Dear Friend,

Welcome to September’s newsletter. This month we are talking about an ancient Eastern practice: tantra. For some, the connection between tantra and sexuality might be apparent; for others, not so much. This newsletter will provide you with a perspective on sex that challenges what mainstream, purity culture has sold us; a perspective that brings together sex and spirituality in as a way to improve overall wellbeing.  

(Join us on our Instagram page for poetry, discussion, journal prompts and more sex education!)

Why Tantra?

An important part of having a fulfilling sex life is being able to connect it with who you are; your beliefs and deepest desires. Aside from being sexual beings, many of us consider ourselves to be spiritual beings. Unfortunately, oftentimes when spirituality and sexuality are spoken about in religious contexts, it can result in the suppression of honest sexual expression. 

At My Sex Bio, we’re looking to expand your toolkit so that you can better write your own sexual story. There’s power in the peace that can surround our world when we all have clarity about, and ownership of, our sexuality. Tantra offers an opportunity to connect sexuality and spirituality in a positive, mutually-fulfilling way. 

What is Tantra?

Defining tantra is a challenging task; not only because of how old of a practice it is, but because it has traveled the world all the way from the East to the West. Meditation Teacher and Coach Gustavo Monje mentions how “Tantra was created during a time of human history when there was no written language, which makes it difficult to scrutinize academically.” 

As a starting point, we can confidently say that tantra is a spiritual practice
According to Vedic Teacher and Educator Dr. David Frawley, “Tantra can perhaps best be defined as an energetic approach to the spiritual path.” 

Tantra Practitioner And Sexual Empowerment Coach Sarrah Rose says that “at its core, tantra is about connecting with your own energy to establish a deeper understanding of yourself.” 

Jeff Craft from the Atlanta School of Tantra Yoga considers that “the system of Tantra in it’s [sic] deepest understanding is a path towards Wholeness and a return to Divinity that teaches that the experience of Life is Sacred and SO ARE YOU.” He adds that “in Tantra, every moment is an opportunity to find greater peace and open to the Love that is all around us, and most especially, the Love that IS our True Nature.”

Denise C. Onofrey, MA, NCC, writes in GoodTherapy that “Tantra honors and celebrates our bodies, and enriches sensual pleasure, not just sexual pleasure. Breath, meditation, mindfulness, movement, and our environment can enhance intimacy with oneself and others.”
As you may notice, tantra can have several definitions that vary slightly depending on, at minimum, the geographical region and type of tantra you choose to look at (among which you can find left-hand and right-hand tantra, and more traditional types of it). However, common cornerstones appear to be:

🟢 A connection with the divine
🟢 An acknowledgement of the human experience and body as relevant for the spiritual path
🟢 An emphasis on energies
🟢 A deeper sense of intimacy with the self, others and the environment

According to Dr. Mitchell Tepper, tantra is “consistent with any religion you practice. There's no conflict between practicing tantra and practicing any religion of your choice.” On top of that, "Tantra is not a glorification of ordinary sexuality, though it is unafraid of this force and is able to see the cosmic power working behind it,” says Spiritual Teacher and Energy Worker Aline Ra M.

The History of Tantra

The history of tantra, as with much of world history, is unfortunately stained by colonization...because—according to The British Museum—“misinterpretations of tantra reinforce[d] British stereotypes of India as corrupted by black magic and sexual depravity,” and because not all tantric knowledge was consistently written down, the history of tantra can look blurry. 

Some things are clear though:

🐉 Tantra might be as old as the first major civilizations that arose in the Middle East. According to Meditation Teacher and Coach Gustavo Monje, “some [scholars and mystics] will say that tantra became a spiritual institution 7,000 years ago, predating, or contemporary to, the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations.”

🐉 Tantra wasn’t in all cases a philosophy that embraced sexuality, and its practitioners weren’t always actively engaging in sexual acts. Some paths of “classical tantra” like the Vajrayana Buddhist path of India and Tibet or the Kashmir Shaivism “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,” says Certified Tantra Educator Leslie Grace, R.N.

