Lovehoney Sex Expert Interview: Barbara Carrellas
Barbara Carrellas is the author of Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century, Ecstasy is Necessary: A Practical Guide to Sex, Relationships, Oh So Much More, and Luxurious Loving. She is the founder of Urban Tantra®, an approach to sacred sexuality that adapts and blends a wide variety of conscious sexuality practices from Tantra to BDSM, and the Urban Tantra® Professional Training Program, a comprehensive training program in the practice and application of conscious sexuality. Her pioneering Urban Tantra® workshops were named best in New York City by TimeOut/New York magazine.
Barbara brings a holistic, metaphysical, practical, humorous, entertaining, and gender-fluid approach to conscious sexuality and to all her work. Her books, workshops, lectures, and coaching sessions are an eclectic mix of sexual and spiritual practices designed to encourage readers and participants of all sexual preferences and genders to expand their capacity for both pleasure and spiritual fulfillment.
Find more about her work here.
Tell us about Urban Tantra! What inspired your professional journey into tantra and what advice do you have for couples interested in exploring it together?
In the 1980s, I was working on Broadway in New York City and a large percentage of my friends and colleagues were gay men. The AIDS crisis hit my community particularly hard. Ironically enough, AIDS is what led me to the study and passionate pursuit of conscious sexuality. In the 1970s, sex had equalled liberation – now it equalled death.
I had grown up as a reluctant Catholic with this kind of sex = death message and I wasn't about to listen to it again. I was determined to help find a way for my gay male friends (and all the rest of us) to be able to have sex again – this time, sex that was completely safe, emotionally and physically healing, and also mind-blowingly ecstatic. During my quest for safe, hot, healing sex, I found the inspiration and the material for what would eventually become Urban Tantra®.
Today, conscious sexuality is available to people of all genders and sexual preferences. I suggest people who are interested in practicing conscious sexuality start by reading my book Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century and talking to their partner about what style and flavor of conscious sex appeals most to them. You don't have to study for years or join any special group. You can start wherever you are and right now.
In your work as a sex/life coach, what specific topics have you observed people need more education on and why do you think that is?
Anyone and everyone can benefit from more permission and more possibilities. That's really all I do: I offer permission and possibilities. Giving yourself permission to go for your greatest pleasure and deepest desires often means working through shame and accepting that everything you want is "normal", meaning there are lot of other people who want the same things you do. You are not a freak.
As for possibilities, we all have a ceiling on the number of things we think are available to us. We simply can't imagine anything above and beyond that ceiling. When I can help someone raise that ceiling of possibilities, they suddenly have a lot more pleasure options and opportunities available to them. Also, most people are woefully ignorant of the anatomy of pleasure. My friend and colleague, sex and relationship coach Cyndi Darnell, has created the Atlas of Erotic Anatomy and Arousal. It's something everyone should watch.
How can incorporating toys into the bedroom help strengthen and increase the level of play in a couple's sex life? In this, what place do toys have in sacred sexuality?
Energetically speaking, toys are simply energy generators. Tantra places an emphasis on cultivating and opening up to increasingly more sexual energy. Toys can amplify sexual energy and open energy pathways. For example, sure, a vibrator can make your clit feel so good you have an orgasm quickly. However, when that vibrator is also used to massage each chakra before it ever goes near your clit, it can open up energy pathways that make your entire body feel like a sex organ. When you finally orgasm, it's like you're traveling with 30 gallons of sexual energy as fuel, instead of a cupful.
What does conscious sexuality look like in practice for couples who are new to the term?
Conscious sexuality is generally approached more slowly than most people are used to. I use the phrase "three strokes for thirty", meaning three strokes done slowly and with total attention are better than thirty done less mindfully. Also, conscious sexuality is absolutely dependent upon breath. The more you breathe, the more you feel. The very first thing I teach people interested in practicing any style of conscious sexuality is to learn to breathe more fully and deeply in all stages of sexual arousal, climax, and afterglow.
What's your very favorite bedroom advice to give?
BREATHE! Did you know you could have an orgasm just from breathing? It's true! If you want to learn how, I've made an mp3 to teach you at home. Also, get out of the bedroom. Make love in new places, especially in nature. When you move out of the bedroom, you'll need to co-create a new lovemaking space. That means you'll have to think about what you'd like to do and what you'll need in the space to do it. This mindful intention leads to more mindful sex.
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