The first question is what is tantra, exactly? The truth is no one really knows…
Before you decide to go all Shiva on my ass, hear me out!
Put quite simply…
“As most modern scholars agree, the term “Tantra” or “Tantrism” does not refer to a singular, monolithic, or neatly-defined entity; instead, it is a rather messy and ambiguous term used to refer to a huge array of texts, traditions, sects, and ritual practices that spread throughout the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain communities of South and East Asia from roughly the fifth century onward.” (Urban)
I’ve been told that tantra is something along the lines of strengthening the union between Shiva and Shakti; this idea of singularity or that the universe is one giant ball of energy (Some Tantra Guy at my local cafe, 2018).
According to wikipedia

  • “Tantra” literally means “loom, weave, system” in sanskrit, and is a metaphor for “interweaving of traditions and teachings as threads” into a text, technique or practice.
  • In the Indian traditions: Tantra also means any systematic broadly applicable “text, theory, system, method, instrument, technique or practice”.
  • There are many ancient Tantra texts but, while some overlap, many seem to cover different things.

Tantra has roots in India, China, and Japan all of which have different cultures and languages and to try and capture and understand the essence of the accumulation of the thousands of years of wisdom and experience into something a Western mind could compile into three thousand words is perhaps impossible. (Wilberg 2010)
What we know as tantra here in the west, or what is commonly sold, is an amalgamation of several different eastern schools of spirituality and thought with some of the largest influences being Trantraism, Hinduism, and Taoism. (Francoeur, 1992)

To confuse things a bit more, these forms of tantra, spirituality, and religion have been mixing with Western ideas and weirdos (Aleister Crowley) since arriving here in the 19th century.
That all being said, various people and groups have adopted aspects of different Eastern systems and Western ideas, woven them all together, and called them Tantra. As culturally appropriating as that may seem, Tantra by the above wiki definition (and perhaps the dude from the cafe’s definition) is exactly that.
Long story short: I am using the term tantra to get this ball rolling and I am mostly referring to what I have been exposed to which is a sexualized westernized potential combination of all of above mentioned things plus perhaps many more modalities.
While many of these “new age” tantras or systems deal with sexuality, they seem to be using it as a means for transformation rather than ejaculation. These trans-formative states are physiologically and spiritually very powerful.
As a sexual kinesiologist, I am interested to see what underlying psychophysiological mechanisms are at play in these practices and to discover what therapeutic value they might add to one’s health and human performance.
For the last ten years or so I have been dabbling with Tantra here and there. I have been to a handful of workshops, read some books, given / received some bodywork, and had some very powerful experiences through experimentation in the laboratory of life.
The biggest take home message I have gotten from most of these tantra people is the importance of knowing where you want to go in life and walking the necessary path to get there.
If you can just stick to that then you have already won.
Interesting enough, many of the teachings of various schools of tantra and sex are saying that you can use the power of sexual energy to manifest your life’s wishes into existence. This has been termed as Sublimation, Sex Magic; among other things; and was first introduced to me through a “non-tantric” avenue in the book, Think and Grow Rich, where it was called Sex Transmutation.
While Sex Magic seems to have roots in old European mysticism (Urban), and Sublimation has roots in Eastern tantric practices; they are both used in a way to bring about change or even manifest something into existence. In all of these methods of manifestation it is said that the subject must reach a very high physiological state in order for their thoughts to become in reality.