🐉 Tantra represented a freeing spiritual system given the realities of Indian society at the time it emerged. According to Imma Ramos, Curator of South Asia, “tantric initiation was open to people from different social backgrounds. This challenge to the caste system made Tantra especially appealing to women and the socially marginalised.”

🐉 Tantra as a spiritual system offered a place for women to be regarded alongside men, having within its regular practice the worshipping of goddesses, since it “sees all material reality as animated by Shakti—unlimited, divine feminine power.” Curator of South Asia Imma Ramos also adds that “tantric goddesses challenged traditional models of womanhood as passive and docile in their intertwining of violent and erotic power.” 

🐉 Tantra looks different now than it did centuries ago. According to Yoga Journal, “over time, other curious yoga teachers and leaders mined Eastern sexual and spiritual techniques and blended them with elements of Western sexology, psychotherapy, and New Age self-transformational techniques to evolve Tantra into the form we know today.” Tantra’s goal, however, remains the same: to merge with the absolute

Tantra & Sex

“Tantra in itself is not necessarily a sex practice, it’s a way of life. And
it’s a way of life that looks like expansion through awareness.” 

— Sexuality Educator Dr. Mitchell Tepper
Even though tantra was born as a spiritual practice, only the sexual aspect of certain varieties of the ancient tradition seem to have made it through to the West with such popularity. The equation of tantra with sex is a common misconception that flows from the simplified Western understanding of it
This, however, isn’t totally without merit. Since tantra views the human body and experience as ways to understand the universe (or divine), the human sexual experience becomes just one of many meaningful experiences on the spiritual appealing perspective when the norm was (and in some cases continues to be) sex for reproductive purposes, or sex as a shameful or sinful practice.

Tantra’s Goal

Tantra’s main goal, as has already been mentioned, is to ‘merge with the absolute,’ to achieve ‘enlightenment’ or ‘spiritual awakening,’ which by certain perspectives means “the reimplosion of feminine energy into (a usually) masculine essence or pure consciousness.” 

This feminine energy (sometimes known as Shakti, or the operative principle of the universe), is believed to be dormant in the center of the body's pelvic area (some also refer to it as Kundalini, visualized as a dormant serpent). The masculine energy (sometimes known as Shiva) or the cognitive principle of the universe, lives in the head. If you want to learn more about the tantric myth of creation, check out The Tantric Theory of Creation - Shiva and Shakti.

Practices like breathing, meditation, and yoga attempt to connect these aspects within humans, therefore awakening “superconsciousness.” According to Italian Teacher of Traditional Tantrism, Yogini, dancer, and author of  the book “The  tantric dancer,” Maya Swati Devi, “Yoga is the unity of all the dualities and opposites that creates lifeforce, it teaches us to understand and transcend duality, it is based on the harmonization of duality within us in a state of transformative equilibrium.”
Fun fact: Did you know that the seven-chakra system that we know today is just one of many? India gave birth to many of them, some with five or six chakras. Some scholars argue that, from the originary perspective, chakras are not fixed points in the body that already exist, but rather points of energy that you prepare through meditation and mindful breathing for different divinities to inhabit them. Most of the chakra systems also actually have a correspondence with the elements!

Sexual Energy

“The essence of our existence is sexual. And sexual energy is both pleasurable and powerful. It is possible to enter into the wonders of this mystery as a meditation.”
In tantra, “sexual energy is pure life energy force. We come from it and we all have it within us, without depending on anyone else,” says Spiritual Teacher and Energy Worker Aline Ra M. “This [life] force brings us creativity, pleasure, and willingness to live. Tantra practices help us harvest that energy, often without anything but our own bodies.”

Tantra also implies the belief that we are all connected as part of one creation, according to Dr. Mitchell Tepper, who says that: “we as humans are born from sexual energy; we’re born through sex, and we are sexual people from birth. If we look, that is like life force energy, and that energy, if we use it properly, connects us with other people and the universe.” 

