Just like the word Tantra, there are many misunderstandings and misuses of the term “tantra massage”. In many minds this conjures up instantly a massage with a “happy ending”, or in other words a sexual release. Of course there are people calling their massage “tantra massage” and doing exactly this, and so it is not entirely surprising for this wide-spread belief!!
However, the role of massage in the path of Tantra can be much deeper and more profound. A massage given for sexual pleasure could more accurately be called an “erotic massage”, leaving the term “tantra massage” to encompass another realm of experience entirely. What, then, is a tantra massage?
Tantra is itself a vast and total life path of spiritual awakening. Ancient tantric texts such as Vigyan Bhairav Tantra contain hundreds of methods of awakening, such as eating in a mindful way, meditating upon the sensation of an ant walking upon your skin, and meditative sexual union methods. This ancient text (some say it could be even as much as 5000 years old) includes the meditation of touch:
“Sweet Princess,” (says Shiva to Shakti) “whilst being caressed, enter the caress as ever-lasting life.”
Can touch, then, be a portal to the eternal? If we enter the caress totally, can we too enter the realm of everlasting life? Can we get a glimpse of the eternal life beyond the impermanent world that we see? How is it that this transition happens?
Tantra is the union of opposites, the meeting of yin and yang. Not only the meeting, but also the divine union that takes us beyond the apparent separation. Thus Tantra invites in apparent opposites, or polarities, to dance together. Tantra massage is this invitation through the bodily form, through touch, through the senses and through flows of energy.
One of the ways in which tantra massage differs from normal massage is in the fact that both yin and yang energies are included. A standard massage, like you would get in a spa, focuses only on the yin energy- that of relaxation. A tantra massage includes both yin relaxing energies and yang stimulating energies. A masterful tantra massage weaves between relaxation and stimulation like a masterpiece of music would build up and break down. This weaving, dancing, meeting and uniting of polar energies will bring a fulfilling sense of completeness and a deep sense of peace.
Because tantra massage works with energy, it is possible to give one without even touching the sexual organs. Yin and yang energies can be stimulated and rested through the spine and through the energy body. People can even attain full body orgasmic experiences with their clothes still on! (but please note that orgasmic states are not an essential part of tantra massage).
However, if the client choses and the conditions are suitable (legal situation etc) then the genitals might be included to unify the sexual organs with the rest of the body. Too often we treat the sexual organs as separate, and then they feel energetically cut off from the rest of the body. It is extremely hard to have a full body orgasmic experience when the genitals are feeling separate from the whole.
Tantra massage facilitates the union of sexual organs with the rest of the body, and thus the union of sexual energy with all other life force energy flowing through us. Even if the receiver does not have a very orgasmic experience during the actual massage, they will find that it makes a difference to the way their energy flows in them the next time they make love. Many couples have received great benefits for their love-life through such healing.
Sexual organ massage can also help release past sexual traumas, when given by a well-trained therapist. Please note the emphasis on “well-trained”! When the therapist knows how to create a safe space, this can support the receiver’s healing process. It is not so much that the massage therapist is healing the recipient…more that they are supporting the recipient’s healing journey.
On that note, a huge part of the healing benefits of tantra massage is to surrender into a safe space. “Safe” is that the therapist is a therapist, and not a lover. The interaction with a lover is different from with a therapist. Lovers exchange energy (and in fact also engage in a complex web of karma).
A well-trained therapist, on the other hand, will simply hold clear space. They may observe the client’s flow of sexual energy, but they do not engage with it or exchange energy with them. This allows the recipient to surrender in a deeper way, and to access deep levels of vulnerability. To engage with a receiver in their vulnerable state would be a violation from the therapist, and it is wise to find a massage therapist with clear boundaries on this issue.
Sadly this field of massage is generally not very well-regulated. When you book a tantra massage, you never know what you will get! Here are some general guidelines to help you find a suitable practitioner:
- Ask the therapist if they have their own tantric practice. They may practice tantric yoga, qigong or tantric meditations. Any of these practices will enhance their ability to give a true tantric transmission.
- You can ask the therapist what is the aim with the sexual energy in the massage. If they say “to have an orgasm” or “to be pleasured until release”, then this is an erotic massage. If they say something like “to help you to relax around sexual energy and let it flow around the whole body” or “to feel relaxed and natural in the whole body”, then this is more likely a tantric massage.
- Check what their boundaries are: “Do you engage in a sexual intimate way with your clients?” Look for a therapist with clear and professional boundaries. Trust is essential for surrender to happen.
- Remember: as a woman you can receive tantra massage from another woman. If you have past trust issues with men, then this can be good at least for your initial treatments.
- If you want to receive tantric massage but cannot find a therapist you want to work with, another option if to go with a lover or close friend of the opposite sex to a workshop on tantra massage. There are workshops designed just for the participants to learn to give and receive tantra massage. In this way you can receive the healing benefits.
A huge thanks to Mahasatvaa Ma Ananda Sarita and Shantam Nisarga for their 12-day “Mystic Massage” training program in Greece (tantra-essence.com), and to John Hawken for his 3-day training in “Tantra Massage” in the UK (thepathsoftransformation.com). Two excellent teachers whom I would heartily recommend!
Train in Tao Tantric Arts with Shashi Solluna, Minke de Vos, Dhyan Niten and David Gyurkovics in Thailand. Mixed trainings and women-only retreats. www.taotantricarts.com