(I no longer think Urban was correct there and now think sex magic practices have tantric roots and perhaps western roots too depending on how and where you are using them; in a lot of ways could perhaps be described as shamanic.)
When we hear the term “full body orgasm”, this is the high physiological state I am referring to that facilitates Sublimation and Sex Magic; and should not be confused with a normal ejaculatory orgasm, which is also awesome in it’s own right.
Most of the body work and practices that I have been exposed to all seem to be very much geared towards making this “full body orgasm” / altered state of consciousness happen with the intention of bringing about a shift in life.
While tantra is often times seen as something very heterosexual, and lot of the theoretical teachings seem to touch on this union of masculine & feminine; the all time greatest full body orgasm artist is actually a gay dude from Oakland, California, named Joseph Kramer.
Back in the 1980’s Joseph Kramer developed/compiled something he called Toaist Erotic Massage. The two major factors in this taoist erotic massage are rhythmic breathing and genital massage.
These two components have been common factors in the tantric body work I have received as well as much of the teachings in the workshops and books I have attended and read.
I was first told about Joseph Kramer quite a few years ago by my once upon a time sex coach, Celeste Hirschman. After telling her all my dreams and aspirations of becoming a sexual kinesiologist she told me I really needed to look into this guy Joe Kramer and read his dissertation: A Social History of the First Ten Years of the Taoist Erotic Massage. At the time, the last thing I had patience for was reading through a ten year history of a guy rubbing thousands of deep breathing dicks. I should have listened. (instead I went to Burning Man and never came back…)
Having matured a bit (a bit), gone on to experience many different things tantra, recounted all of my experiences with full body orgasm, and re-looked at Joe Kramer’s dissertation, I am under the impression that he has given the world a great gift.
The beauty of Joseph Kramer’s dissertation is that it breaks down his methods exactly, gives us insights to where he compiled them from, and discusses the therapeutic benefits. This can be hard to deduce from a lot of these other “teachers” due to the fact that most of the language they use is inundated with spiritual filler and capitalistic driven ambiguity. (I said it.)
This gives us a repeatable process / control that we can study, compare, and make sense of. Since the TEM very much has many of the components as to what I would consider an effective tantric body work practice I will use it as as the basis for our understanding.
So what are we looking at?
“A Taoist Erotic Massage (TEM) is a sexual experience that involves breathing and genital touching that often produces transformative altered states in those receiving it.” (Kramer, Ch2)

    • Taoist: this word was used because of Kramer’s aims to circulate the sexual energy throughout the body rather than spray it all over the sheets.
      • No ejaculations allowed! (according to Kramer and the taoists…This is just for men, women you can have an indefinite amount of orgasms as your sexual capacity is much greater as we will later see)
    • Erotic: of, devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire.
      • It’s all about the love, guys, and is meant to get you sexually excited!
    • Massage: manipulation of tissues (as by rubbing, kneading, or tapping) with the hand or an instrument for relaxation or therapeutic purposes.
    • Breathing: fast, rhythmic, mindful, simultaneous to the genital stimulation.
      • Maximum effort on inhale
      • Passive / Relaxed exhale (not forced)
      • Always either inhaling or exhaling, no pause or rest!
        • This takes a tremendous amount of attention and focus…
  • Big Draw
        • A twenty-second clenching of the musculature of the entire body while holding breath at the very end of the session.
  • Genital Touching:
      • Kramer goes into great detail on all of this but basically his aim is to touch that dick in every possible pleasurable way without producing an ejaculation. (Kramer, Ch6) The same theory would apply to a non-penised subject…
  • Transformative Altered States:
    • Subjects are meant to focus on the change they would like to create in their life leading up to the big draw.
    • The altered state, much like other altered states, is a bit tricky to describe outside of the state and is probably a bit different for everybody.
      • “After I pulled the Big Draw, all my limbs shook uncontrollably as the energy flooded my physical body. My whole spine and torso lurched up and off the table, and I felt as if my soul “wanted out” of my physical body.”
      • “the sacredness of the Taoist Erotic Massage experience, the feeling of body and spirit coming together, a direct personal experience of God during the massage, a feeling of love for everyone in the world, sexuality as an important part of life, the release of pain and sorrow and old beliefs, and the experience of profound healing
      • “In the final draw, my arms wouldn’t come down. I opened them to receive everything there was to receive. It was as if the savior himself were there with his hands in mine just holding, saying nothing, just being there. It was dark this time. Yesterday, the final draw brought white light — white like electric-white, and generated it all through my arms and out my fingers. It moved as fast as lightning. Today was different; there were images. There was a God-like image in front of me at first. But he wasn’t white and pure like. But his love was there; he was holding my hands tight. It was almost as if he moved behind me keeping my hands in his. Now this is all kind of going away. Emotions came and went. When I cried, I cried out of sorrow for my hurt child’s feeling and beliefs, but most of the time it was out of gratitude for life and love. I came to almost worship oxygen. For the more I could get, the more I could learn, the more I could feel.”

