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Tantra: pleasure as a medicine

Feaure3 1

Tantra. That’s sex right? Isn’t it what Sting does? Well no. Not really. Here in the western world, we’ve somehow associated the ancient practice of Tantra with sexual activity: we talk about tantric sex, and conjure up visions of the Kama Sutra and climaxes which last for days. But Tantra is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘to weave’, and it’s actually a spiritual science – a journey of self-enquiry, an evolution of consciousness. And it’s also, says Cyprus’ first tantric healing therapist Stefanie Nicolaou, a way of being.

“Through time, the word Tantra in the west has been largely misinterpreted, confining its meaning solely to a sexual act,” she explains. “But the pure essence of Tantra is an embodied way of being: it’s pleasure as a medicine. Possibly what confuses us,” she continues, “is that Tantra is about learning to consciously captivate sexual energy in the body, and then store it as Chi or Life force energy and access it for healing, creativity, vitality and as a route to heightened consciousness. It helps us uncover what we truly are by our nature so, rather than being something we learn, it’s something we remember.”

Feature3 2Stefanie herself was awakened to Tantra over a decade ago, and is currently a tantric healing therapist based in Nicosia. A tantric facilitator – as well as a birth doula and bodywork therapist specialising in pregnancy, fertility, birth, and mindful sexuality – she works with men, women and couples across the spectrum of sexuality, fertility, birth and postpartum. “I’m here to help you see what you already know – help you to take the empowered responsibility for your own journey: holding space for healing, support and empowerment, offering an integrated mind-body approach that bridges modern science with ancient somatic Tao -Tantra practices.”

Initially, Stefanie studied Medical Genetics, the ‘codes’ that hold life together, and Clinical Embryology at the University of Oxford, learning about the science of conception, fertility and pregnancy. But “clinical science on its own felt incomplete; it was unable to answer the deeper questions about fertility and intimacy, about the body-mind connection and human disease – or dis-ease, a state of being not at ease with something within. I wanted to find,” she adds, “answers that made sense to me. So I began studying metaphysics, inner alchemy and vibrational medicine…”

Training as a birth doula Stefanie started researching how touch and intimacy affects perinatal psychology and the human experience from conception onwards. And this led to her study of Tao-Tantra and emotional detox through bodywork, providing her with the ‘missing link’ for her work and the tools for addressing disease at a cellular level.

“The body has a memory of who we are; it cannot lie,” says Stefanie. “Unprocessed emotions connected to our experiences and underlying lifestyle stresses are stored in the body’s cellular memory: negative thinking patterns, trauma and trans-generational belief systems accumulate in the body as ‘bio-energetic’ blockades which affect our health and wellbeing. In today’s modern lifestyle, we’re in a constant state of fright or flight: a left-brain state, the place where our past traumas and negative experiences lie. We feel we’re under attack all the time, and that creates a lot of cortisol, the stress hormone, which affects our digestion, and can cause anxiety and depression. And because the way we live, our habitat, our environment is very stressful, we tend to seek out things that will give us an instant high, things which will produce the opposite hormones, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, such as food, alcohol, drugs, sex. And though none of things are bad in and of themselves, the way we use them can be very harmful.

“Tantra,” she adds, “helps us to calm these responses, stabilising the fight or flight response and teaching us to access the parasympathetic nervous system on demand, using pleasure as a medicine. There is so much taboo around our body’s pleasure, around sensuality – but it’s one of our most innate mechanisms. When we feel pleasure, it’s actually easier to create neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to form new pathways. And Tantra helps us bring about this neuroplasticity by giving us tools to access our brain state on demand, releasing blockages, and allowing the cycle of emotions to be completed.”

Feature3 3And this is exactly what tantric bodywork addresses. Working with a combination of massage, breathwork and healing, Stefanie uses the life force and sexual energies naturally generated in the body to rebuild blocked neurological connections, and to overcome negative imprints, numbness and toxicity.

“Tantric Bodywork is a holistic therapy that uses deep tissue massage in combination with slow application of touch in a safe, sacred environment of trust and love,” she reveals. “This allows the receiver to engage his or her sense of feeling, and release emotion stored in the cellular memory. I’m here to ‘hold’ the person so they can feel safe in their body, fully present, whole, expansive and real.”

And that’s where the sexual energy comes in: a skilled tantric therapist will help a person access their innate sexual energy to break down barriers of guilt, fear and shame, igniting the body’s self-healing mechanism and facilitating physical, emotional and mental balance. “Bringing back,” says Stefanie, “innocence in our sexual expression.

“Tantric bodywork isn’t something most people in the west would turn to, or even consider,” she smiles. “But it’s been practised for thousands of years – even here! Don’t forget the practices of ancient Egypt and Rome and Greece, and the temple practices of those who worshipped Aphrodite here in Cyprus. These may have been lost over the years, but they share the same root as Tantra: they focus on breath, sound and the ability to be fully alive within our own body.”

An aid to everything from sexual dysfunction to fertility problems, depression and anxiety, addictions and self-esteem and self-acceptance, Tantra is well known, says Stefanie, to improve relationships, intensify one’s capacity to feel pleasure and increase the ability to receive and give intimacy.

“Sexual energy is our creative life force – it exists in everything and it’s what animates us, what moves us. But it’s not just about sex: the way we eat, the way we breathe, the way we are alive – Tantra is about making love to life. When I work with someone,” she continues, “the focus is not on sexual pleasure, but on learning to access our sexual energy, learning to burn the blocks created in the body by negative experiences, and to use sexual energy for healing and emotional detox.”

The majority of Stefanie’s sessions – which start with an extensive medical history, and will include a full consultation, followed by bodywork, breathing, connection rituals and between-session support – are with women. “My innate call is to work with women, to help them trust their instincts and their bodies. Tantra covers things that no other discipline works with in quite the same way, things for which there is no real ‘cure’ in medicine, such as episiotomy, the birth experience, or sexual abuse.”

But an increasing number of couples are seeking her help, and she’s noticed more men becoming interested in the practise. “Men mostly want to try out and see, or a specific problem with say ejaculation and erection, or connect to their emotions more, maybe understand women more.

“I find the people who come to a tantric bodywork session are those who want more out of life. People who are seeking an increased sense of happiness, better health, or more joy. And, honestly,” she concludes, “who wouldn’t want that? You, me, all of us – we deserve to live the best life we can, regardless of our past. And that’s exactly what Tantra does.”

 

For more information on tantric healing, visit https://www.womenawakenings.com/

 

 

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