Although most people become interested in Tantra to learn how to experience more pleasure and connection sexually, Tantra is also very useful for those who have body image issues.
The feminist movement brought about a type of sexual liberation for women. However, the way we teach girls about their bodies and sex continues to perpetuate unhealthy attitudes. The statistics are scary: 81% of ten year olds report being afraid of getting fat. Most girls grow up at war with their body, feeling shame and anxiety about it. Both plastic surgery and pornography are becoming more and more prolific. This negative attitude towards the body of course affects women’s sexual development and knowledge of how to use their body to gain pleasure and connection during sex. Is it then any surprise that 1 in 3 women report difficulty reaching orgasm?
It wasn’t always the case that fat was feared. In ancient times goddess images had fertile curves. In the Renaissance period rounded feminine forms such as the Venus de Milo and le Grande Odalisque were the height of beauty. Even Marilyn Monroe, considered the most sexy woman of her time was a size 16 – and that was only in the 1950s.
However, since the late 70s and the 80s exercise revolution, the fashion for the female form has changed. People are taught to diet and exercise to minimise fat and natural curves. As part of this process, we are encouraged to disconnect with our body and the messages she gives us in order to ‘do the right thing’. How many of you have gone hungry on a diet? How many of you have dragged yourself out of bed to exercise when your body is telling you ‘NO!’. Because we learn social rules of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ from as early as we can speak we grow up choosing food and activity with our minds rather then intuitively in touch with our bodies. We eat because “it’s lunchtime” or “it’s the healthy option” or “it would be rude to refuse” and finish our foods so as not to be “wasteful”. We don’t ask our body what she needs, or stay conscious while we are feeding her so as to stop when she has had enough. We learn to doubt our body’s wisdom. Yet, when you see a mother feed a pre-verbal baby, the baby gives clear signals when she is full! We LEARN to over-ride these.
The process of Tantra involves learning to reconnect with your body’s energies. Through becoming more aware of the sensations within your body you become more able to communicate with it. Sensation is how your body speaks to you and every good relationship involves good listening! Tantra also helps you learn to prioritise pleasure. We so often think of our own pleasure as unimportant and trade it in to do the things we ‘should’ do. Yet, to love is to give pleasure. Think of whenever you have given someone a gift or done something nice for them, what you are aiming for is for them to experience pleasure. Learning to love yourself means likewise gifting yourself pleasure as a priority.
And for the mothers or mothers-to-be: girls are highly influenced by their mothers relationship to her own body and her attitudes around sex. Experiencing what Tantra has to offer will be rewarding for you personally, but also might help you be a better parent. Many of my clients report receiving only the most basic sex education from their mothers and growing up watching their mothers criticise and mistreat their own bodies. The unhelpful messages a girl gets exposed to through the media and their peer group can’t be controlled, however, a healthy channel of communication with her mother will help reduce the damage done.
I love the following piece about how women should talk to their daughters about their bodies.
How to talk to your daughter about her body
Step one: don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.
Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.
If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:
“You look so healthy!” is a great one.
Or how about, “you’re looking so strong.”
“I can see how happy you are – you’re glowing.”
Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.
Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.
Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.
Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.
Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.
Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.
Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.
Teach your daughter how to cook kale.
Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.
Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.
Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.
Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.