What is tantric sex? 9 expert tips for beginners

Curious to try tantric sex but not sure how? We've got you covered

Man and woman in bed together, looking into each other's eyes after reading principles of tantric sex
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tantric sex is often misunderstood in the Western world. Many believe it's the route to hours-worth of orgasms, but it's one element of a wider ancient Hindu practice called tantra. Those who practice tantric sex do so as part of tantra, as a way to combine the physical and spiritual elements together. 

First practiced over 5000 years ago in Tibet and India, tantric sex has been in existence since the 7th century. Formed from tantra, which comes from the Sanskrit word 'to weave', it's all about slowing down sex and making it more about a mind-body connection. 

Most people's knowledge of the practice tends focuses on how to have an orgasm unlike any other. This is certainly part of it as tantric sex can lead to longer and more fulfilling climaxes, but that's not everything tantric sex is about. As tantric sex is built on a foundation of trust, self-love, and creating a strong connection with your partner through mindful sex, it has so many benefits for our love lives. 

Here, we speak to a tantra teach who has been engaged in the practice for over 24 years, to reveal everything you need to know about having tantric sex for the first time with a partner to improve your intimacy and trust, and reduce issues such as sexual anxiety

What is tantric sex?

Tantric sex is an ancient practice, where the focus is not on orgasm but rather prolonging and enjoying the journey it takes to get there. It uses synchronized breathing, touch, and delayed orgasm to create a profound connection within a couple, explains Jennifer Surch, an award-winning Tantra teacher with more than 24 years experience. "It enhances our ability to effectively communicate our needs to a partner and to be able to hear their needs," she says. 

Surch, who is also the founder of the Academy of Modern Tantra, explains that many people in the West practice a version of tantra called neo-tantra. "This is a beautiful infusion of ancient traditional tantra combined with mindfulness, present state awareness, Taoist tantra, Kundalini yoga, and energy. It's focused on mental, emotional, physical, and energetic health." 

Is it worth trying if you want to know how to have better sex? Absolutely, according to Surch. "It takes making love to all-new levels of intimacy. To be really present in your body and feel the pleasure in every cell of your being as you experience true conscious connections."

How to have tantric sex

1. Prep the room

As tantric sex is a slow and mindful experience, spend time preparing the room for you and your partner. Surch suggests lighting scented candles, dimming the lights, turning off your phone, and devoting at least two hours to your partner to fully immerse yourself in the experience for ultimate pleasure. 

"Remove any distractions," says the tantra teacher. "You want to get into the mindset that tantric sex is something different from your everyday life, or even regular sex if you tend to focus on having an orgasm, so you can relax and enjoy the journey."

Candles lit up against window background in the rain

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Loosen up your body

Get yourself into the right mind for tantric sex, either alone before your partner comes into the room or together. As the practice is all about moving energy through the body, shaking your limbs out to energize before you get started can be a good idea to release any nervous energy. 

You don't have to do a full-on workout, just have a little jump around and get the blood pumping. Tune into how you're feeling and take a few minutes to breathe. If you're feeling particularly tight, practice some gentle yoga poses like downward dog, cobra, and tree pose. 

Much like yoga for beginners, if you're new to tantra then you should also start by focusing on your breathing. The 'belly breathing' technique is a good one to start with, says Surch. "Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, just below your ribs. Take a deep breath in through your nose and picture your middle filling up with air. The hand on your middle should move when you do this, which is how you know you're doing it right. Exhale, and when you breathe out, the hand on your stomach should fall back to its regular position."

3. Stay off the bed

If possible, avoid immediately getting onto the bed when you're having tantric sex for the first time. "This may trigger the sleep button in your brain," says the teacher. "Tantric sex isn't about having sex quickly, you're seeking a much deeper connection. So, if you have the space, get comfortable by lying on the floor with your partner using some cushions."

Dedicate a space to your tantric experience and make things even more special. This can be another area of your bedroom other than your bed, your living room, or your guest room.

4. Stimulate the senses

By now, you'll know that tantric sex is all about being present and mindful. A great way to play on this is to dedicate time to stimulating your and your partner's senses.  "Try a tantric ritual on your partner called the body-worship ritual," suggests Surch.  "Schedule an evening into your diary and make the necessary preparation, like picking some beautiful music and ensuring the room is ambiently lit with some candles around."

