The word Tantra is often misunderstood by Westerners, incorrectly ascribed to uninhibited or marathon sex. In fact, Tantra is a technique that originated in India to connect the physical body to another dimension and can be practiced alone or as a couple.
In contrast to many other spiritual practices, Tantra regards the human body as the necessary means for enlightenment, as opposed to seeing it as something requiring purification. Just a small proportion of Tantric texts —less than 10 percent—deal with sexuality; well over half the texts focus on the use of mantras, while others focus on the worship of deities and the creation of visual aids to meditation.
The word “tantra” comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to weave or extend.” Tantra practitioners believe the whole world is a completely interwoven unity. Interestingly, Tantra, unlike any other strand of Indian spirituality, bestows great respect for women and to the female aspect of divinity.
Five years ago, Sara Biewen and Thomas Stout of Minneapolis went looking for something to bring new life and depth to their 20-year marriage. After considerable research, they chose to attend a three-day Tantra workshop that had a transformative impact on their relationship, and their careers. Over the next year, they immersed themselves in training to become SkyDancing Tantra teachers and have continued to strengthen their relationship while working with individuals and couples around the country to share their passion and knowledge about Tantra. With backgrounds in psychotherapy and bodywork, they have become life-long students of meditation, sexuality and interpersonal dynamics. “Our students are from all walks of life: single, married, young and old, gay and straight. Tantra is for everyone,” Sara remarks.
Among the gurus bringing Tantra teachings to Westerners are Margot Anand of SkyDancing Tantra, Caroline Muir of Divine Feminine Awakening and Charles Muir of Source School of Tantra Yoga.
Margot Anand: Finding God in Bed
Margot Anand has dedicated her career to the study of the spiritual and healing aspects of sex and to opening up the dialogue to healing with the goal to eradicate sexual ignorance on the planet and create a more loving world. “Down through the ages, sexuality has been marred by taboos and constrained by guilt and many rules,” Margot explains. “My work is focused on the notion that love and sexuality are a form of prayer to the divine source of all life, that individuals can honor themselves and one another as an aspect of the divine One and create a ritual of sacred space before they enter into love making, dedicating their love and sexual interactions to the healing of Mother Gaia.”
An internationally acclaimed author, public speaker, teacher, Margot is also the founder of nine SkyDancing Tantra Institutes worldwide. Her new book, Love, Sex, and Awakening, explores the connection between sex, body, mind and spirit. “The working title of the book was Finding God in Bed,” the author quips.
“SkyDancing Tantra is a marriage between energy and consciousness,” Margot explains. “The training teaches you to choose, with awareness, what brings you pleasure and joy — opening the door to a deeper connection with spirit and a greater sense of aliveness and well being.” Through the controlled use of breath, students are trained to stream energy through the body, lengthening and deepening a spiritual awakening.
“Tantra does not work with the concepts of good and bad; every action is taken consciously with an eye to awakening,” Margot continues. “Tantra liberates all of the taboos of the centuries to balance the inner masculine with the inner feminine, ultimately awakening the creativity inside each of us.”
Caroline Muir: Divine Feminine Awakening
Caroline Muir has been a longtime hatha yoga instructor and worked collaboratively with Charles Muir to develop the Source School of Tantra Yoga. Caroline is founder of the Divine Feminine Awakening, which educates men and women about the full-spectrum experience of their orgasmic capacity. “I came to understand first-hand that sexual energy, when directed upward toward the brain, awakens consciousness. We must evolve in every area in order to live in a world that fulfills our dreams,” explains Caroline.
“Education at every age is at the core of what advances human existence”, she adds. “Alignment with the sexual life force for the purpose of healing and awakening, as well as union with the Divine, is a lost art form. Pleasure is the birthright of each and every one of us. Elevating sex from the mundane into the profound is for all seekers of spiritual/ sexual ecstasy. This is the ‘union’ of what the mystics call ‘yoga’… or union with the divine.”
Charles Muir: Understanding the Seven Chakras
Charles Muir points out that where Tantra originated, people revered sexuality as a holy gift from the creator, regarding sex as both a sacrament and an art form, celebrating it in their art and teaching its secrets to their children. Sex was used not just to join two lovers, but as a meditation through which the lovers could unite with the divine energy of the universe.
“Ultimately, Tantra is a meditation,” Charles notes. “In fact, orgasm is the only universally shared meditative experience, the one that cuts across all cultures. At the moment of orgasm, you’re not in your thinking brain, you’re in your receptive, being brain; when you’re completely absorbed in the present, you enter into timelessness.”
Anand and the Muirs focus much of their work on the chakras. According to Charles, “All the chakras contain dormant energy, consciousness, and intelligence, and the Tantra techniques aim to arouse and harness those latent energies.” He stresses that the goal in doing breathing techniques, or asanas, shouldn’t be to achieve any particular stretch or outward form, but instead “to recognize and reconcile yourself with your body just as it is.”
Charles urges workshop participants to consider that they’re not doing this work just for their own benefit, but also so they can bequeath a saner, healthier sexual legacy to their children and grandchildren.
“Our version of Tantra addresses major needs of our current place and time: restoring proper reverence for women and the feminine; finding an appropriate, beneficial outlet for male ‘warrior’ energy; and healing the rift between men and women. Many individuals pursue this training to awaken consciousness and spirituality and bring one closer to their Truth so that they can be more magnetic, more powerful, more connected to Self and to attract a high quality person into your life,” Charles explains.
The seven chakras are the centers in our bodies which energy flows through. Blocked energy can lead to illness. Here is a brief overview:
1. Root Chakra — Represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded, found at the base of spine in tailbone area.
2. Sacral Chakra — Our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences, found in the lower abdomen, about two inches below the navel and two inches in.
3. Solar Plexus Chakra — Our ability to be confident and in control of our lives, found in the upper abdomen in the stomach area.
4. Heart Chakra — Our ability to love, found in the center of chest just above the heart.
5. Throat Chakra — Our ability to communicate, located in the throat.
6. Third Eye Chakra — Our ability to focus on and see the big picture, found in the forehead between the eyes (also called the Brow Chakra).
7. Crown Chakra — The highest chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually, located at the very top of the head.
Tantra is a door to spirituality and healing. Medical research reveals that regular sex has innumerable health benefits: strengthening the immune system, improving circulation, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, balancing hormones, improving sleep, reducing pain as well as stress and cancer risk, and improving bladder control for women – while deepening every emotional aspect of your life: love of oneself, interpersonal connection, and spirituality.