Sting has given tantra a bad name. The thought of him and his Trudie Styler, staring into each other's eyes, connecting their energies without touch, his Jaguar-shilling bum . . . eeewww. Don't stand so close to me!
The Internet has given it a bad name, too, with all the escort-style photos of half-naked "goddesses" and their vague promises of "passion and pleasure."
The word tantra, derived from Sanskrit, actually means "the weaving of energy." The spirituality was developed in India more than 4,000 years ago, spread like SARS throughout the ancient Eastern religious traditions of Taoism and Buddhism, and was then delivered to a spiritually curious West in the '60s and '70s along with sitar music, the Kama Sutra and groovy Nehru jackets. The practice focuses on sexual energy as the body's main source of life, energy and creativity.
Though it has an eternally bawdy reputation, "it's not only about [the sexuality]," says Cindy Cabalo, owner of Beach Body Works Spa and Healing Center in Redondo Beach. It is rather a way to "live a richer, fuller, more passionate life."
Though some tantric healers will rub your G, including those at Cindy's spa, I was surprised to find that she was right: much of the practice is about as sexually stimulating as a yoga class.
I know this because I had my very own session with a tantric educator last week.
By the time I arrived at the home of tantric educator/breath-and-intimacy coach Grace Rosen, M.C., I was thoroughly panicked. After a week of reading up on the subject, with all its talk of lingams and yonis and sacred waters bursting, I started to feel like a nervous virgin.
But when I got there, lovely Grace made me tea.
We sat on comfy cushions and talked about tantra's benefits for the body. According to Grace, who talked while constantly arranging her flower-printed dress around her knees, tantra devotees claim to become more focused and energetic, experience better health and significantly less stress, and have more success in their relationships through actual meditation and practice—not just bonking.
She showed me where my chakras (energy points throughout the body) are, what they do, what color they are. We smelled essential oils. We breathed heavily. We even chanted a little bit.
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Finally, at the end of the session, she asked me if I would like to try an energy orgasm. Slightly emboldened (or maybe just lightheaded) from all the breathing and chanting, I agreed.
Now, an energy orgasm is supposed to be some sort of lying down, pelvic-thrusting, breathing thing. You wave your arms and bring energy up your body, and you're supposed to tingle a lot. I totally screwed it up. I ended up doing something resembling sit-ups, and since I am out of shape, my energy orgasm actually kind of hurt.
Just like the first time.
For more information on individual, couple and group sessions, contact Grace Rosen, M.C., at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cindy Cabalo at www.beachbodyworks.com. For more general information, go to www.tantra.com or contact the Learning Light Foundation at (714) 553-2311.