Happy May, readers! Not only are we presently enjoying the end of the springtime season and gearing up for the switch to summer (hydrate! Hydrate! hydrate!), but May is Masturbation Month! If you ask me every month ought to be Masturbation Month, but I love an excuse to celebrate and sacred sexuality is an incredible thing to celebrate.
Tantra has broken more than ever before into our contemporary lexicon with the prominence of resources like Barbara Carrellas’s Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century. It’s becoming less of a weird sound bite from Sting and being understood (and accepted) more a for what it is: a beautiful, personal exploration, an act of shared magick between partners. One of the best, most succinct explanations of tantra I’ve heard is from a mainstream health information outlet: “Tantra is a pleasure-centric practice that encourages self-exploration and mindfulness. It’s similar to meditation and can have benefits both in and out of the bedroom.”
At its roots, tantra isn’t even a strictly sexual practice—although that’s the most fun part, if you ask me. It’s a spiritual exploration rooted in matra, yoga, rituals, and breathwork. It uses the energies we share with the world to heighten and focus any experience.
If you’re at all like me, then tantra is something you’ve had a passing interest in for years without the confidence (or perhaps willingness), to dive in headfirst. “Heartfirst” may be a better way to approach tantra. Due to the deeply personal nature of any tantric experience, you have to approach it from a place of openness, or it may well remain a distant, evocative, unapproachable practice.
All of this is to say it’s a perfect practice to employ with masturbation. Because tantra begins and thrives on self-exploration, it is very much about the journey, rather than the result. I would contend this is perhaps why more women are drawn to tantra than men (at least initially), since our sexual experience can be less a race for the orgasm and more a journey through them.
In Urban Tantra, writer Barbara Carrellas recommends having sex for 20 minutes every day. This is the part of the blog where I get up on my soapbox and remind everyone the word and act of “sex” does not have to involve other people. In fact, it should not involve other people all the time. Just because you may happen to be in a partnered relationship, it doesn’t mean masturbation needs to go by the wayside. In fact, it’s an incredibly important practice to continue cultivating throughout the rest of your life. A varied sex life should imply more than merely trying new positions from time-to-time. It means sex with and other person (or other people), as a companion to sex with yourself or, if you will, masturbation! “Know thyself” is a truism we’ve heard for years across religions, lifestyles, and artistic expression. Cultivating a solo tantric practice will aid you in doing just that.
Alongside the moment #selfcare has been having, masturbation has also been having its own moment as one of the best gifts you can give yourself to relieve stress and boost your self-esteem.
Okay, all of that is great, but where do I start?
I hear your question and I recognize your haste. Where you start is with a safe space. Remember “know thyself” from just a few sentences back? It’s the cornerstone of tantra. Tantric practice lives in your exploratory impulses. Set up a nice space for yourself. I’m an Aries, so for me, fire is always sexy. Lighting candles and incense gets me in the headspace I need for self-love. That might not be the case for you. Maybe you want an open window and sunlight, or a bathtub with no lights. Set yourself up for success by entering a space of comfort.
The more senses you have engaged the better tantric experience you will have! Keep in mind sight, smell, sound, et cetera as you set the scene.
Once you are physically comfortable (including whatever your wearing... or better yet, not wearing), breathe. [Cue Breathe by Faith Hill playing in the minds of readers the world over.] Your breath is so important. Like prana in classic yogic traditions, your breath will drive the tantric tradition you are presently cultivating. If breathwork isn’t something you are super familiar with I always recommend a technique called “box breathing” as a place to start. It is such a great way to drop into your body quickly. Controlled pattern breathing like this quickly increases the oxygen to your brain. This has the added bonus of oxygenating the rest of your body in a similar fashion. You will suddenly become aware of the parts of your physical body you may not be conscious of on a regular day. If you’re more familiar with breathwork and different breath techniques and want to challenge yourself try “circle breathing”.
Start slowly with a light touch in erogenous zones that work for you. Whether that’s clitoral, nipple, inner thigh stimulation, or anything else that gets you going. Once you aroused continue the light touch to areas of your body you may not think of as particularly erogenous. Try behind your ears, eyelids, knees, upper arms. You are very likely to discover something about yourself with this initial exploration. If you get going pretty quickly the exploration may have to be left for your second or third self-love tantra date.
Making note, mentally or physically, of the changes and discoveries you make in this practice is also integral to a tantra practice. We learn by doing, over and over again. Returning and perfecting this type of stimulation is how it transforms from an exercise into a sexual practice.
Natural next steps include incorporating toys (hey, we know all about those!), sharing your discoveries with a partner, changing up breathing techniques, and focusing on your G-spot—particularly if this isn’t an erogenous zone you are familiar with.
Ultimately, the point of cultivating a solo tantric practice is to know thyself, to fully take in hand your own sexuality, to push yourself to and past your edge, and to cherish the journey as much as or more than the result. A regular practice will bring you more orgasms, more smiles, and a better personal—and shared—sex life!