The Hindu Tantras constitute the ancient holy Scriptures of the Kaliyuga or the age of the demon or of Vice in which we are alleged to currently live. The word Kaliyuga is amalgamated from two words: Kali the name of an apocalyptic Hindu demon; and Yuga or age which, according to the major work of Hindu astronomy, Surya Siddhandra, began in 3,102 B.C.E. Contrary to preconceived modern notions regarding Tantra, its teachings do not advocate an epicurean or a libertine life style. Far from this. Nevertheless, it is unique among the established world religions, in so far as it teaches that sexual energy may be harnessed to improve life and achieve “union with the divine”. (One of the earliest conceived renewable energy theories! Just jesting.) By the way, tantra is derived from two Sanskrit words: “tan” which means to expand, and “tra” which means tool. Literally, it means “tool for expansion”.
Tantric massage, which is the topic of the current evaluation, is a type of massage evolved from tantric philosophy. It is frequently described by its practitioners as among the “ancient healing arts”. The popular website livestrong.com claims that it makes use of sexual energy to achieve “a higher state of consciousness”. Specific sensual touches “awaken a dormant energy within the body” which unites lovers in ecstatic experiences and further allows “trapped” physical and mental pain to escape. It’s one of our principal purposes here to scientifically evaluate such claims; but, first we present a brief description of currently practiced tantric massage techniques.
Modern Tantric techniques
Techniques which specifically constitute this massage vary considerably. For example, according to md-health.com, tantric massage begins with the naked subject face down with his/ her arms and legs spread in a V-shape. The masseuse’s hands then move over the subject’s entire body beginning with light fingertip strokes and graduating to whole hand strokes. Strokes are applied to front and back of the body evenly. They recommend not massaging the sex organ, at least not in the beginning. The web site intentblog.com presents a more detailed seven-step guide to tantric which is similar to the previous description, except that it includes the subject’s feet. It recommends that both the masseuse and the subject be totally naked, and that the massage include butt and anus, also. There are literally scores of suggested methods that may be found online, but the salient ingredients are intimacy, sensuality, nudity and prolonged bodily contact without immediate sexual gratification.
Theories behind Tantra
Practitioners of tantra claim that it works by awakening the “Kundalini” or the energy that purportedly lies at the base of the human spine. They believe that as a result of meditation, yoga, or massage that this kundalini can actually rise, spread out along the spine, and precipitate healing throughout the entire body. Its goal has been described by its believers as awakening of the “seven chakras” or energy centers which also purportedly lie along the spine. Proper breathing called pranayamas play an important part in tantra practices and are believed to permit recipients to actively “move energy” from one part of the body to the other. According to “Sexuality and Spirituality” by R. Francoeur (SIECUS Report v. 20; no. 4, April/ May 1992) tantric practices “redirect the body’s energies of semen and ovum to the brain to gain cosmic consciousness”. At the very least, they prolong sexual activity without male ejaculation, and actually claim to permit men to experience dry multiple orgasms. (See: “Any Man Can” by W. Hartman, 1984) Conventional tantra goes further and advocates avoidance of male ejaculation at all times! However, there is a more liberal Taoist version which advocates that men simply gain better control of orgasm in lieu of eliminating it completely. (See: “The Tao of Love and Sex: the Ancient Way to Ecstasy” by J. Chang, 1977)
What scientific evidence is there, if any, to support tantric claims?
Following its standard practices, Spanking FIT first conducted a comprehensive literature search on the subject of tantric “healing practices” using well established medical data bases including: Cochrane, Pub Med, GoPubMed and Medline Plus. Not surprisingly, we came up with precious little in the way of supporting science. (One exception is explained in the next section.) We did, however, come up with a couple of works that provided interesting insights. For example, in “Osho-Insights on Sex” by Anil Nagaraj published in Indian Journal of Psychiatry; Jan. 2013, 55 (Supp. 2) it is explained that what tantric massage and yoga have in common with sexual orgasm is “the lack of awareness of past and present” and essentially “an emptying of the mind”, which is the most important source of the pleasure sustained by it, according to author. The biochemical basis of these feelings of pleasure is not discussed. T.B. Ellis, on the other hand, argues in “Disgusting bodies, disgusting religions: the biology of Tantra” published in Journal of American Academy of Religion; 2011, 79 (4) that “disgust” is a naturally selected human response which serves to deter against ingestion of bio-toxic pathogens and “sub-optimal” sex practices, which is exactly what he considers tantra to be. We will, in fact, argue later just the opposite: that tantric massage, when practiced properly, offers a far safer alternative to so-called “natural” sex. Spanking FIT made a similar argument in favor of “Kinky Sex” in a previous assessment (See: “Unsafe Sex Worries? Try Kink, Safest of All!” Nov. 2014) But first, we take a look at the prodigious quasi-scientific work conducted on the subject during the 1960’s and 1970’s by Lee Sanella, M.D. and his colleague Itzhak Benthov . That era has been described as the American Kundalini Era because it was characterized by an increased interest in Eastern mysticism. It is ironic that the most exhaustive work on this subject should have been conducted in the West, and not in India, where it probably originated.
