Central to all spiritual paths is the claim that in order to attain higher levels of consciousness, including Christ consciousness and enlightenment or liberation, the sexual drive must be controlled, and directed for spiritual purposes.
In most modern religions, this requirement is translated as complete chastity. Catholic priests, Buddhist monks, and Hindu saddhus practice complete renunciation of any sexual activity, or even any sexual thought.
For regular householders in these religions, sexual intercourse is limited to a few occasions in a lifetime for the purpose of reproduction.
The Tantrics take a different view.
The sexual energy, in the Tantric view, is embedded in the reproductive fluids, in the case of men, the semen. If a man can learn to control his sexual processes, and to tolerate extreme sexual pleasure without ejaculating, he will be able to make love for hours without losing any sexual energy. Rumours of this capacity have created some of the common misconceptions about Tantric sex in popular culture.
For women, the Tantric path is much easier. Only one type of female orgasm results in a loss of sexual energy. This is the orgasm which leaves the woman feeling exhausted, possibly also with a hypersensitive clitoral nub. Most women quickly learn how to direct their orgasmic rush to a deeper, more satisfying place.
The yogic term "brahmacharya", which means "control of the creative energy", is interpreted by ascetic traditions to mean complete celibacy. Tantrics interpret brahmacharya to be retention of sexual energy, rather than abstinence from all sexual activity.
There are two phases to ejaculation - the ejection of sperm from the epididymus, and the expulsion of the sperm-semen mixture from the urethra. The two phases are distinct, and can be controlled separately.
If the first phase takes place, but the second phase is inhibited, the sperm will still move from the epididymus to the urethra. Without semen and a forceful expulsion, the sperm will simply wash out of the urethra later, as urine passes through.
In this circumstance, the man will be spared the immediate "ejaculation hangover" of prolactin, and the multi-day mild depression while the dopamine levels rebuild. However, as the sperm are still lost, the reproductive creative energy is still lost from the body. The Tantric ideal is to prevent the semen from leaving the epididymus at all.
Tantric practice can be useful in helping men to overcome premature ejaculation - although, since the Mayo Clinic defines "premature ejaculation" as " when a man ejaculates sooner during sexual intercourse than he or his partner would like", one could argue that all ejaculation is "premature ejaculation" to a Tantric.
Tantrics work with all bodies to gain control of ejaculation.
The Gross Body (physical and bio-energetic)
At the level of the physical body, certain muscles are involved in the ejaculation process. Tantrics practice identifying these muscles, deliberately contracting each muscle group separately, and fully relaxing each muscle group at will.
Yoni Mudra: Bulbospongiosus muscle contraction, the muscle mainly responsible for the rhythmic contractions during ejaculation. This muscle is responsible for lifting the erect lingam (penis). For men, the way to train this muscle is by lifting the erect lingam with a heavy wet towel placed over it.
Shakti Chalana Mudra: Ischiocavernosus muscle contraction, the muscle used to hold back the need to urinate.
Mula Bandha: Pubococcygeus (PC) muscles contraction, also known as the Kegel muscle. This muscle connects the pubic bone with the tailbone.
Ashvini Mudra: Contraction of the anal sphincter.
The testicles move closer to the pelvic floor as a man approaches ejaculation and orgasm, so massaging the testicles and stretching the scrotum before Tantric practice or lovemaking will help relieve pressure, thus making continence easier.
At the level of the energy body, Tantrics practice sublimation, the process of moving energy from lower chakras to higher chakras. Sexual activity increases the concentration of energy in the lower chakras, especially the second chakra, svaddisthana chakra. Once this energy reaches a critical level, the system will trigger the ejaculation reflex. Sublimation is practiced routinely, every day, as well as during sexual activity.
Certain hatha yoga asanas assist with continence both physically, by stretching the pelvic floor and moving fluids upward, and energetically, by encouraging the sublimation of energy from lower to higher chakras.
The Subtle Body (astral/emotional, mental and causal)
At the level of the astral/emotional body, Tantric men are cautious about fantasising, or masturbating with visual images. These real or imagined visual stimuli can distract from the body awareness that is vital for controlling the ejaculatory muscles. Tantric men also work to develop willpower and confidence, to strengthen their ability to take charge of otherwise unconscious bodily processes.
At the level of the mental body, Tantric men study the characteristics of successful brahmachari (men who have mastered sexual continence). They set intentions which directly alter the functioning of their lower bodies, often with the support of rituals.
Control over the breath allows for control over the mind, and as a result, control over emotions and desire. It is important to be aware of the breathing rhythm at all stages during Tantric practice, and to be able to modify breathing patterns, using them to shift energy. For ejaculation control, the most important breath is a long, slow abdominal breath.
At the level of the spiritual, or causal body, Tantric men work to modify or remove any karmic patterns that undermine their success. In this sense, "karma" refers to any unconscious belief or habit, whether that was passed on by parents, developed in early childhood, or impressed on the developing psyche before birth. It is not necessary to believe in reincarnation to see the need for managing self-defeating unconscious patterns.
Consecration is a form of surrender and prayer, removing the individual ego from a situation. Consecration can be helpful in the support of continence, because it breaks karmic constraints and offers divine and positive support during lovemaking and training.