That’s it!
‘Doesn’t seem very magical or crazy and at the same time – totally doable.
Now that we are all ready to sign up for a TEM, let’s look a bit closer at the steps of how Kramer described the process of his sessions…

  • Informed Consent (very important)
    • Sessions always begin with a verbal contract about what will and won’t happen.
      • Gain insight on what the subject wants to have happen
      • Check in with them and their body to see if they have any questions, concerns, places where you should avoid touching or perhaps where you should focus.
      • Share with them your intentions, strategies, and process for how you would like to fulfill their request.
  • Explanation (Mostly for first time clients)
    • Facilitator shares insight as to how everything is meant to work.
      • Goes over breath process and big draw.
        • Discusses importance of focusing on the changes you want to make leading up to big draw.
      • Reiterate that the aim is a full body orgasm / transformation and not an ejaculation
  • A few minutes of stretching
    • Goal to initially relax the subject as much as possible.
      • Focus on areas of greatest tension
  • 45 minute Full body oil massage.
    • Kramer sites Kenneth Ray Stubbs as the number one teacher of erotic touch
      • His method is a combination of Esalen and Swedish Massage…
  • 30 minutes of guided breathing / genital massage
    • Goal is to build sexual energy and spread it all over the body through subjects breath and facilitators touch.
    • Facilitator occasionally reminds subject of their desired wishes for life change.
  • Big Draw
    • Expel all air, flex hard, focus on / be reminded of goals.
  • Wrap in sheets and allow subject to glow, process, and return to normal homeostasis

Ok, let’s break down the different components and survey them for possible therapeutic value and effectiveness for creating an altered state / trans-formative experience.
Consent; it’s a must. Stretching; yes it helps to relax. Oil massage; also relaxing.
It is imperative that you fully relax your subject and put their mind at ease before you start adding components to increase to their sexual trance.
For Kramer, the two major sexual trance stimulants are rapid breathing and genital touch. Anything you can do to add to this trance state is beneficial; music, aphrodisiacs, etc…
Now I know, there is a lot of sleight of hand job going on in these TEMs but I am going to restrain us from focusing on the genital touch part straight away…

“John Pasqualetti, a breath coach who trained in 1991 as a teacher of TEM, claimed that the true source of the TEM experience was actually the breathing. He jokingly claimed that the genital massage was just something to pass the time while the oxygen molecules accumulated in the body.” (Kramer, Ch 6)

(You could play with your dick for 25 years and never have a full body orgasm or reach an altered state of consciousness; trust me, I know…)
Joking or not, John Pasqualetti was on to something. The breathing seems to be the most powerful component in all of this and tends to be the most consistent common factor in many of the disciplines I have been exposed to.
Kramer states in his dissertation:

  • “The major technique to help you receive a Taoist Erotic Massage is being conscious of your own breathing.”
  • “If the man breathes deep and rhythmically for thirty or more minutes, he can experience a feeling in his entire body similar to a sexual orgasm. When this breathing is combined with a sexual orgasm, expanded levels of consciousness are possible.”

While it is hard to find a scientific article supporting the claims of “Toaist Erotic Massage” directly, there is a similar seeming methodology called “Holotropic Breathwork”, which was developed at the Esalen Institute back in the mid 1970’s. (Holotropic Breathwork: New Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Self-Exploration Stanislav Grof, M.D.)

“This approach induces deep holotropic states of consciousness by a combination of very simple means – accelerated breathing, evocative music, and a technique of bodywork that helps to release residual bioenergetic and emotional blocks.”

While I’m sure there are some differences between this method, TEM, and the stuff your guru “invented”; there seems to be the very common factor of bodywork and breathing (the Grofs also use music to further deepen this trance state)
Holotropic Breathwork breathing patterns are described as fast and rhythmic much like what we see in the TEM breathing patterns.
The body work portion of holotropic breathing seems to be slightly ambiguous…
Grof’s writings state:

“The general strategy of this work is to ask the breather to focus his or her attention on the area where there is a problem and do whatever is necessary to intensify the existing physical sensations.”

