Ask anyone about tantric sex and they’ll probably tell you two things. That it's meant to be amazing, but that they don't actually have any clue what it involves.
Don't worry - that's where this handy guide comes in. A bit like with the best sex games or fun sex ideas, you've all heard rumours about how it could improve your sex life. Steamy tantric sessions supposedly last for hours on end - but just how much of this is actually true? And if it is, how exactly do you try it yourself at home?
All good questions - which is why we've enlisted the help of some of the best experts in the business to break it down for you. Below, sex and relationship counsellor for Lovehoney, Annabelle Knight, Ferly sex practitioner Georgia Rose, sex coach Sarah Rose Bright, and certified love, sex, and relationship therapist at Zoe Clews & Associates, Andrea Balboni.
Tantric sex: your guide
What's the definition of tantric sex?
According to Knight, tantric sex is a slow, meditative form of sex where the end goal is not orgasm but enjoying the sexual journey and sensations of your body. "It aims to move sexual energy throughout the body for healing, transformation, and enlightenment. Think the kind of sex that is a mind-altering journey," she explains.
In the expert's words, 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.
You might have already invested in some of the best sex toys for couples, but this is taking things far deeper spiritually, too. As Rose explains, tantric sex "incorporates rituals, visualisation, mindful breathing techniques and slow movements that ground us, connecting us to pleasurable moments - in ourselves and with others."
So while tantric sex can give you mind-blowing orgasms, this isn’t actually what it’s all about. "Tantra is the union of sex, heart, and spirit, bringing all of these into not just our sexual experiences, but into our life," adds Bright. "Tantra positions like the yab yum invite us to be really conscious about who and how we are as a sexual being."
Of course, improved sex is a part of this as together, sex and orgasm are believed to equate to the highest level of spiritual awareness.
Tantric sex practitioner Layla Martin made a good analogy. She shared: "What makes spiritual sexuality different from your everyday sex, is the same as what makes yoga different from stretching, and meditation different from just sitting."
Where did tantric sex originate from?
Believed to have originated from India over 5000 years ago, "tantra is a combination of spirituality and sexuality that can lead to enlightenment," shares Knight.
Rose seconds this, adding that the practice of tantra focuses on slow, meditative, ritualised practices. If you're struggling with knowing how to be intimate, it could be good practice for you, as it forces you to slow down and view sexual intercourse through a more meditative lens.
Through your practice, it's said that you can access sexual ecstasy and the divine. Sex is treated as having a higher purpose - it is not merely a physical, mechanical experience. It is a portal through which we can find "one-ness" and transcendence, she explains.
How did the practice of tantra reach the UK? Well, with confusion. "When the tantras were first translated into English around 200 years ago, they shocked British colonialists who assumed tantra was little more than a sex cult," Knight shares. "This misunderstanding has continued to frame the Western conception of tantra to this day," she goes on.
Needless to say, modern tantra is still widely practiced. Although it is markedly different from the teachings contained within the medieval tantras, its followers still look to sexual energy as a source of enlightenment, the sex expert shares.
While tantra has this reputation of promoting uninhibited sex, promiscuity could not be further from its original point, or so says Balboni. "Its original focus is to enable full spiritual awakening via direct interaction with your sexual energy."
Which celebrities are fans of tantric sex?
The Police star Sting originally introduced tantric sex to the mainstream media in 1990. You'll likely remember his comment, where he casually mentioned a seven-hour tantric sex session he'd had with his wife, Trudie Styler. It's still being discussed over thirty years later.
Turns out they weren't actually having sex for seven hours, but incorporating the tantric act of building up to the main event in their lovemaking. On the matter, he said: "The idea of tantric sex is a spiritual act. I don't know any purer and better way of expressing a love for another individual than sharing that wonderful, I call it, 'sacrament.' Seven hours includes a movie and dinner!”
Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks have both also shared that they've tried it.
10 tantric sex tips for beginners
Even if it's always been one of the most common sexual fantasies, know this: tantra takes time to master. The whole point of the practice is to actually delay your orgasm, which many - especially men - may initially find frustrating, rather than a turn on. Follow the below techniques from the pros to master tantric sex as a beginner.
"The key is not to focus too closely on your orgasm", explains Knight. Instead, try and prolong the foreplay for as long as possible before reaching climax. Other half not so keen? Learn how to talk to your partner about a fetish, here.
1. Set the mood
Get some scented candles, turn off your phone and prepare to devote at least two hours to your lover.
2. Loosen your body
Tantra is about moving energy through the body, so shake your limbs vigorously to energise and unblock your system before you start.
3. Stay off the bed
This will trigger the sleep button in your brain. Tantra is not about a quick romp - you are seeking a deep connection. Get comfortable by lying on the floor with your partner using some cushions.
