A Touch of Tantra 

Meet the sensual goddesses whose mission in life is to help you channel your kundalini.

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We moved into the large expanse of her main studio. It had twenty-foot-tall windows and sliding glass doors on one end, some gigantic potted palms, a large red oriental rug in the center of the floor, and a big carved chest with a laptop on top playing New Age music and displaying psychedelic graphics. She motioned for me to have a seat in an immense beanbag against one of the walls, and then lay down beside me. Ulp. Then she smiled slyly and sweetly and I was ready to take it all off and undulate with the best of them.

I came here to learn about her practice, but also to attempt to learn some of the breathwork that is the first key to learning tantra. From what I have heard from other tantrikas, with some coaching it seems possible to simply breathe in and feel my lotus flower bloom with lust.

Bast pulled out a notebook in which she had scribbled some points about tantric education she wanted to clarify. She is one of the few people I called who would talk on the record about the practice, which is private by its very nature but also has the added problem -- at least with some of its practices -- of being viewed as a form of prostitution. Three teachers declined to talk, a fourth described her work and then changed her mind about being identified, and more than one accused me of being a vice cop out to bust instructors of alternative sexuality.

As we settled in, the phone rang. Bast apologized but said she was expecting an important call. Once on the phone, it was apparent the call was from someone she didn't want to talk to. "Yes," she said hurriedly, "I think I remember talking to you before. I have a visitor right now so I have to go." Her terseness was surprising, especially since our phone conversations were so tender.

We had just finished talking about how Bast separates would-be clients who truly desire to learn tantra from those looking for fast kicks. "That was one of them," she said of the call. He was looking for something she said she didn't want to offer: pure sex. It was the type of call that she said usually ends with her telling them "I don't think I'm a good match for what you are looking for."

Bast never takes same-day appointments. If people want to learn how to make their sexuality more spiritual, they are going to have to learn patience anyway. They can wait a few days. That usually weeds out callers with other things in mind, she said.

So what does go on in a tantra consultation? Bast didn't want to go into specifics, but according to her Web site, sessions can range from meditation, to massage, to ritual bathing, to simply holding the other person while they talk. The big topic most practitioners don't want to discuss involves "genital touch," although some tantrikas who advertise on the Internet offer "sacred G-spot and prostate massage."

Some dedicated teachers of tantra admit that they manipulate a client's genitals as a way to get the kundalini moving. They view themselves as healers and see the act as a teaching tool to let their client move further into tantric bliss. Then there are the women who simply put bindis on their foreheads, declare themselves a "goddess" on their Web sites, and appear to charge by the hour for specific sex acts.

If enlightenment is truly what you seek, Bast suggests doing your homework to separate the sex workers from the tantric educators. Ask them how long they studied and with whom, why they are doing what they are doing, and what they want from you. The tantric teachers interviewed for this article stressed that they will not enter into a contract for sex, and in fact will discourage any callers who attempt to do so.

After all, for real followers and teachers of tantra, the genitals are mere bumps on the road to nirvana -- albeit pleasurable bumps. Once you have practiced it long enough, you don't even need to go near your naughty bits to achieve an orgasm. "I have worked with people who have barely touched me, but because they had gotten to a certain level of experience, I was sent into full-body ecstasy, barely being touched, without any genital contact," Bast said. "It's not an issue. I have spontaneous G-spot orgasms. I ejaculate. I have total control."


"I'm walking down the street, the sun hits me on the back of the neck, and I'm like, whoa ..."

"Fiona," another tantric coach who agreed to be interviewed only if she could be identified by a pseudonym, says she can bring herself to orgasm simply by sitting in a chair and moving her hips ever-so-slightly. She first got into tantra after going to a class at Good Vibrations that taught her some of the breathing methods. "I was like, whoa," she said of that first experience. "I want to learn more about that." She, like Bast, wanted to have a career working with people that went beyond therapy or massage, things that focus on either just the head or the body. Tantra is about combining everything, and once she felt she had begun to master it, she decided to go into the business of teaching it to others. She runs a studio out of her house in Oakland.

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