  • When he says whatever I really think he means whatever

“Supportive physical contact has to be used exclusively to satisfy the needs of the breathers and not those of the sitters or facilitators. By this I do not mean only sexual needs or needs for intimacy which, of course, are the most obvious issues.”

  • As a facilitator you are there to fully serve your client, not the other way around. It is best that they literally do nothing other than focus on their breath and the sensations in their body while you perform body work on them.

“Depending on circumstances and on previous agreement, this physical support can range from simple holding of the hand or touching the forehead to full body contact.”

Holotropic breathing is partially based in “neo-Reichian” approaches, which emphasize direct emotional expression and work with the body.”

  • Reich was into some pretty out there shit but his theory is solid as a rock and still holds true after all these years.

So what does the research say about Holotropic Breathing?
Holmes Et al. (1996) American Psychological Association –
Holotropic breathwork: An experiential approach to psychotherapy.

  • 2 groups of 24 people (aged 22–50 yrs)
  • The first half got psychotherapy
  • The second half half got psychotherapy and 6 monthly holotropic breathwork sessions
  • The Breathwork Group showed significant reductions in death anxiety and increase in self-esteem compared to the just Therapy Group.

Byron A. Metcalf, Ph.D. (1995) Independent Research Project – Center for Transpersonal Studies & Development –
Examining the Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in the Recovery from Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

  • 10 men, 10 women addicted to alcohol or some other substance in self reporting interview.
  • The majority of participants had completed more than fifteen Holotropic Breathwork sessions and three sessions was the least amount anyone could do.
  • Outcomes indicated that Holotropic Breathwork is an effective therapeutic tool for treating alcoholism and drug addiction and possibly very effective in relapse prevention.
    • Improvements showed in all areas with some eventuating further in the future
      • The highest improvement areas were…
        • Depression
        • Anxiety
        • Feelings and emotions
        • Family
        • Relationships and intimacy
        • Stress reduction
        • Self esteem
        • Spirituality

Very interestingly, 40% of the participants experienced grief and loss for things they didn’t consciously realize they were suffering over.

  • All of them became aware and got over it…
  • Similar reports coming from TEM testimonials

While the authors of these holotropic breathwork related writings are not claiming the power of manifestation; what they are saying, and actually proving, is that this sort of modality has the power to release mental and emotional blocks which in turn could help us to make shit happen! These reports are also found in the testimonials in relation to Taoist Erotic Massage.
As a coach, I am under the belief that we as humans are full of pure potential. One of my favorite coaching books, Effective Coaching, says that our performance is directly related to our potential (unlimited) plus the interference (a negative factor) in our life. As we reduce the interference we increase the performance. The holotropic breathwork studies are a great example of this.
It’s pretty clear that this breathing is very powerful. If you still don’t believe me go ahead and try it for five minutes and tell me what you feel…
Moving on through our survey of the components of TEM; the question now is: does physical genital stimulation add to the summation of this sexual trance and thus increasing the chances to bring about change or should we just forget about physical sex forever and just focus on breathing? (Dr S. I’m looking at you…)
Soaring through the literature on all things orgasm, I came across something being described as Expanded Sexual Response (ESR).
The person who has done a lot of research on this phenomenon is an individual named Umit Sayin. In their paper: Doors of Female Orgasmic Consciousness: New Theories on the Peak Experience and Mechanisms of Female Orgasm and Expanded Sexual Response, the physiological pathways of female orgasm are explored.
ESR is a new name for an old thing: Crazy fucking orgasms that seemingly go on and on and on; and the description of these orgasmic altered states are very similar to what we find in Taoist Erotic Massage, Holotropic Breathing, and all the other off brand related modalities.

