Chloe, 27, trembles slightly as the man blindfolds her with a silk scarf. She’s never met him before and doesn’t know his name. Neither does her husband, who has been left a home tonight.
Sensing her arousal, the man strokes her bare shoulders with an ostrich feather. Chloe, a pretty blonde accountant from Fulham, SW London, feels no guilt. This isn’t a clandestine affair-it’s a Tantric sex workshop. And she’s signed up for three days of ‘pleasure, love and ecstasy.’ Her husband, although supportive, is too shy to attend and won’t be joining her.
There are 16 of us-four single women, four single men and four couples-sitting blindfolded in an East London dance studio and nervously wondering, what will we have to do? And to whom?
We’re here to learn about sex, or, more precisely, Tantric sex-a meditative, deeply intimate form of prolonged lovemaking (Sting claims to go for five hours). Potent orgasmic energies reportedly move through you, raising your consciousness to higher levels. Tantra is said to offer sexual and spiritual ecstasy, the only goal being the perfect present moment and harmonious union.
But we won’t actually be having sex. That only happens at level eight of the course, after over a year of lessons.
Like Chloe, I haven’t brought my partner. ‘I’m not cavorting with naked hippies’, were his exact words. So it’s just me in a sarong and vest top, in a room full of strangers, determined not to loosen so much as a bra strap.
Usually I’m cynical of alternative practices, especially those praised by tree-hugging pop stars like Sting. But I’m curious if it reaches the parts conventional love-making can’t.
‘Smell, touch, taste and sound intensify when you’re deprived of sight,’ says Leora Lightwoman (her real name). ‘Don’t think, just feel,’ adds Roger, the other half of our teaching team.
We sit on velvet cushions, and floorboards creak as ‘Tantric angels’ (helpers) tend to our sensory awakening. One feeds me a chocolate, then slivers of mango, before passing a musky perfume under my nose. It’s true-everything seems more potent and vivid. But, like the early throes of an inappropriate liaison, I’m crippled with doubts. Am I too repressed? Should I even be doing this?
A large, fluffy toy is placed in my arms. Curious, I feel for my Tantric teddy’s button nose or sticky-out ears, and realise with a jolt that my new furry friend is a cuddly penis for me to fondle.
An hour later, the blindfolds come off. We relax around a silk-covered shrine, complete with candles and statues of the god Shiva making love to the goddess Shakti-definitely not one for the Antiques Roadshow.
Our group is aged between 22 and 62. Couples will remain together throughout the (non-residential) weekend workshop, while single people will pair off in turns. I avoid the 50-year-old Peter Stringfellow lookalike in a tie-dyed waistcoat.
William, 37, an investment broker, explains why he and his wife Tasmin, 35, are here. ‘After 15 years together, we want to improve our sex life,’ he reveals candidly. Art student Danny, 22, says he simply loves sex.
Far from being a Mecca for New Age disciples, the course attracts ordinary people. ‘In our competitive, goal-obsessed world, appreciating pleasure for its own sake is an attractive proposition,’ explains Leora. ‘You get bored cramming in “quickies” between jobs and children,’ agrees Tasmin. As a result, the course, which is in its sixth year, is very popular.
‘Tantric sex encourages intimacy,’ says Leora. ‘And you can experience whole body orgasms that go on for hours.’
Day two begins with gentle meditation, then I pair off with Danny for our ‘boundaries’ exercise. We’re to lie down (clothed) and stroke, hug, and massage our partner (erogenous zones are optional), using the commands ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’ and ‘maybe’. Embarrassed, I can barely make eye contact with Danny.
‘Intimacy,’ Leora interjects, “is about being truthful with how you feel, accepting others’ honesty, and learning to be in the moment.
‘Often during sex, we go from liking something to disinterest, without telling our partner,’ she continues. ‘Worried about hurting their feelings, we say “yes” when we really mean “no”.
After a series of ‘nos’ and ‘maybes’, I let Danny stroke my hand. Saying ‘yes’ feels way too intimate. My turn over, I soon discover exactly what Danny likes (head rubs) and doesn’t like (neck tickles).
Getting into it a bit more now, I team up with Tony, 33, a teacher, for the ‘kundalini shaking’ exercise. This involves vigorous jiggling from head to toe for 20 minutes-to ‘draw out emotion and energy from out bodies.’