Start by sitting opposite your partner and just taking time to look into one another's eyes, to really witness each other, to be seen and to see," she says. "When naked, breathe with each other. Taking it in turns on different evenings throughout the week or month, invite your partner to lay down in a comfortable place you have prepared. Placing all of your attention on your fingertips and your palms, begin to caress their body and explore every curve and crease. Do this to send them love."

You can then treat your partner to different sensations, like soft feathers gently and sensually moving up and around their body. "Remember that sexual pleasure travels upwards," she adds, so make sure this is the motion you move in. "And then anointing their body with oil, commence what we call the strokes of adoration. This is a massage, but do it as if you were making love with your hands."

Make sure you notice every reaction and noise your partner makes when they feel your touch, ask them for feedback, and open the lines of communication. If you're looking to learn how to be more intimate without sex, start with this. "Tuning into your partner's wants and needs can help you create a little map over the pleasure zones on their whole body. We call this pleasure mapping of the body," Surch says. "The skin is our largest pleasure receptor, wrapped over our whole body and it's capable of giving us great waves of orgasmic pleasure."

Man and woman looking into each other's eyes, lying down on bed in the middle of a roonm

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Look into your partner's eyes

After stimulating each other's senses, look into your partner's eyes and breathe together. "Place your left hand on your partner's heart," Surch instructs, "They should do the same to you. Match each other's breathing for at least two minutes."

Not only will this bring you both into the present moment, it will create a deeply intimate experience where nothing else matters in the world at that moment but the two of you. 

6. Slow down foreplay

Many people who have penetrative sex often find that foreplay is rushed in favor of this, but Surch advises slowing right down during tantric sex. "Pleasure can last for hours with tantric sex, so if you're going to introduce oral sex positions early on, you shouldn't take this to the point of climax too soon," she says. Instead, focus on maintaining eye contact, exploring your partner's body with your tongue, mouth, and hands.

7. Try the yab yum sex position

Illustration of the yab yum sex position, a face-to-face move for tantric sex

(Image credit: H.Maddison)

While Tantra doesn't have to be all about actually having sex with your partner, you may want to try the yab yum sex position. It's a traditional penetrative tantra sex position, Surch explains, where one partner sits on the floor with their legs crossed. The other straddles them, wrapping their arms and legs around their body. "All chakra energy centers are aligned in this position. It's a profound meditation that involves squeezing kegel exercises, pelvic rocking instead of movements up and down, tantric breathing, and circulation of the sexual energy as it builds up," she says. 

Stay in this position for a few moments, breathe deeply and be present. "You can always put a pillow underneath you to help stabilize yourself or move onto the bed for this, if it's more comfortable for you both." 

If you can't find a position to make the yab yum work for you, lay down with your partner and look into their eyes instead. "Any position can be tantric if you focus on connectivity, eye gazing, and synchronized breathing," she adds. 

8. Take sex slow

Whether you choose the yab yum or another one of the best sex positions for slow and minful sex, "work towards a gradual build-up of pleasure," says Surch. "The slower you move, the more intense the orgasm will be at the end if you choose to end with this."

Avoid any sex positions you know make you orgasm easily, instead opting for those that prioritize face-to-face intimacy and allow for plenty of eye-gazing. 

9. Slow down your breathing

As you both come close to climaxing, slow down your breathing for a more intense and longer orgasm. "This will seem illogical as most of us breath more quickly as we approach climax," Surch says. "I find that women in particular can tense up at this stage of sex as they try to make themselves orgasm to stay in tune with their partner, regardless of that partner's gender. Instead, relax your stomach and take long, slow, deep breaths and your orgasm will last longer and be more intense."

What if tantric sex doesn't work? 

Many people find tantric sex difficult when they try it for the first time, Surch assure us. "If you don't last beyond 10 minutes, that's perfectly normal. Tantric sex takes some time to get to grips with because we're all used to having sex in a Western way. By this, I mean we expect sex to have an obvious start, middle, and end. Try to use your imagination and remember, if you're ever in doubt, you can always take a break and go back to eye gazing and breathing together."

Faye M Smith

Faye M Smith is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience in the magazine industry. Her continued work in the area of natural health won her the coveted title of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) Journalist of the Year Award 2021. Currently Health Editor across several brands including woman&home, Woman and Woman’s Own, Faye specialises in writing about mental health, the menopause, and sex and relationships.

With contributions from