Tantra first entered mass awareness in 1990 when Sting was reported to be having seven- hour tantric love sessions with his wife, Trudie. More recently Hollywood actress, and strictly raised Catholic, Heather Graham says she’s a fan of tantric sex, experiencing hour-long orgasms at a time. Books, such as Slow Sex, by Nicole Daedone which have a tantric theme, are taking America by storm. But what exactly is tantric sex and are any ‘regular’ Irish people indulging in its pleasures?
In simplest terms, Tantra is conscious awareness of your body, learning to inhabit your body fully, being aware of every sensation and, if you choose, bringing that awareness into lovemaking with a partner. Lovemaking becomes a much deeper, more sensual and satisfying affair, especially for women who often experience whole body orgasms.
Tantra often involves nudity; a massage by a practitioner, could cost about €180 per individual for a 90-minute session and couples opting to go on a luxury, naked tantric training massage weekend, including food and accommodation won’t see much change out of €1,000.
This type of work might not suit everyone, either in terms of their level of confidence or their pocket. So for the undecided there other ways to explore tantra: general talks, tantra women’s groups — which do breath work, meditation and discuss sexual techniques — or tantra coaching as an individual or as a couple, none of which involve nudity. These also tend to be cheaper options; an hour of learning to do erotic breath work with a private practitioner, costs about €75 as does an hour of coaching.
Irish psychotherapist and tantric practitioner Fiona Daly ( www.fionadaly.com ) says unfortunately the Irish have deep-rooted shame around sex from our culture and upbringing, but the nation is opening up emotionally and we’re beginning to believe we deserve better sensual experiences.
“The Irish have a very hard shell but once we allow someone through we’re a deeply spiritual people. Over time our spirit and our sex have been estranged but when they finally meet up, we get it, we get how we’re supposed to be and tantra can help make that happen,” she says.
Based in Wicklow and a tantric practitioner for 12 years, Fiona believes Irish people need safe and slow ways to explore sensuality.
Most of her clients are couples but she also runs workshops for women. “Some women have given up on their sexuality but accepting the body is so important. Women come to me from all walks of life, the oldest who has come to a workshop has been about 70,” she says.
While she doesn’t give tantric massage herself, Fiona teaches couples massage or techniques like faster breathing for excitement, or even soul gazing. “In soul-gazing all the aggression and hurt fall away and people remember why they fell in love, you can’t fix people’s problems in one session but you can start the journey,” she says.
Operating between Scotland and West Cork, Lynn Paterson (www.onehearttantra.com) also runs a variety of tantric workshops and sessions and part of her work involves giving tantric massage to men and women. However, before Lynn begins massage she establishes boundaries with clients about areas where they are happy to be touched and at all stages checks that they feel secure.
Lynn explains that tantra involves playing down the importance of the sex act because focussing too much on penetration and orgasm causes pressure on men and women and stops them enjoying all the micro sensations along the way which ironically, leads to better climaxes.
“I’m coming across men in their late 20s and early 30s who are experiencing erectile dysfunction because they are under such pressure to perform in the bedroom and in life generally,” she says.
Younger women also feel pressure to have sex and look a certain way and Lynn says her tantra women’s circles in Cork and Dublin are helping women address the pressures of sexual stereotypes, regaining confidence in themselves and in their bodies.
“In the beginning people can be terrified of being nude but at the end of two or three hours the energy that fills the room and the sense of acceptance is amazing.”
Again Lynn says it’s important to establish boundaries. Couples on tantric massage weekends only massage each other and Lynn asks them to refrain from sex except in the privacy of their bedrooms. “People enjoy a beautiful location with beautiful, healthy food — it’s very special,” she says.
In Portlaoise, Karen O’Moore and her partner, Mark Sutton are also working to make the Irish feel special with their tantric practice ( www.tantricawakenings.org ) and clients are coming from all corners of the country in search of help and advice.
South African born, Karen says the Irish are definitely shyer around sex, so as well as massage she also runs shakti awakening workshops for women who wish to add “vitality, healing and desire into their lives”.
“A big issue is that women are shutting off their sexuality but overall in Ireland there is a growing willingness to explore. A few years ago there might have been one tantric workshop a year in all of Ireland now there’s many more.”
For anyone wanting to experience Tantra in an informal way the Buddha Bag www.buddhabag.org occasionally hosts Tantra experts at their meeting venue in Dublin. Talks run for two hours and, according to a spokesperson, afterwards members of the public, “have a cup of tea, have a chat about the talk and a bit of craic.”
If blissful sex is on your wish list for 2015 you could let it be known that a generous gift card (or even a donation) for one of the below workshops would be very much appreciated on Christmas Day.
1. On February 1, Fiona Daly is hosting a tantric orgasm workshop ‘Firing up the Ember’ for women over 40. A day costs €75, a half day €40.
2. Lynn Paterson is running a tantric massage weekend in Wicklow on Valentine’s weekend with Abi O’Donavan, www.integratedsexandspirt.com , €590.
3. US tantric expert Dawn Cartwright is running a two-night Sacred Sexuality workshop in Wicklow in May, €350. See www.dawncartwright.com for details.
One woman who says she has benefited from tantra is Áine*, a woman in her 30s from Dublin who says tantra has transformed her life since she found it two years ago.
“I think I just had an intuitive knowing that there had to be more to sex then what I’d experienced and I also realised that any exploration had to start with myself,” she says.
Áine “dipped her toe” into tantra gradually, starting with a talk, then by going to a tantric women’s group.
Later she went for coaching sessions (non-nudity) with Lynn Paterson and then she brought along her partner so they could experience tantra techniques as a couple. Finally she had tantric massage.
Her orgasms have deepened into full body sensations since her Tantra education.
“Tantra’s been fantastic for getting in touch with myself. I’m not saying I have amazing tantric sex every night of the week, but since I’ve learnt about tantra, things have definitely slowed down.
“Men normally orgasm before women and foreplay is so important for women and if we’re having ‘quickies’ all the time — well it’s not always very satisfying for a woman.
“Also by understanding tantra women realise that they play a part in their own orgasms and that also takes pressure off their partners, making the whole sexual experience much more enjoyable,” she says.
* Not her real name