My first class in tantric sex began on familiar footing. “Breathe in, breathe out,” encouraged the instructors, in calming, meditative voices. “Feel the rhythm of your breath within you.”

But those who watch Sex and the City reruns as religiously as I do know that tantra, and tantric sex in particular, is far spicier than traditional mindful meditation. In one of the show’s more iconic scenes, Carrie Bradshaw’s friend Charlotte—panicked by a fear that she’s bad in bed—signs herself and the girls up for a private class in tantric sex. They watch an older woman sensually stroke her partner in carefully paced rhythms until the scene comes to an unforgettable, er, finish. 

Given my own cliched millennial wellness interests in meditation and yoga—not to mention prospect of becoming amazing in bed—I went on the hunt for Philadelphia’s own tantric sex community, hoping for a class that was something like Sex and the City, but with more clothes and less semen. To my good fortune, I found an introductory course in tantric touch scheduled the weekend before Valentine’s Day at one of South Street’s great erotic shops, the Sexploratorium. And so it was decided: I would attend an event meant for horny meditative couples alone, and spend a Saturday afternoon learning more about just how to work the sort of magic witnessed by Carrie Bradshaw & Co. 

Like yoga and meditation, tantra is derived from Eastern religious traditions. Yet, it differs in its focus on the transformation of inner energy. Literally translating to expansion (tan) and liberation (tra), tantra practice involves not an emptying of the mind but an energizing of it. Now mostly associated with its erotic applications in Western culture, tantric sex applies these freeing principles to simultaneous meditation and movement with a partner that is rumored to result in powerful, hours-long orgasms (ed note: if only!).

I don’t know why I went to the class thinking I’d be experiencing immense pleasure adjacent to some strangers on yoga mats doing their own thing, but I did. Instead, we sat in a circle on folding chairs and practiced eye–gazing, arm massaging, and other forms of meditative intimacy that could be expanded to different areas of our partners (or ourselves) when we got home. We were each given a sort of worksheet with the outline of a human body printed on it and instructed to write which non-erogenous zones of our bodies we enjoyed having touched, and at what pressure. Of course, I sat in paralyzing awkwardness while the couples around me scribbled notes with suppressed giggles.

But as cute and flirtatious as moments like this were, tantric sex—when practiced correctly—is incredibly difficult. Requiring the same serious level of dedication as intense meditation, tantra isn’t a quick fix to becoming better in bed. Because the practice builds intimacy over time from prolonged eye gazes to an intentional turn away from traditional forms of sex, odds are it won’t go over too well in a one–night stand. Even the instructors of the class, who’ve been together for over 35 years, shared that on especially stressful days, tantra can still be challenging.

The fact that successful tantric practice requires regular commitment should come as no surprise. As with the normal amount of intimacy needed for any healthy relationship to prosper, the heightened intimacy of tantric sex needs time and mutual trust before it can grow into the sort of energizing pleasure its practitioners claim it brings.

Though Western culture prioritizes the erotic applications of tantra, the Eastern tradition doesn’t offer some random and immediate fix to what might otherwise be a dull sex life. Instead, tantra is a long–term adventure of both mental and physical challenges. But there’s a beautiful reward in the investment.


Comments

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.