4. Stimulate your senses
Sight is the most powerful of the senses, so it's important to look good, share our experts. Why not try wearing some lingerie or decorating the room with some fresh flowers?
To stimulate your sense of smell, use oils like rose, ylang-ylang and jasmine.
On the audio front, you could even sing to your partner, or whisper intimately into their ear. Not so keen? Playing their favourite music will work, too.
Taste-wise, melted chocolate, honey and fresh fruit all work. As the sex becomes more intimate, you should apply them to body parts and lick them off.
And finally, touch. Massage their head, neck, hands and feet, and more.
5. Get closer
You could try sitting face-to-face, wrapping your hands around each other and pressing your bodies together. "This kind of skin contact promotes greater feelings of intimacy," shares Knight.
6. Let foreplay become intimate
Quite opposite to sex positions like pegging, tantra is all about taking your time and leisurely make your way around their body. "Try a variety of touches - firm massage, light feathery touches, and gentle stroking. The aim here is to heighten your lover's senses in a slow and intense way so that you're building them up to a peak but stopping just short before the orgasm," explains Knight.
Oral sex is encouraged but not to the point of climax - remember, you are aiming to make the pleasure last for hours.
7. Stand up opposite each other
Try this: look into each other's eyes and place your left hand on your partner's heart as they place their hand on yours.
Then, try matching each other's breathing for a couple of minutes. Breathwork is a big part of the tantra.
8. Try some role play
If it turns you on, use a blindfold. Take it turns - one could even be submissive and one dominant, shares Knight.
9. Progress beyond foreplay to intercourse
Top tip here: avoid any position that you know makes you orgasm easily, instead working towards a gradual build-up of pleasure. "The slower you take it, the more intense the orgasm will be at the end," Knight stresses.
10. As you're reaching orgasm, try tantric breathing
Close to orgasm? Time to slow your breathing down.
Why? As above, tantric breathing is hugely important in tantra. It may seem illogical as most of us breathe more quickly as we approach climax - women, in particular, can tense up at this stage of sex as they try to make themselves come.
"Instead, relax your tummy and take long, slow, deep tantric breathing," Knight recommends. "Your orgasm will last longer and be more intense."
Rose adds that tantric breathing is one of the most important elements of tantric sex, and so to really hone in on yours if you're comfortable doing so. "Tantric breathing is key. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, using sound. The use of sound upon the exhale supports a release and a sense of letting go, whilst encouraging a dropping down into the body. Liberate yourself using sounds," she encourages.
Think heavy sighs, deep guttural growls, funny noises, and even screams - they're all welcome in tantric breathing. Why? Well, "the practice helps to transition us into a much more embodied, grounded and present space - which is essential for sex," Rose explains.
And remember: don't give up. If you don't last beyond ten minutes, try again. "Tantric sex takes time to get to grips with because we're all used to sex in a Western way - sex with an obvious start, middle and end," explains Knight. She encourages you to use your imagination. Your sex life could go off in all sorts of new directions, thanks to tantra.
Keen to find a partner to try tantric sex with? Check our guides to the best dating sites, sex apps, and dating profile tips, while you're here. Don't forget an expert's tips for what to talk about on a first date, too.
Three tantric sex tools worth their salt
Keen to mix things up but feeling uninspired? These tantric sex cards from Lovehoney promise to do the hard work for you.
Like the sound of a rich and indulgent oil that smells delicious, too? The Coco de Mer products are always top of the range. Add this specific one to basket to scent your intimate moments with notes of fig and orange blossom.
Should I try tantric sex?
In short, when you learn and practice tantra, you become more in tune with your body, what gives it pleasure, and the way it feels pleasure. This allows you to pay better attention to your body’s wants and needs and make sure they’re fulfilled.
Plus, the energies you channel during tantric sex flow throughout your body and can intensify your orgasm. Still not convinced? Tantric sex promises to help you experience a deeper connection, sex that becomes healing, empowering, or profoundly beautiful, or even altered states of consciousness that some call "bliss states," shares certified love, sex, and relationship therapist at Zoe Clews & Associates, Andrea Balboni.
Sound good? We thought so.
Who is tantric sex for?
Anyone and everyone - it's completely up to you and your partner.
"Within the sex coaching practice, I might recommend Tantric sex to a spiritually-open couple who feels sexually stale or stuck, as it allows them to open the dynamic and the dimensions of their own relationship," explains Ferly sex practitioner Georgia Rose. "By removing the goal of orgasm, it allows couples to relax and experience the pleasure of the moment. Tantric sex may help them go on intimate journeys together that they have never been on before."
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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