Say tantra and a lot of people think of sex. When I told friends I was doing a piece on tantra, they looked at me and said, “You know that's to do with sex, don't you?” I can't blame them for this perception. I remember seeing articles over the years about how tantra could improve one's sex life. However, after sitting down with two practitioners, I found out how limited that view was.
Eduard from Lakshmi, a tantric temple in Prague 5, was at pains to stress that the aforementioned view was a misconception. “Tantra is taken very seriously. It is not how it is here in the West that tantra is like making sex a little better. Tantra is a spiritual path that could march ourselves to this transcendence, to God.”
Bold claims and it would be tempting to dismiss them if Eduard, who has been teaching Tantra for eight years, didn't speak in such a calm and self-assured manner. But God? Tantra was all about scented oils, candles and gentle stroking. Not quite, as Eduard explained.
“In this world we have this observed polarity. Plus, minus, warm, cold, woman, man. It is everywhere this polarity, this duality. Everybody knows today this symbol, this yin yang. This is a symbol about this, man and woman, yin and yang, this two types of energy are together and make a lot of phenomena together. But spiritual people are agreed that if it is duality there are two parts, there must be something more than that, that is transcending this.”
“These forces come together plus attracts minus, minus attracts plus. What does it mean that minus attracts plus? They want to be together. They want to make this one. This one means the realization. In a lot of spiritual paths we have to find everything ourselves. I must find this one. But Tantra says 'Okay, you have now some model in you, you have a lot of one polarity. I am a man I have a tendency to do everything in this way. And I have a lot of energy from this and the woman has this too and if we come together, it's this plus and minus, and we become this zero, this transcendence.”
Eduard went on to explain that tantric massage takes the energy created by this duality and applies it to massage. “We can take this energy which is big and strong and do a lot of things with this energy. There are a lot of techniques to take this energy from below, from our sexuality, to fulfill some other part of our inner world. For example, I have a lack of love or lack of awareness or intelligence or spirituality inside, I can take this energy which I can say is like a frequency, an erotic frequency or sensual frequency to change to become more subtle. It's the same energy but we put it inside somewhere else in our love, in our creativity, in our awareness, in our spirituality.” He likened it to alchemy, taking a base material to make it something higher.
I was also fortunate enough to meet with Denisa, one of the founders of Tantra World
, which teaches about tanta, and Tantra Spa
, which offers tantric massage. Denisa gave further insight into the many facets of tantra practice and philosophy. As with Eduard, she echoed that sexuality was a part but not the most important part of tantra. The picture she created of tantra was something more akin to a practice than a fixed set of beliefs.
“Tantra is like freedom, and in the traditions, the old traditions they would constantly do things to break taboos. For example, if you were vegetarian you would eat meat consciously in a ritual to break the taboo, to free your mind. It's not some silly breaking of taboos. It's not breaking taboos out of anarchy. It's conscious breaking of taboos to experience your freedom. Still you are very conscious where it makes sense to have boundaries. It's not about hippie style sexual freedom. Rather, it helps to live a conscious life.”
Denisa's approach is also very conscious of gender difference. She and her practitioners approach men and women differently and this is reflected in the massage.
“With this I will generalize and I will simplify in order to explain, so it's not one hundred percent true in every case. Generally, female sexuality opens with love, and male love opens with sexuality. So, basically where we start as women, we start in a loving environment, and when there's trust we can open up sexually. Men get energy from sexual impulses and this energy can go up to our heart and open it.”
In general, I would say that with women there is much more stress on loving touch, gentleness, whole body caressing and really nourishing with touch. With men, in the massage, we are faster with the genital massage because that's the energy center and from there we draw the energy to the whole body and this really helps to load the body with life force and this really helps to open the other energy centers, including the heart center.”
If one of the side effects of tantra is to make people more relaxed about their body and sexuality, this was certainly evident in my conversations with Denisa and Eduard. However, I still thought that the notion of 'genital massage' needed some further explanation.
Eduard was quite direct and said that the goal of tantra was not sexual climax. Pleasure was part of it but that pleasure had another dimension. Denisa saw it that the massage was not 'pleasing' per se, rather it was ‘giving and opening´. At the same time, she said that boundaries within the massage were important. She also added that it was possible to have the massage without genital massage and wanted to promote this more.
As for the benefits of tantric massage over other forms, the two practitioners were both certain of its medical benefits. Eduard said, “Everything in our being is connected, including our sexuality. Sexuality is a lot of intimacy with everybody and a lot of strong energy. So we have two important points, a lot of intimacy and very strong energy and we can use this to make some change inside of us.”
Denisa offered threefold reasons for having tantric massage. “The basic [level] is that you can really relax. You can deeply let go of stress and re-charge energy, so that's one of the levels because you will be deeply in contact with your life force. This is also healing, so on a further level this can really be a healing massage and I mean healing on the physical level like healing disease by activating the life force and thus helping to heal the disease - of any kind. It also helps to heal emotional issues like healing shame if one doesn't feel good about his or her body or if one doesn't feel comfortable and one doesn't feel comfortable about his or her sexual expression, so it can also be healing of insecurities. It can also have the benefit of learning something like learning something for oneself and learning how to receive touch and how to open up in the realm of sensuality and it can show doors to new realms of experience, so it can be inspiring and it can also inspire for one's relationship because automatically you get inspired how to touch the other person when you receive the touch.”
If you're intrigued to learn more or just to experience the massage, both studios offer possibilities in English. Lakshmi runs a two hour workshop every week. At present the language of instruction is in Czech, but English speakers are welcome and there is the possibility to speak to Eduard in English. Tantra World offers a cycle of six workshops. It is possible to start at any point. The workshops are translated into English.
If you're still skeptical, I'll leave the last word with Denisa. As we were nearing the end of our conversation, she said, “People think they need to have the incense and the sarong and the oil and that this is tantra, and it's not. It's what they do with their life, how they live and how they build relationships with people. Ultimately, it's about being mindful of your life and your relationships with others. Even the massage is not the main part of tantra. It's a tool which can help people to become mindful, more conscious.”
: Do you know where tantra comes from? Send us the answer to radka [at] expats.cz. Correct answers go to a hat and on Thursday (19th August) morning we will draw a winner of a voucher for a tantric massage in Lakshmi
And the winner is... Luis Montilla. Congrats Luis!