Think about the sex you see in movies—how it’s quick and effortless, with intercourse and climax as the ultimate goal. After orgasm, sex is over. But is this truly all there is to physical intimacy? 

Tantric sex writes a different sexual narrative. It’s a meditative intimacy practice rooted in spirituality, with no specific end goal other than a deep connection between partners. Instead of focusing on sex as a purely physical experience (and involving only genitals), tantric sex widens the framework, making sex emotional and spiritual, too.

In a TEDx talk, Diana Richardson, author of “The Heart of Tantric Sex,” explained that mindful sex shouldn’t be goal-oriented. “We think the climax is the reason to have sex,” she says, noting that this makes us goal-oriented during sex, expecting orgasm, so we’re disappointed if we or our partner doesn’t get there.

Tantric sex, as a rule, isn’t climax-oriented—the idea is to be fully present with your partner. “[Tantric sex] creates a level of intimacy that is transcendent, emotional, and even spiritual,” says Molly Papp, sex therapist and owner of Bella Vida Therapy. “It is highly vulnerable and sensual.”

Maybe you’ve already experienced facets of tantric sex, like eye contact during intercourse, intimate massages, or delayed orgasms. Read on to learn more about what tantric sex is and how you can practice it at home.

What is Tantric Sex?

Tantra is an ancient Sanskrit word that can mean both “weaving together” or “technique or doctrine.” The term on its own refers to a set of traditions in Hinduism and Buddhism that focus on gaining a sense of oneness with the universe and seeing the divine nature in everything. Tantra can encompass non-sexual practices like yoga, prayer, mantras, and studying Tantric texts.

Tantric sex is a product of the more western neo-tantra movement, but the principle of oneness and communion remains. Through techniques like breathwork, slowed touch, and delaying orgasm, tantric sex aims to strengthen your energetic connection with your partner to bring you both into a deeper state of presence and bliss.

“The goal is to achieve a higher state of consciousness together with connected and mindful sex,” says Papp.

Tantric sex can be practiced with partners of any gender, and it can even be practiced alone.

Tantric sex can be practiced with partners of any gender, and it can even be practiced alone. The key is your mindset during a sexual encounter—when you take a more ritualized approach, sex becomes more than a purely physical act. It turns into a healing, relaxing experience, deepening your connection to your partner, yourself, and even the universe.

What are the benefits of tantric sex?

In heterosexual couples, tantric sex can help remedy common sexual concerns. Psychology Today reports that, depending on the study, only about 50 to 70 percent of women report orgasms during heterosexual encounters, while men report orgasms in around 96 percent of those encounters.

Tantric sex is about going at a slower pace and removing pressure all around, which can help folks with penises prolong their erection. It also builds desire and relaxation, both of which help people with vaginas achieve orgasm. 

And then you take the focus off the genitals specifically; you might experience even more physical bliss than anticipated! Because of tantric sex’s whole-body approach, tantric orgasms can be transcendent, full-body experiences.

Dr. Janet Brito, a sex therapist and the founder of The Sexual Health School, says that in addition to deepening a connection between two partners, tantric sex can help lessen performance anxiety because of the slower pace and the focus on breath and mindful touching. “The focus is on being in the present, and less on performance,” she says. 

Richardson in her TEDx talk recommends setting aside two or three hours for a mindful sex date. This allows you to move slowly into a meditative state during the session, and to indulge in one of the benefits of this type of sex—prolonged love-making.

Even folks who are completely satisfied with their sex lives can benefit from trying out the principles of tantric sex. By setting aside lots of time for sex, preparing and building anticipation, staying completely present, slowing the pace, and maybe trying new positions, two longtime partners can have an exciting, brand-new sexual experience that brings them closer together.

How to Get Started Practicing Tantric Sex

1. Set the mood.

After talking to your partner about tantric sex, set aside time to try it out. Even the preparation becomes exciting here, helping build anticipation. Take a ritual shower, put on something cozy or sexy, silence your phone, and set up your space with candles, incense, soft pillows and blankets, music, or some seductive snacks like chocolate—anything that helps set the mood and feels intentional to both you and your partner.

2. Hold eye contact.

Direct, prolonged eye contact can be surprisingly intimate, even for people who are close. “Lock eyes and completely be present in the moment,” advises Papp. Maintaining eye contact is a great way to start here. Set a timer for five minutes, sit across from each other or embrace, and gaze into each other’s eyes until the timer’s up. You can start clothed or not—the important part is recognizing a presence with each other and acknowledging any feelings that arise.

3. Relax your breath and body.

Check-in with your body while you sit with your partner, releasing tension where needed. Breathe deeply, maybe trying techniques like synchronized or belly breathing. The goal is to calm the nervous system and connect in a way we don’t always do during sex.

4. Try the Yab Yum position.

This is a great position to try first, whether you’re embracing one another or stimulating the genitals (but remember—in tantric sex, there’s no hard line between the two!). This traditional tantric position represents the union between Shiva and Shakti, two deities representing the divine masculine and feminine inside us. But the gender of the partners doesn’t matter in this position. The base partner sits criss-cross applesauce, while the other partner sits in the lap of the base partner, facing them and wrapping their legs around the base partner’s waist. In this position, you can engage in breathwork, eye gazing, penetration—anything! The key is to release inhibition and do whatever feels good for you.

“Any position can become tantric if you slow down and focus on each other rather than what’s happening with your genitals.”

Any position can become tantric if you slow down and focus on each other rather than what’s happening with your genitals. Slow down genital stimulation to a crawl and see what feelings open up, too—it’s just like savoring a good meal. Enjoy every sensation, and while eye contact is powerful, you can close your eyes at points, too, to feel more in touch with your body.

Communicating your feelings can be powerful in tantric sex, too, letting your partner know what you’re feeling to help you both stay present. If orgasm comes, great! If not, that’s great too! The goal here is that there is no goal. 🙂

Natalie Gale is a Boston-based freelance journalist. When she’s not writing about art, food, or sustainability, you can find her biking to the farmers’ market, baking, sewing, or planning her next Halloween costume. Say hi on Instagram!