Around me, people are moaning, one man is sobbing, and a previously mild-mannered accountant is swearing loudly. After I’ve finished shaking, I lie down and feel a wave of involuntary trembling moving from my feet to my head. It’d like an intense feeling of mental spaciness, similar to that which precedes an orgasm-only it lasts for 20 minutes (honest). I began to think that Tantra might actually work. If you can feel like this after a bit of innocent bouncing, what might you achieve in a truly passionate encounter?
The philosophy behind the jiggling is interesting. ‘We carry hurt, pain, disappointment and loss around with us all the time,’ Leora says. ‘If we don’t let go, it creates barriers and prevents us experiencing pleasure and ecstasy.’
We spend the rest of the afternoon dancing-to help us express ourselves without being self-conscious. The stereo blares out Alanis Morissette, The B-52’s and Madonna for the women, and Adam Ant, Travis and Meat Loaf for the guys. Men who’ve only ever danced when drunk at weddings stomp to the beat. Women sway without fear of lewd comments. ‘We all want to feel appreciated,’ Leora says, sashaying to Britney Spears.
But the best is yet to come. I get together with Michael, 39, a divorced father of four, for some feather-tickling. I notice, alarmed, that most of the class are naked. Michael removes his jeans and T-shirt. ‘Please keep your Y-fronts on,’ I beg, tying my sarong a little tighter.
He agrees, but I still have to spend the next 15 minutes stroking his body with a feather, studiously avoiding the Y-front area. Some men in the room are clearly enjoying the experience. Michael, luckily for me, simply appears relaxed.
‘There’s no goal but your own pleasure,’ Leora instructs as I lie down. The feather feels sensuous against my skin. I make a mental note to try this at home.
The next day, full of confidence, I rush to class for our session on ‘love muscles’ (think pelvis-floor exercises). We’re told to clench as we breathe in, and unclench as we exhale. ‘This keeps a connection between your genitals, arousal and your body,’ says Leora. Using our love (pelvic-floor) muscles during sex, we’re told, can lead to earth-shattering orgasms.
Leora tells us about chakras-the seven energy centres in our bodies. They’re located in the pelvis (life-force), abdomen (creative sexual centre), solar plexus (identity), heart (love), throat (communication), forehead (insight) and crown (connection to the universe).
We’re urged to visualise each one, breathing deeply throughout. Then we sit opposite a partner, lock eyes and continue the exercise-Leora sits astride Roger to demonstrate (Tantric partners can incorporate penetration at home). Eventually, I feel tingly, light-headed and alarmingly frisky.
It’s time to say goodbye. People hug and swap numbers, but I’m too embarrassed to sign up for level two. There are only so many strange men I can tickle.
But a week later, I get out my Tantric feather. Lighting some candles, I lead him to bed. As I try out my new-found expertise, he relaxes and our black mood lifts. Maybe Sting has the right idea after all.
For more information call 0845 388 2231 or visit www.diamondlighttantra.com
We experience orgasms that last anything from 30 minutes to two hours
Leora Lightwoman, 33, has been with her husband Roger, 54, a doctor and homeopath, for six years. They live in Finchley, North London, and teach Tantric sex to couples all over Britain.
I come from an affluent family. My father was a lawyer, my mother a top statistician, and I studied psychology at Oxford University. So a career as a Tantric sex teacher was not something I was expected to do.
But in my 20s, I realised I wasn’t fulfilled in my work or sex life. I’d spent years unable to experience orgasm, and when I finally learned how, I dominated my partners in bed because that was the best way to achieve them. But that soon became boring and meaningless.
While working as a yoga teacher, I stumbled across a Tantric sex workshop. It sounds like a cliché, but it literally changed my life. I discovered there was more to sex than a fleeting orgasm. Opening up to someone allowed me to feel more, not less pleasure.
Tantra taught me compassion and understanding, and I now see beauty in every person. It can help people feel good about their body and sexuality, especially women who have suffered a bad sexual experience.
Our society values intellect over emotion. Good marks, CVs and jobs are admired. Classified ads always say ‘intelligent with a great sense of humour’, and hardly ever ‘open, caring, warm person’. Our heads are so goal-oriented, we invariably feel tension during sex. Tantra teaches us to trust out bodies. If we have feelings of sadness, it allows us to let go and not suppress them. Accepting who you are is the first step towards fulfilment.
