, though: Lube will make tantric sex even more amazing.)

Is Tantric Sex for Me?

"Tantra welcomes everyone to the table, where you can be any sexuality, gender, ability, race, and class," says Carrellas.

Being a good "fit" for tantric sex is more about having the right mindset. Because it's about slowing down and connection, "the common denominator between people who try tantra is a feeling that there's something more out there if they could just learn to let go and find it."

Sound like you? "I can't tell you how many people have experienced profound, revelatory, intimate experiences by embracing tantra," she says. Not, that's quite the endorsement.