“Taylor’s cases described a deep experience of ASC such as, more pleasure; deep relaxation; heightened sensations; increased energy; temporary pain relief; energy expanding out of body; deep relaxing abdominal breathing; increased clarity and creativity; acceptance of the self and others; extra sensory perception; ecstasy; mystical experience; divine feelings; increased awareness of the body; mind connection and integration; psycho-spiritual birth and death experience; loss of illusion of spatial separation; loss of spatial dimensions, loss of sense of time; personal boundaries dissolving and merging with the divine; cosmic emptiness and void; sharing with the partner; compassion; sense of fulfillment etc. (Taylor, 2000).”

“Four Nerve and Six Pathway Theory of Female Orgasm”.
Essentially what this theory is saying is that the more data being sent to the brain from stimulus applied to the erogenous zones of the body the much greater the potential orgasm, altered state of consciousness, extended sexual response. This is inline with the idea of adding components to increase the sexual trans in TEM and deepening the holotropic state in Holotropic Breathwork.

“If a single “orgasm reflex pathway”, while some other pathways having some involvement, as well, operated during the development of an orgasm; a single clitoral, vaginal or brain orgasm may occur. If many (more than one) “orgasm reflex pathways” and a combination of the following pathways are involved in the formation of an orgasm, then an EO or “ESR orgasm” may develop and orgasms may become more intense, multiple and prolonged. This is a learned and maturing phenomenon, which can be developed and improved by training and education, as many ancient Tantrists had done centuries ago” (Sayin, 2012)

Some outcomes of mega ESR orgasms reported by Sayin include:

  • “Whole body changes: tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, hyperventilation, sweating, extension of some muscle groups (e.g. legs and feet), muscle tension, ‘sex flush’, vasodilatation at the cutaneous arterioles and increased venous blood pounding etc”
  • Altered states of consciousness
  • “Acme of sexual pleasure with rhythmic convulsions of the body of perineal/reproductive organs, cardiovascular and respiratory changes, release of sexual tension”
  • “Psychological changes: Relief of tension, discharge feeling, decrease of anxiety, happiness, euphoria, relaxation, fulfillment, subjective feeling of getting rid of electrical and muscle tension, altered states of consciousness (ASC) etc”.
  • “As reported by many ESR women, ESR orgasms seem to have anxiolytic, antidepressant, euphoric, myorelaxant, sedating, analgesic, acute and short acting hallucinogenic effects which made us to adopt a humorous novel slogan: “Don’t use drugs! Use Expanded Orgasms!” (Sayin 2011c; Sayin 2012a-d).”

The paper doesn’t specifically outline how to become an “ESR Woman” but it does mention many of the habits / traits that “ESR Women” have in common: ultra strong pelvic floor muscles, habitual masturbators, highly active sexual minds, aware of the multiple erogenous zones on their bodies…

“Our study on ESR points out that, for experiencing extreme orgasmic consciousness, a woman; 1-Should attain and experience multiple clitoral, vaginal and blended orgasms separately. 2- Should use her PFM (PC-Muscles) during sexual response and should possess developed, powerful PFM. 3- Should have a developed masturbation pattern. 4- Should have a developed “sexual-brain”. 5- Should be aware of her G-Spot and DVZs, experiencing G-Spot or DVZ orgasms. 6-Should be using novelties, variations and sex toys (e.g. various types of vibrators, vibes) to discover herself and to attain more pleasure in her sexual life style (Sayin, 2012a-b, 2013).”

Now that we are approaching the 3000 word mark; I imagine that I have maybe lost most of you to either boredom or the urge to go masturbate / change your life; while there is so much more to cover, I am going to wrap this up so I can go do the same.
In summary, what the literature is pointing to is that with the proper tools, training, and practices we can all take our sexual pleasure and lives to way beyond the next level. The combination of prolonged fast rhythmic breathing in combination with erotic bodywork seems to be one pathway for attaining this result. Laying in the body of this literature is everything you need to begin to create your own Tantra / Sex practice to get you there.
If you have enjoyed reading this article please share it around.
If you would like to share any insights on your ideas of tantra in relation to human performance I would love to hear from you / shout you a tea.
If you are interested in partaking in some coaching surrounding any of the things discussed in this post or would like to receive this type of body work from me, please get in touch!
Much Love and Thanks,
Mark Vorkoeper