Thursday, September 26, 2013

Learning Tantra: A Time to Give

Once you have begun incorporating some meditation and a slow beginning into your sexual activities, it’s time to think about full-body massage, the heart of the Tantric ritual. You can start with either person, depending on who feels more comfortable giving or receiving.

Before you start, warm up the massage oil and set up the table. (Or mat, if you prefer, but I’m going to refer only to the table in these descriptions, just for simplicity.) Adjust the armrests and face rest appropriately if they aren’t already in place. Cover the table with a large beach towel or bath sheet.

Some people may want or need a pillow or rolled up towel at certain points, such as under the hips or ankles in a face down position or under the knees or neck in a face up position. Pillows, in particular, should be wrapped in a towel or placed under the big towel to avoid getting them oily.

Experiment with supports until you get it right. People who can't lie face down without lower back pain, for example, will automatically shift their hips and tighten their muscles to hold the pelvis in a way that prevents the pain, but this locks in muscle tension in one of the worst possible areas. Often a pillow under the chest, or under the upper hips and lower abdomen, is all they need to really be able to relax completely.

So take the time to experiment and then look carefully at the result so you can reproduce the type, thickness, and exact locations of any supports next time. One couple I talked to had so much trouble with the setup each time that when they finally got the towels and pillows exactly right, they snapped a photo with their cellphone. The picture made for easy reference after that.

Big feathers, fringed shawls, and other interesting tactile materials can be a nice addition to a massage. If you want to try using them, now is the time to get them out and put them where they will be handy. It’s best to use things like feathers with a broad sweeping stroke for a head to toe tickle/brush down. Do it at the start of the massage, before applying any oil.

Massaging the Back

Once you have everything set up, begin as in the previous exercise with bathing and meditation, but after the standing hug have the recipient lie face down on the massage table with their hair scooped forward, away from the neck and shoulders. Pour oil into your hands and then spread it evenly down your partner’s back. I like to work on the shoulders, the neck, and upper back at the beginning, but that’s up to you.

Some people will find it very natural to keep up a running commentary as they do the massage, full of how much they adore this or that body part, how much fun this is, how good it feels to be stroking their partner’s skin, how turned on they are by all the sights and touch, and so on. Even if it’s not natural, try to do at least some of this at the beginning to help your partner relax and get in the mood. Just be sure to keep it light, loving, and completely positive, and stay away from any latent insecurities your partner may have.

However, when you get to the stage where your partner is making a real effort to meditate and control their attention while you massage them, you will need to suppress the chatter after the first few minutes. You can slip in a quiet “How’s that?” “Time to turn over,” “Breathe!” or “Ready?” when necessary, but try to keep even those directions and questions to a minimum. With practice and familiarity, you should get to the point fairly soon where you can communicate entirely by touch. This will make it much easier for the recipient of the massage to concentrate on their attention and control.

As you massage your partner, be playful and vary your technique. Use long strokes down the back and circular swirling motions as you come back up, or vice versa. Or work down the long muscles on either side of the spine, then slide your hands down to the sides at the waist, slide them along the ribs, and then lift up and pull them back toward the center.

Work around to one side and downward until you are about even with the crease at the top of your partner’s thigh, maintaining hand contact as you shift position. Apply oil to the buttocks and the nearer thigh and calf and continue your massage. Use both hands to knead the nearer buttock and thigh, then move further down until you can work on the thigh and calf, and then the Achilles tendon, gradually shifting until you are standing at the foot of the table.

You can massage the feet now or wait and do them after your partner turns over. Either way, begin working your way back up your partner’s other leg. When you finish massaging the other buttock, continue to move upward, massaging the back again, until you are back at the head of the table. Finish with a neck rub if that’s something your partner especially enjoys, and then signal your partner to turn over.


If you need tips or ideas for different kinds of strokes, there are many good books on sensual massage available. Tantric Massage, by Kenneth Ray Stubbs is the book I learned from years ago. A later version is called Erotic Massage: The Tantric Touch of Love. Essentially the same thing is now available as the first third of The Essential Tantra: A Modern Guide to Sacred Sexuality. The other two books combined with it contain a lot of warmed over "New Age" spirituality, but there are also some scraps of useful information.  I suggest you buy whichever version is cheapest or more easily available.

Having recommended the Stubbs book a number of times over the years, one advantage to it is that it has good, clear, pencil drawings that are less likely to seem pornographic to many people. One of the other really good classic books, The Art of Sensual Massage, by Gordon Inkeles, uses photographs instead of drawings, but shows front views only of the female model, never of the man. Apparently public sensitivity is such that books like this can show drawings of penises, but not photographs!

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