Tantric Intimacy & Sex

Why is it that tantric sex represents an important shift in the way we think about sex and sexuality? 

Because tantra looks at all aspects of human experience as an opportunity for learning and growth, the way it approaches desire is freeing and can help to eliminate much of the shame that has been built around our sexual desires throughout the years. Yoga Teacher and Tantra Practitioner Leora Lightwoman mentions how, “instead of trying to eliminate desire, Tantric meditations focus on seeing beyond the apparent duality of desire and its objects.”

She says that “we desire something because we perceive ourselves to be separate from it. As this sense of separation and lack dissolves, then the energy of desire ceases to become a bond to suffering, but instead an expression of joyful love and oneness.”

Furthermore, working with our sexual energy as life force during sexual encounters transforms them into more sacred experiences. 
In the words of Certified Tantra Educator Leslie Grace, R.N., “the simplest explanation of tantric intimacy 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.”
In practice, the shift becomes apparent. Sexuality Educator and Coach Dr. Mitchell Tepper says that “tantric sex is sex approached with a tantra mindset.” He proposes the two following models of sex...

The medical model of sex: 
💚 Is performance-based. This means that you put up an act for your partner (or vice versa) with the purpose of satisfying them or yourself, or simply to follow what you believe to be ‘the natural course of things.’ This tends to happen unintentionally every time during a sexual encounter you choose not to communicate about things like discomfort. 
💚 Is friction-based and mechanistic. In Dr. Tepper’s words, “if you put the appropriate stimulation and the right amount of friction at the right speed to your clitoris or to your penis, that will take you on increasing your heart rate and your respiration and magically to orgasm.”
💚 Takes orgasm as a general reflex. Orgasm in this model is taken as an expected response from the body to the physical stimuli received.   
💚 Is focused on genital stimulation.  As illustrated in the previous quote from Dr. Tepper, what makes you climax is the physical stimulation (oftentimes friction) on your genitals, as opposed to stimulation of any other part of the body.  

The energetic model of sex:
💚 Is experienced as a ‘flow state’ or ‘being in the zone.’ This implies your focus is on your sexual experience and your sexual experience only, things flow, and there’s often no space to second-guess yourself.  
💚 Implies ‘timeliness.’ It happens when you’re grounded in the moment and you lose track of time.  
💚 Allows for ‘egolessness.’ Your ego is the one who usually makes you ask yourself, “what if I’m making too much noise? Is my belly too big? Do I look good?” Tantra promotes acceptance and in an energetic model of sex, you’re connecting with the other person, honoring your bodies and working with your life forces; anything that happens is just part of the experience. 
💚 Is about ‘being natural.’ When you leave your ego aside, the whole experience becomes a natural experience, the worries like the ones above have no place in it, and in Dr. Tepper’s words, partners can “be in the moment and really enjoy the sensations and the pleasures of sex.”
💚 Takes orgasm as a brain-mediated event. This means that more than the genital stimulation, what matters is what your mind and heart are experiencing, and how you feel towards what’s happening. 
The goal shifts away from achieving climax or orgasm to remaining in the moment and connecting to your partner, feeling your feelings and your partner’s and deciding each time if you’re satisfied with the experience or not, regardless of how many orgasms you’ve had. “In the medical model [of sex], sexual energy builds, then is lost. In tantra, energy is not lost but gained. Instead of using a partner for one’s own gratification, tantric partners provide vital energy to each other,” says Dr. Tepper.

Tantric Practices For One

“Tantra is not hedonism, which is the pursuit of sensual
pleasures. Tantra is the absorption in what is here now.”

— Yoga Teacher and Tantra Practitioner Leora Lightwoman
In everyday life:
As mentioned earlier, there can be different definitions and even types of tantra. If you’re wanting to try, you can pick a household tantric tradition and follow its teachings to walk the path of tantra in your daily life. One of your options is called Dinacharya (Deen-uh-char-yah). 