“The Kundalini Experience” by Lee Sannella, M.D. and “Micromotions of the Body, etc.” by Itzhak Benthov
“In a darkened room a man sits alone. His body is swept by muscular spasms. Indescribable sensations and sharp pains run from his feet up to his legs and and over his back and neck. His skull feels as it will burst. Inside his head roaring sounds and high-pitched whistling. Then suddenly a sunburst floods his inner being. His hands burn. He feels his body tearing within. Then he laughs and is overcome with bliss.” So begins Dr. Lee Sannella’s 1987 book Kundalini- Psychosis or Transcendence? (I.S.B.N. 0-941255) In it he refers to the “Kundalini experience” as a “rebirth” process” with outcome being “an enlightened human being possessing deep psychological balance, strength, and maturity.” According to Sannella, such individuals possess “extraordinary mental gifts, emotional tranquility, and greatly enhanced intuitive insight.” This “experience” and its alleged changes Sannella attributes to the “rising of the kundalini energy” that he, like many, believed to reside at the base of the spine and when awakened rises up the the spinal chord to the top of the head. Many also believe that when the stimulus moves to the pelvis region that sexual stimulation, including intense ecstatic feelings may ensue. Among the most notable believers was 20th century psychologist Carl G. Jung (See his “The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga”, 1932 seminar notes).
Such claims without proof make the more scientifically trained cringe, in my opinion. Their claims are purely anecdotal and there seems to be no serious attempt made to measure or quantify them. You would think that as a Yale educated physician, Sannella would have known better! Sannella does cite the quasi-scientific work by Itzhak Bentov, one of the non-degreed founders of instrument maker Boston Scientific Co.. (See: “Micromotions of the body as a factor in the development of the nervous system“, Appendix A of Sannella’s book.) Bentov proposed a physiological mechanism to explain the experience. He believed as Sannella did that Kundalini begins with a stimulus of energy at the base of the spine and that it works its way up making stops at several centers along the spine referred to as “chakras”. These centers, according to Benthov, are located opposite the major nerve plexuses in the abdomen and the thorax which are in the process also stimulated. He believed that in addition to meditation and massage, that certain mechanical vibrations and electromagnetic waves can also trigger it. He postulated that five resonating systems of both a mechanical and electrical nature are a part of it. The process, according to him, begins with the heart and culminates in pulsating magnetic fields of opposite polarity in each hemisphere of the brain. Madman or genius, Benthov further postulated that the magnetic field radiated by the head actually acts as an antenna and interacts with electrical and magnetic fields in the environment. Benthov proposed using instrumentation similar to a ballistocardiogram (B.C.G.) or an E.K.G. to make recordings to confirm his theory. Unfortunately, it appears that no well-designed clinical studies involving volunteers were ever conducted to test hypotheses. Benthov and Sannella’s incredible theories go unconfirmed to this day. Despite this, their work has inspired an enormous quantity of books, writings, and training seminars on the subject. It is fair to say that an entire Kundalini industry was spawned in America thanks partly to this important duo.
Spanking FIT appraisal of tantric massage
There is little doubt that intimate bodily contact between two nude individuals involving rubbing may constitute a highly pleasurable experience. Whether it can also precipitate a heightened state of awareness and enhanced intuitive insight as some claim, has not been scientifically proven. In fact, it is not even known if the average male can actually achieve multiple orgasm without ejaculation. (See whitelotuseast.com/multipleorgasm.htm for recommended breathing and P.C. muscle control exercises for achieving it.)
In “Unsafe Sex Worries? Try Kink, Safest of All!”, Nov. 2014, Spanking FIT explained how certain activities regarded as “kinky” may serve as a much safer alternative to so-called “normal” sex which carries with it dangers of unwanted pregnancy and disease. (Remember, condoms and other prophylaxis are not that reliable, and birth control methods carry significant health risks.) Similarly, tantric massage can serve as a safe alternative to conventional sex practices, provided coital or anal sex are not performed as a finale.
We thank Ms. Allison Caterall for the fantastic photograph above. Finally, for educational purposes only we have included a video demonstrating a tantric massage session between two consenting adults. Caution: although this video contains nudity, it does not include anything that may be construed as explicit sexual activity. It’s just tantric massage, pure and simple! Study it carefully and learn from it.