The art and soul of Tantra

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By Amy OBrian

Tantric sex. The term gets tossed around during drunken sessions of sexual confessions, sober discussions on spirituality, and post-coital pillow talks about rejuvenating passion in bed.

But does anyone really know what it means, or is everyone just trying to sound enlightened?

For some people, the word Tantra evokes images of fantastically contorted bodies, seven-hour sessions of incredible sex, kinky acts and mind-blowing orgasms.

For others — mostly men — the word alone makes them grimace and squirm. The thought of withholding orgasm for hours (and according to some experts, even weeks) is just painful.

It’s hard to believe that separating ejaculation from orgasm could be satisfying in any way.

Tantric sex, rooted in the ancient religions of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism, is an ancient eastern practice meant to weave spirituality and sexuality together to enlighten sexual partners.

The word itself comes from the root word tan, which translates to “expand, extend, spread, weave.”

Tantra’s sexual techniques stem from meditation and yoga.

In theory, Tantric sex should be slow and non-orgasmic, allowing the participants to experience divinity through their partner.

The belief is that if the couple is not trying to reach the goal of climaxing, the entire sexual experience should be orgasmic.

Tantric couples plan and prepare for their sexual encounters, taking the spontaneity completely out of sex. By breathing in unison, couples tune into each other’s energy centres to reach sexual enlightenment.

Part of the secret to Tantric bliss lies in the sex positions and techniques illustrated and described in Hinduism’s oldest sex manual, the Kama Sutra. Until a few weeks ago, I’d only heard stories about the Kama Sutra — tales of bodies so twisted you can’t tell a man’s leg from a woman’s arm.

Before opening the sex manual in Web form, I poured myself a glass of red wine and geared up for some earth-shattering revelations that would change my sex life forever.

What a disappointment.

As I clicked from the Splitting Bamboo position to the Tantric Yab-Yum position to the Fluttering and Soaring Butterfly position, I didn’t find myself gasping or moaning but thinking aloud, “been there, done that.”

Anyone who has engaged in even moderately experimental sex would probably have the same reaction. So, besides the idea of coitus reservatus — a fancy term for not getting your rocks off — what’s all the hype about?

For Serge Grandbois, owner and operator of Toronto’s Gay Tantra: Sacred Sexuality, Bodywork and Massage parlour, Tantric sex has been therapeutic.

He gives Tantric massages that include a butt and genital massage and external or internal prostate massage. He’s adamant that what he does is not just a glorified hand-job.

When Grandbois tried Tantric sex a few years ago, he was shocked by its capacity to soothe the soul.

“I did 10 years of therapy in three months,” he said. “I got rid of baggage I’d had for over 35 years.”

He says his clients come to him for therapy through massage.

“I’ve had people who’ve been through very rough deals. They need some serious soothing,” he says.

Grandbois says there’s a lack of reciprocity and adoration involved in non Tantric sex — that it’s all about control and domination. He says his Tantric massage sessions are almost like falling in love with the client.

“I praise them and tell them they’ve beautiful.” That, he says, is what makes Tantric sex different from great sex.

But if your partner already adores you and tells you you’re beautiful, it doesn’t mean you’re having Tantric sex.

There are specific techniques and tricks for reaching Tantric enlightenment, which aren’t new to an infrequent reader of Cosmo.

Creating a romantic setting, looking into your partner’s eyes and prolonged foreplay are the initial steps. The next involve what most women know as Kegel exercises — clenching and releasing your vaginal muscles.

Anyone who’s seen an episode of Oprah knows exactly what they are. The day-time talk-queen frequently tells TV-land she’s doing Kegels as she interviews celebrities.

Oprah says she does them to avoid that embarrassing problem of losing bladder control during laughing fits. She doesn’t tell you that with enough repetition and persistence, a woman can strengthen her muscles and potentially control both her and her partner’s orgasm.

Men can also do a version of these exercises, but perhaps not as inconspicuously as women. The goal is to make the penis rise and fall by clenching the genital muscles.

Proper breathing, medication, flexibility and strength are also things to work on if you aim to reach Tantric enlightenment.

But if you’re like most people, to discover what Tantra is, you’ll have to surf the limitless bounds of the Internet, check out your local library, or dole out some serious coin to get real, live instruction.

The websites range from benign and boring (www.tantra.com) to sexually explicit (Forthnet’s “Kama Sutra Animated”) to purely ridiculous (Cosmopolitan magazine’s online version of the Kama Sutra). To add more confusion to the mix, nearly every site has a different definition of Tantra.

For a more concrete explanation and perhaps a demonstration, you can pay anywhere from $39 to $2,950 per couple. Toronto’s The Learning Annex — an alternative adult-education organization — sporadically offers “Tantra: Explore the Art of Sacred Sexuality” with Lucy Becker, a yoga and Tantra teacher of 12 years.

The next three-hour workshop is Feb. 22 and costs $39 per person.

Pala Copeland and Al Link, self-taught Tantra practitioners, offer one-day workshops at the Yoga Studio for $90 per person; weekend workshops at their “Love Nest” on Allumette Island are $840 a couple, and week-long workshops in Costa Rica and Ecuador are $2,950 a couple, excluding airfare.

If you want some hands-on experience, you can pay a visit to Grandbois, who operates from an undisclosed location near Ryerson. He will only tell you the location of his studio after you put down a 50 per cent deposit. Check out gaytantra.net for details.

I thought I had a fairly good grasp on Tantra — sex with a spiritual twist. Nothing too extraordinarily complicated. Just a lot of romantic ambience, gazing into your lover’s eyes, engaging in some hamstring-pulling positions, and that not-so-fun task of withholding orgasm.

Feeling confident, I tested my new knowledge of Tantra with the ThirdAge.com sex quiz. My score was 56 out of a possible 100. Apparently the question still remains: What the hell is Tantra?

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