Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More about Yab-Yum

After you’ve done both the lingam and yoni massages and you’ve taken a short break (optional), move on to your preferred version of yab-yum. My description of the basics last month was fairly complete, so I won’t duplicate it here, but just as a reminder, the yab-yum phase is a time for stillness and deep intimacy, for erotic connection without erotic friction.

Many Variations on a Few Key Themes

There were almost as many patterns of yab-yum meditation as there were couples in my sample, but the common denominator was arousal without (much) actual friction. All the couples begin by synchronizing their breathing and meditating on each other’s perceptions, almost always with an imagery of exchanging energy with each breath. Together with the close physical contact, warmth, and intimate caresses, this mental process typically creates just as much arousal as more direct physical measures would, but it does it much more slowly.

For those couples who respond unevenly, direct physical stimulation is always on option for helping one partner “catch up” in the middle or at the end of this phase. In most couples, the man typically begins yab-yum with a soft penis and does not insert it until he has an erection and his partner is ready. However, some couples prefer to begin with a little bit of physical stimulation for one or both partners, as needed, to allow for insertion at the start.

Three couples use a “soft-insertion” technique to start this phase of meditation with the soft or partially erect penis in the vagina, allowing the man’s erection to develop over time with the help of this extra warmth and pressure. All three of these couples use a horizontal position instead of a seated version of yab-yum. Two use inverted missionary, with the woman lying on the man’s chest and her knees straddling his waist, while the third begins in missionary and rolls to one side, again with the woman’s legs straddling the man’s waist. (The last position may require either a waterbed or some strategically placed pillows or cushions to prevent the man’s weight from cutting off circulation in the woman’s lower leg.)

Two of our couples originally used positions, including a standing hug, that did not allow for insertion of the penis. They waited until after the end of the meditation phase to become physically joined. Significantly, neither couple had experienced the “body sharing” illusion that we will be discussing later, so I suggested that they might want to experiment with positions that allowed for insertion at the start of yab-yum. Both did so, and have now switched to that pattern, and both couples began having the body-sharing experience for the first time after making the switch.

In all cases where couples start this phase with insertion, the assumption is that the break, if any, after yoni worship will be short enough so that the woman will still be somewhat aroused and ready. When that isn’t true, these couples either choose to delay insertion until she is ready, or use some sort of foreplay to get her aroused enough and ready for comfortable insertion.

I’ve always enjoyed the communion of just sitting in my partner’s lap, linked to him in the most intimate way, with his penis motionless inside me and my arms and legs wrapped around him, looking into his eyes and sharing nose bumps and soft kisses as our passion slowly rekindles. So I was a bit surprised that two thirds of our couples do not actually use the traditional yab-yum position.

As I spoke with them, though, it became clear that yab-yum comes in many forms, not just with the woman sitting on her partner’s lap. The essence of yab-yum is not the posture, but the intimacy, close contact, deep communion, and minimal motion. It’s not about a lot of rubbing and friction. It’s about blurring the boundaries between yourself and your partner, feeling what the other person feels. I will come back to this in later posts, when I look at what it is about human evolution and the way our brains work that makes this possible, but it’s clear that the classic yab-yum position is not required.

How long Should Yab-Yum Last? 

All of the couples I interviewed agreed that a period of sexual rekindling, communion, and “mingling of the senses” is essential to the deepest Tantric union. It’s that closeness and relative immobility that gives the yab-yum phase its special characteristic. It begins with couple meditation, but this time it is an erotically charged kind of meditation. The closeness of skin-to-skin contact, the lack of clothing, the erotic carry-over from the lingam and yoni massages, and the anticipation of what is to come all ensure that this is meditation of a very different sort.

But everyone agrees that there eventually comes a point when the immobility and intensity of the yab-yum phase goes from being intimate and joyful to being almost intolerable. Some couples typically spend as little as ten minutes rekindling their arousal and establishing communion in yab-yum. Others spend twenty minutes, half an hour, or more.

Several couples felt that getting this timing “in synch” was actually one of the hardest things they had to learn to do as a couple, with the man usually feeling a desire to move on and become more active before his partner was ready. Two of these couples said that the first few times they had tried to delay until the female partner was ready, the male partner reached orgasm and ejaculated while they were still in yab-yum.

Neither of these couples seemed to feel that this was a problem in itself; one of the women said it was “just an unplanned detour and a slight delay in our plans.” Of course, it is much easier to be relaxed about such “detours” if you have plenty of time, so this is yet another reason to be especially sure you are not rushed while you are learning Tantra together.

But once you are both comfortable with the process and able to stay in it, how long should it last? Since there was a lot of variation, it took me awhile to figure out that there were two different things going on.

The first pattern was fairly obvious. The couples who had been able to block out less time for Tantra spent noticeably less time on both yab-yum and maithuna, typically around 30-35 minutes total. The second pattern was more subtle, but also clear. The couples who spent the least time in maithuna generally tried to stretch out the time in yab-yum the most.

Couples seemed to be adjusting the time spent in the two phases as they experimented and found the best way for them to extend the combined total. If they had trouble making maithuna last as long as they wanted it to, they extended yab-yum instead. Although no one was using stopwatches and many of the time estimates I got were pretty vague, all of the couples said that the total time that they spent in these two phases was usually at least half an hour, preferably more, and that they were disappointed if it ended sooner.

This makes sense. The purpose of meditation during the yab-yum phase is two-fold: to get each partner deeply into the process of feeling what their partner feels, but also to extend the arousal process, just as we did in yoni and lingam massage. As we’ve already seen, a longer arousal period triggers (or in this case extends and increases) the “Tantric high” and creates a longer, more intense orgasm. Simply preceding maithuna, or active sexual union, with a long period of immobility turns out to be one of the keys to having true Tantric orgasms during the active phase.

But, as we will see, the couple meditation during yab-yum is also the key to something else entirely, a profound sense of sharing directly in your partner’s arousal and orgasms.

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