Roger and I argue like any other couple, but when we make love, we feel connected. Our orgasmic waves last anything from 30 minutes to two hours.
Ultimately, everyone wants to be loved and cherished. Tantric sex stops forgetting those basic human emotions. That, and the amazing physical pleasure it affords, is why people get hooked. And we’re all capable of it.
The Course Restored the Intimacy We’d Lost
Antoni Gobeo, 33, a lifetstyle consultant, has been with Ben Lyons, 24, an events organiser, three years. They live in Chiswick, West London. They’re Tantric beginners, but a single weekend course boosted their flagging sex life.
Ben and I had been bored sexually for some time. After the initial lust had worn off, real life exposed our inhibitions and emotional baggage. We still loved each other and made love every week, but the spark had gone. We were on the verge of splitting up.
Some couples try sex toys and kinky techniques, but tantric sex offered a long-term alternative. We didn’t have any expectation, but one weekend transformed our lives.
I’d had three relationships and a few flings before meeting Ben, and although I enjoyed sex, it had often left me emotionally unfulfilled. The course restored the intimacy Ben and I had lost, and which I’d never quite achieved with others. Without the pressure to have ‘fantastic sex’, we were able to freely give and receive pleasure.
Ben’s male reserve disappeared. He was able to tell me what he wanted in the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ exercise, without fear of rejection. Maintaining eye contact and holding hands-things we’d forgotten-became really powerful.
Tantra helped me feel more confident about my femininity. Modern women are encouraged to be in control in the bedroom, but struggling for power doesn’t allow for much sharing. I’d also equated femininity with being weak. The course turned all that around.
We didn’t learn anything ground-breaking. Tantra simply gave us the tools with which to be intimate-the secret of all great sex.
We’ve since moved on to the next level. And although we haven’t learned complicated Tantric positions, our sex life has changed beyond recognition.
We make love everyday now, and it’s incredible. Everything we do is highly charged with emotion and pleasure. We use the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ exercise, particularly if we’re too tired for sex, and kundalini shaking beforehand to relax.
We’re not hungry for approval from each other, so even a hug is erotic, because of our genuine feelings. And it’s getting better. I don’t know if we’ll make level eight, but I love the idea that our sex life will improve. That seemed impossible six months ago.
Jade Jagger, 30, whose jewellery once included a range with saucy slogans, has always been upfront about her sexuality and is a Tantric sex devotee, according to friends.
Sting, 50, married to Trudie Styler, once boasted he could ‘keep going’ for five hours. He said: ‘Tantric is a serious way of taking aspects of normal life and-eating, drinking, walking, speaking, sex-as an opportunity to give thanks.
‘I’m a very sexually oriented person. I think I’m getting better at the real business of it. In other words, it’s a fantastic mechanism for showing care and showing love, its great fun-and it can potentially make life. It is an extraordinary religious experience for me, it really is.’
Rita Wilson, 43, wife of Oscar winner Tom Hanks, attributes the continued success of her 13-year marriage to some Tantric intervention. She revealed: ‘You gotta talk, you gotta laugh. And you’ve just gotta have lots of Tantric sex.’
Five Top Tantric Tips
1. Breathe Slowly
People often hold off their breath in the throes of passion. But if you relax and breathe slowly through your mouth, you can make it more intense. Notice how you breathe during sex, and take time to relax.
2. Express Yourself
Let your partner know you are enjoying yourself, either by making noise or telling them you like something. It sounds simple and obvious, but making someone feel appreciated slows them to flourish, give them confidence and encourages communication between you. Plus, your mind isn’t going to drift off if your lover is shouting your name.
3. Gaze Softly
The eyes are one of the most powerful parts of the body. A soft, receptive gaze, rather than a hard stare, makes the other person feel special and important. This is the most intimate thing you can do.
4. Maintain Body Contact
Include the whole body in touch during sex, not just the obvious bits. Stroking your partner’s chest, head, arms and legs will keep both of you interested and anchor you in the moment.
5. Consciously Relax
People often tense their sexual organs during lovemaking, particularly when reaching orgasm, perhaps they fear losing it. If you notice this happening, try to relax that part of your body. You’ll notice increased sensitivity and a longer, wave-like orgasm.