“The way to start practicing Tantra is to bring your daily conduct more in line with your constitution and nature’s rhythms….Dinacharya means ‘daily conduct.’” says author Shambhavi Sarasvati

Within Dinacharya, practices like waking up before sunrise, constantly drinking water, meditating and movement become critical—all with the goal of becoming more grounded, relaxing your body and mind, and connecting more deeply with the environment.    

If you want to learn more about this practice, we invite you to check out What Is Dinacharya? Here’s Everything You Need to Know and Tantra – How to Begin.

In your sex life:
Ideally, once you’ve gotten familiar with some of the practices above, you can start to incorporate what you’ve learned into your sex life. Remember that tantric sex is sex “approached with a tantra mindset,” tantra isn’t a sexual practice in itself. 

💚 You can try guided chakra meditations and breathing exercises that foster your sexual energy and allow you to visualize it within your body, to feel it and to mold it. There’re plenty of resources online for you to do this, which is especially helpful if you’ve never tried meditating before. Try starting here or here.  

💚 If you want to get more physical, you can try exploring touching yourself:
🟢Setting an intention for your session beforehand (pleasure, exploration)
🟢Making sure you are always very aware of your breath, making it a conscious, deep breath 
🟢Starting by secondary erogenous zones (neck, thighs, etc.)
🟢If you involve the genitals, try being very slow and aware of everything you do; try different strokes and types of touch 
🟢Make sure you keep breathing deeply and consciously as you go  
🟢Experiment with edging (delaying orgasm)
🟢The goal is not to orgasm, but to connect with your sexual self 

(List based on the information provided in How to Practice Tantric Sex With a Partner or Solo and A Guide To Tantric Masturbation: Techniques, Benefits & More.)
Above all, educate yourself. If you are interested in trying tantra in any form, for any reason, the first step is educating yourself and choosing the perspectives that best fit your needs! 

If you want to learn more about mindfulness and how it connects to sex and sexuality, listen to or watch our interview with Creator of Intimate Health Yoga and Birth Doula Courtney Avery, wherein we discuss how mindfulness can enhance our sexual experience through the senses. Courtney also walks us through a couple of introductory techniques and exercises meant to improve your ability to slow down, be present and receive pleasure–both in and out of the bedroom.

Tantric Practices Together

“When you practice a sex ritual, let thought reside in the quivering of your senses like wind in the leaves, and reach the celestial bliss of ecstatic love.”
There are so many tantric practices out there that you can try with your partner for a change in your sex life, to deepen intimacy or to connect with each other at given moments. Some of these practices, briefly described, according to Certified Tantra Educator Leslie Grace, R.N. are:

Eye 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 sit facing each other and proceed to look at each other in the eye, attempting to communicate your feelings for each other through your gazes. 

Hands on hearts circuit: “Reach across and place your right hand on your partner's heart (with consent), and they can place their right hand on your heart.” By placing one hand in your heart, and another on your partner’s, you attempt to synchronize your breathing, visualizing giving and receiving love with every breath. 

Tantric massage: “Tantric massages are another powerful part of tantric sex, one that can be the key to multiple orgasms for both people with clitorises and people with penises.” A partner gives, the other receives. While the receiving partner focuses on the sensations in their body, the giving partner uses touch in a very mindful way, allowing for new sensations to be experienced. 

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.” Partners face each other, the receiving partner gets to ‘sit’ on the giving partner, partners synchronize their breathing and move as feels comfortable and pleasurable, keeping in mind the receiving partner is receiving this sexual energy up into their bodies and heads.  

