Thursday, September 19, 2013

Getting Ready to Learn Tantra

If you just get a book or go to a workshop and plunge right in to doing Tantra, you’re likely to be disappointed.  My interviews suggest that you are a lot more likely to succeed if you take a few weeks to a couple of months to get ready before trying to do the full Tantric ritual.  Here are some of the things you can do to prepare that take the most lead time:

Learn to Meditate

Do you and your partner both know how to meditate?  If not, start learning now! 

Many people think about meditation as a spiritual thing, or something only hippies do.  But, like Tantra, it is a practical technique that has been appropriated by many religions even though it really has nothing to do with religion or spirituality.  Its physiological effects and health benefits are real and have been demonstrated over and over again in laboratory settings and in normal life.

I’ll have more to say about meditation in posts to come, but for now, please just take it as given that at least some basic skill at meditation is essential if you want to get most of the benefits from Tantra.   Here, here, and here are three good simple introductions without any religious overlay.  If you are serious about making the time for Tantra, you can certainly find 20 minutes a day for the next month to learn to meditate.

You can also find teachers in almost any city.  However, unless you just have to have an instructor for reassurance, there’s no need for one at the start.  Save your money, or spend it on some comfortable zafus/zabutons (meditation cushions).  If you decide you need help getting past the basics, that’s the time to think seriously about signing up for an intermediate or advanced class, workshop, or retreat.

Increase Your Fitness

Are both of you reasonably fit and flexible?  If not, it’s time to get serious about fitness, flexibility, and healthier habits.  Most Tantrics I know practice yoga, Tai Chi, or martial arts; they work out or do Pilates or a similar core strength program; and they do some kind of cardio.  You don’t have to be a gym rat, muscle builder, or dedicated runner.  Just try to get and stay reasonably fit.  Aim for a fairly even balance of strength, flexibility, and stamina.  Even if you don’t learn Tantra, this investment in better health will pay off in longer life and better sex.

Do Your Kegels!

The Kegel muscles are also called the PC muscles, for the pubococcygeus, one of several muscles involved.  These muscles stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone in front, down between your legs, and up to your tailbone in back.  To find them, wait until the next time you go to the bathroom and stop the flow of urine in mid-flow.  That’s your PC muscle.  A couple of other muscles contract along with it.  Together with some ligaments, they make up what we call the pelvic floor, which surrounds the anus, the urethra, and the opening of the vagina for those of us who have one.

There are two important Kegel exercises you should be doing.  The first one involves contracting those muscles and holding the contraction as long as you can.  When you have to stop, relax the muscle completely for 10 seconds or so and then do it again.  Most people do sets of 10 to 20, and at the beginning you should try to do at least three sets a day.  Your goal is to be able to hold a hard clench for at least 20 seconds, preferably longer.

The second exercise involves pulsing and releasing the Kegel muscles as fast as you can, over and over.  Keep count and try to do as many as possible in a minute.  When you can do more than 100 in a minute, extend it to two minutes, or longer if you can.

Stronger PC muscles help men have stronger erections and orgasms and gain greater control over their ejaculations.  For women, the benefits are stronger orgasms, much better bladder control, easier childbirth with less perineal tearing, and the ability to intentionally squeeze your partner’s penis or fingers when they’re inside you!

Don't neglect the relaxation phase.  Being able to relax these muscles completely under conscious control can be important in sustaining a high level of arousal without slipping prematurely over the line and into an orgasm before you're ready for it.

To sum it up, Kegels are fun, you can do them anywhere (at your desk or even standing in line!), and they really help your sexual performance.  In addition, men who are learning to be multi-orgasmic need to have outstanding Kegel tone before they start learning to have orgasms without ejaculation.

Most people do the fast Kegels for a fixed time, like 3 minutes.  Do the long, hard clenches in sets of 10 to 20:  clench, hold as long as you can, release, repeat.  Try not to clench the muscles in the thigh or belly while you are doing it.  The goal is to isolate the pelvic floor muscles and to be able to hold a hard clench for 20-30 seconds or more.  For most people, that takes practice, so start clenching!

Pick a Good Spot for Tantra

If you haven’t decided where, start talking about it.  If you’re not living together, is one person’s place better?  How does that make the host feel?  How about the other person?  It’s hard to feel completely safe on someone else’s home turf, so this can get delicate.  Switching between the two may seem more “fair,” but it's best at the beginning if you habituate to one particular spot,  Also, moving things like mats or massage tables can be a major pain.  If one person isn’t really comfortable at the other person’s place, it may be better if that person volunteers to be the permanent host.

Once you know the general location, decide on a room.  This will usually be a bedroom, but some couples prefer a different place if the bedroom is too small or they have another room where they can leave their Tantra d├ęcor and equipment, such as a massage table, in place.  Others incorporate an adjacent space, such as a porch, patio, den, or exercise room, moving between a massage table or mat in one room and the bed in the other.
  

Start collecting your supplies and accessories. 

It's really hard to give a good massage on a bed. You almost have to have a massage table, or a good mat, or both. Amazon usually has a good selection of inexpensive folding tables.  Ours is from BestMassage for under $70, an outrageously good price. Even with shipping I think it cost less than $100 and it has held up very well with regular use.

That’s also a good place to order lube, massage oil, towels, and cushions if you don’t have a good local source. I occasionally order a big 54 oz jar or a twin pack of 29 oz jars of coconut oil, my favorite massage oil, from Amazon just because it’s more convenient than buying little jars locally. (I also use it for cooking.)

Mats need to be well made, with at least 2” of dense foam. Ours is a 4’x8’ folding gym mat from Orbring. It’s comfortable and well made, but it seems odd to me that a good mat costs twice what our table did. There are cheaper mats that might be just as good, but I do suggest you try them in a store first; cheap foam can be uncomfortable and cheap construction fails fast and can be a waste of money. You can manage with a 4x6 mat if neither of you are tall. A good 6x6 folding mat would be even better for a lot of Tantra couples, but I’ve never seen one. (Maybe if we all pester Orbring? :)

It's also handy to have lots and lots of big, thick towels. Use them to cover the table or mat, roll them up into bolsters to support ankles, knees, and necks, and use them to protect pillows and cushions from the massage oil. I keep an eye out for beach towels and bath sheets on sale, and always have at least a dozen on hand.


Learn to Give a Great Massage!

How’s your massage technique? Have the two of you ever traded massages? Everything helps here, so get started. You don’t have to start with sensual or erotic massage. Back rubs, foot rubs, hand rubs, leg rubs, neck rubs, shoulder rubs, all of these contribute to learning each other’s bodies. If your partner is working out, or is on his or her feet all day, something’s going to get sore, so learn how to massage it in a way that feels good, and ask them to do the same for you.

If you need to, get a good book on sensual massage that is also good on conventional massage.  Touch is a language, and each couple invents its own private dialect, but it can save a lot of time and experimentation if you study what others have already learned.

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