Let’s talk about sex. No, really! This week I chat with Robyn Vogel, therapist and tantric intimacy and professional sex coach, about tantra and when to start talking to your kids about sex.

I think when most people hear about tantra they still make jokes about Sting’s sex life. What, exactly, is it?

Tantra is an ancient practice—a set of tools, mainly meditation and breath work, that support you in connecting on a very deep level with yourself, with God and, if you choose, with another. It’s a beautiful marriage of sexuality and spirituality, of connecting to spirit, God or goddess energy, and exploring yourself and your life with open eyes, arms and heart. One of the common myths I hear over and over about tantra is this: “Tantra is just about sex.” The truth is, tantra is so much more than that. Yes, there is a sexual component, and it’s about being in your body in a more complete way. It’s about experiencing less stress, more energy, better breathing and, yes, more extraordinary orgasms. But tantra isn’t so much about the sex itself as it is about using your sexual energy as powerful life force energy to manifest all that you deeply desire and deserve.

Sex can be a difficult subject for couples to talk about. How do you break the ice with couples in your sessions?

I find that most couples have sex but don’t talk about it! That can make it challenging when they come see me. Of course they work with me because they want to begin talking about sex, and in many cases, want to have more of it! I use a series of ice breakers to help couples begin talking about sex. Here’s an example of a few things I tend to use with couples I work with:

  • I ask them to talk with me about sex first, before talking directly with their partner
  • I provide a list of questions to ask each other, and themselves, to make it easier to initiate a conversation
  • I use a vulva puppet, a soft, stuffed animal-like puppet in the shape of a vulva, which is instructional and fun for couples to use and laugh about
  • I’m very comfortable talking about practically anything, and I think my own comfort, humor and open heart put couples at ease fairly quickly, so that even though there’s a big elephant in the room, we manage to begin a healthy, open conversation about a taboo subject

What’s a good age to start talking about sex with your child?

As early as possible! Conventional wisdom tells us that if we are awkward, kids will be awkward. If we give them a message that it’s not OK to talk about sex, they will grow up believing there’s something wrong with them, or their bodies or their natural sexual desires. As parents we need to normalize sexuality as much as possible and teach them responsible practices. Start early with age-appropriate conversations. Use things in your natural environment as springboards—something you see on television, or people you see in the park, books you read together, your own experiences and more. Keep talking and stay open to hearing anything and everything your child has to say, or ask.

What’s your best piece of advice for people reading this column?

Most couples who come to work with me are having difficulty in their sexual connection. It’s easy to get away from being sexual, and the more you stay away from each other, the less connected you feel and the harder it is to come back to love together. We end up feeling like we are “doing” too much and not simply “being”—it’s this being/feeling/relaxed place that makes it easier to reconnect with our partners and be open to being sexual again. The No. 1 way to shift out of that place of disconnection is to connect with your breath. Most people end up so disconnected from themselves that they forget to breathe.

I know it may sound too simple to be a secret, but it’s not. Tune in to your breath right now. Even while you’re reading this column, I invite you to sit back, get comfy and pause. Take a very slow, long, deep inhalation, followed by a slow and intentional exhalation. This simple breathing practice immediately brings you out of your head and into your body. It slows down your nervous system, calms down your entire body and brings you out of thinking mode, which is usually focused on something in the future or the past, and into the present. Your breathing is your direct path to your heart. They don’t call it inspiration for nothing. Inspiration comes from God. Breathing consciously is your direct line to God and your spirituality, and it can, if you want, be your direct connection with your partner as well.

Four questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!