Dr. Mitchell Tepper mentions the practice of mirroring. You sit face to face, and allow for one partner to have the leading role while moving their body, the partner in the following role follows them, almost like a dance. You can also do this with your breaths: you can attempt to synchronize your breath with your partner’s or even do the opposite; when they breathe out, you breathe in. 
“Doing these practices you really learn to pay attention, to follow, to receive, to give. It's unbelievable that actually everyone wants to give, everyone wants to please their partner or get their partner off. People are not very good at receiving,” says Dr. Tepper.

Benefits of Tantra

Anyone can practice tantra at any time. Potential benefits of regular tantric practice, according to Gabrielle Kassel on Healthline, are:
🟢 Reduced stress, anxiety, or depression
🟢 Better understanding of and love for oneself
🟢 Boosted confidence and performance in the bedroom
🟢 Improved sleep quality
🟢 Improved quality of life
🟢 Increased capacity for intimacy
Embracing tantric perspectives could also bring the following to your life:
🟢 Sexual healing
🟢 Humbleness and empathy
🟢 A different, more fulfilling perspective on the meaning of life
🟢 Unattachment
🟢 A sense of belonging, as you explore the idea that you are part of the divine consciousness
🟢 A new and sacred understanding of sexuality
🟢 A better relationship with your body, as it becomes a tool to achieve enlightenment
Whether you engage in tantra to better your sex life or your overall wellbeing, we hope you’ve found good starting points through this reading. Stay curious!

Sex Talks with Diana

“You don't have to break your neck to be a great lover, but you could learn a lot from somebody who has.”
 – Dr. Mitchell Tepper; Sexologist with a focus on Sex and Disability,
Sex Coach and Relationship Coach, Master in Public Health & Ph.D. in Sexuality Education.
If you enjoyed reading about tantra, we invite you to watch our interview with Dr. Tepper, wherein we explore the benefits of tantra, the new understanding of life, sex and sexuality that comes with it and the intersection between tantra, sex and disability. Tantra has been a key element in his professional life and a life-changing practice for him. Head over to our YouTube channel for the full interview! 
If you enjoyed what we explored in this newsletter, we invite you to listen to or watch our interviews with these two insightful experts,  Dr. Rachel Allyn and Jessica Graham. Stream wherever you listen to your podcasts, or head over to our YouTube channel for visual versions! 

Our Blog

“The presence of masculine and feminine energies in nature and spirituality has been around for thousands of years. And it is always a duality that fights for balance. The sun and the moon. Day and night. Fire and water. War and love. The mother and the father. Yin and yang. One cannot exist without the other. They exist because of each other.

And as we are our own universe, it is only natural to have these energies within us, irrespective of our gender or sexual identity. Our complex nature is a mix of masculine and feminine energies which both fight for expression. And it is our goal to accept that nature and bring the energies into balance.” 

Nina Lee Bennett, The Divine Equinox on the My Sex Bio Blog. 

Writing Prompts:

Take what you’ve learned through our social media, Carnal Theory interviews, this newsletter, our recent blogs, and other resources to inform your inner reflection and self-exploration:

📝 When is the last time you paused, connected with your breath and melted into paying attention to ONLY your body? 

📝 What do you do in your everyday life to activate and use your sexual energy?

📝 How can you create a sacred space within yourself to honor your sexuality?

📝 What is trust to you? How deeply do you trust yourself? Are you able to trust others? Why?

These voluntary monthly prompts invite you to explore your sexual biography.
Tips on exploring: Set aside 20 minutes with your phone on silent and relax in a comfortable space with a pen and paper. Go slow. Start with what comes to mind from your first read of the prompt. Continue writing from your stream of consciousness. 

Mantra of the month

“What do I enjoy more than anything else? What’s keeping me from doing that all the time?” 

Researching our sexual biographies:

Have you ever tried incorporating tantric practices into your sex life?
Yes      No
Each month we ask a question in support of our leading mission at My Sex Bio. As we grow we plan to help fund and supply research for sex education. The results of these questions may be shared on social media as well as the following month’s newsletter. These results will also help curate relevant content for our readers, like you, moving forward. Responses are voluntary and anonymous.

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