When I told my Mommy & Me class my husband and I started a nightly tantra practice to help us reconnect and get through a rough postpartum period, a muffled chuckle and many uncomfortable side eye glances abounded. I’m pretty sure their first thought was – tantra/tantric sex – which is often people’s first thought when they hear tantra. But tantra, a Sanskrit word literally meaning “to loom, weave, wrap,” isn’t about sex, but rather slowing down and tuning into the self, similar to meditation.
I first learned about tantra from my acupuncturist, Physician of Eastern Medicine and founder of Apothecai, Rose Goodman, a few months ago. (If you’re looking for an acupuncturist in Los Angeles, I highly recommend her.)
The practices of tantra can be used for deepening sexual connection, but my husband and I have been using them to reestablish our bond mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We’ve been fighting a lot, both stressed, exhausted and still figuring out our roles as new parents, so taking the time each night to follow a tantra practice has helped us reduce anxiety and stress, reflect on what’s important, and remember how appreciative we are of each other. The practice itself has been really enjoyable for both of us, but the best part is seeing how it has improved our daily exchanges; we’re less reactive and more patient, kind and nurturing with each other.
The morning after our first night practicing tantra, my husband, who dragged his feet and rolled his eyes when I initially suggested we try it, messaged me at work the next day to tell me how much he enjoyed the practice and how thankful he was I pushed us to try it. Since then, we aim to do it every night but often find a few times a week is the most practical schedule.
Our tantra practice
Where: In our bedroom with the lights off, a candle lit and both of us sitting on our bed cross-legged facing each other with our knees touching. (Usually, our dog Cheddar joins us and lays on the bed close by.)
How: The most basic tantra exercise is eye-gazing paired with synchronized breathing. This is what we begin with each night.
Sitting across from each other we hold hands, palm to palm, and stare into each other’s left eye. (The left eye is said to be easier to stare into. And it’s best not to shift looking from one eye to the other as I’ve read some practitioners believe doing so takes you out of “the zone.”)
While seated and gazing, we begin to synchronize our breathing inhaling for six seconds, holding for two seconds and then exhaling for eight seconds. (Breathing deeply with a slow inhalation and exhalation ratio where the exhalations are longer than the inhalations has been found to reset the parasympathetic nervous system – mindbodygreen) We do this for a few minutes focusing on our breath. This connects us but also taps into the plethora of health benefits associated with meditation like helping with fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Harvard.edu).
As our breathing deepen, I usually feel our bodies relax, our hands hold each other’s tighter and smiles cross our faces. It’s such a lovely experience to just be there and appreciate, acknowledge and honor each other. So much of the day is dedicated to transactional exchanges with my husband so it’s nice to have a moment where we focus on reconnecting.
Next, we’ll close our eyes and continue breathing in sync for a few minutes.
Finally we connect our head chakras, close our eyes, still holding hands and breathe in sync.
The whole sequence typically takes 10-15 minutes.
Here’s a video on YouTube that shows a similar tantra practice.
Why: My husband and I having opposing needs in the evenings. He likes to tune out to unwind from work, scroll mindlessly on his phone, watches something on Netflix in the background he’s already seen so he doesn’t really have to pay attention to it, and just vegges out, while I like to tune in with deep discussions to relax. This opposing set of needs has been the cause of many arguments, but surprisingly tantra has helped a lot with this issue. The tantra exercise relaxes us both so I’m less anxious and needy of him and he’s less stressed from his day and able to give more of himself to me.
Usually right after practicing tantra we both feel so connected we end up sitting for another twenty minutes talking deeply about our hopes and fears as new parents, the state of the world, favorite memories and goals for self growth.
My husband will probably roll his eyes at me that I am sharing this on the blog, but it’s been so helpful for us, that I really wanted to put it out there for any other couples looking for ways to reconnect or deepen their connection.
Written by Amy Chang, photographed by Wing Ta for BOND EN AVANT
For more on motherhood: read “How we got our 2 month old to sleep through the night” and “Increasing Breastmilk Supply with Majka” and my top organic baby skincare picks.