You’ve read about it in private internet forums and seen it boldly displayed in the erotica aisle of your local bookstore. It’s inspired racy adult board games and lines of plush, contoured furniture to accommodate lovemaking. But when Indian scholar and philosopher Mallanaga Vātsyāyana compiled the Kama Sutra somewhere around 200 BC, he likely never imagined that, more than 2,200 years later, some of its elements would seep through consumer culture and follow so many couples into their bedrooms.
Contrary to mainstream perception, the Kama Sutra is not merely a sex manual jam-packed with complex and kinky positions to spice up your love life. Rather, it’s a dense, sacred text that presents an exploration of desire, intimacy, and living through a spirit of unhinged curiosity and liberation. There are prompts about different styles of kissing, embracing, and touching, as well.
“It’s about deepening into your body and making new discoveries about yourself and your engagement with your partner,” says Keeley Rankin, MA, sex therapist and relationship coach.
So while erotic poses are only a fraction of what the ancient text involves, the good news is that we channeled wisdom from the sexperts and rounded up a few of its most arousing takeaways. Ahead are answers to commonly asked questions about the Kama Sutra, as well as nine positions for you and your partner to experiment with together—ones sure to bend your flexibility and raise your sexual connection to new (ahem) heights…
Before you get into position, keep a few things in mind…
Although you may be tempted to rush off to the bedroom, Dr. David Yarian, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist, suggests that you first leave your expectations and judgments at the door… and simply invite an atmosphere of play. Because while you and your partner may be excited to draw inspiration from the Kama Sutra’s wellspring of sexual poses, you shouldn’t become so consumed with performing them “correctly” that you miss the beauty of the journey, which is unabashed pleasure. “I encourage my clients to explore sensual touch, learning to ‘taste’ or ‘read’ each other. The idea is to heighten sensitivity to pleasure, whether giving or receiving,” says Dr. Yarian.
And while most assume that fulfilling sex is instinctive, Dr. Yarian says it isn’t at all. “Humans have to learn how to ‘do’ sex. Many of my clients believe the goal is orgasm, and are in a hurry to get there,” he says. “But the focus in sex is rightly pleasure—giving and receiving it—and soaking in all the sensory delights: the taste of your partner’s lips, the smell of their hair, the touch of their smooth skin, the visual of their form.”
“We go to eroticism in order to fully let go and be free—like when we are moaning, panting and moving in undulation. And that search for freedom is actually a spiritual experience,” adds Rankin. “The Kama Sutra is about accessing that energy.”
The Kama Sutra can be for everyone.
While most of the poses involve vaginal penetration by a male, same-sex couples shouldn’t be driven away. Any couple seeking to deepen their sexual and spiritual connection can draw inspiration and modify the moves. “It’s about entertaining your curiosity to try something new, whether or not its performed exactly according to the original design,” says Rankin.
So, let’s get started.
Feeling confident—especially about your posterior view? This one’s for you. Similar to the reverse cowgirl position, it has an empowered, goddess-like element to it.
To execute, the male partner simply lies down on his back, and the female climbs on top of him, sitting upright, with her derriere positioned toward his face. Then, she gently rocks her hips, arching her back in an up and down motion.
Quarantined with a house full of screaming kids and only have five minutes to spare for a quickie? You can still give your modern-day sex life a nod to the ancient with this fun, to-the-point position.
Both parties stand, facing one another. The male partner cups his hand under one of the female partner’s knees, and raises her leg up until it rests in the realm of his torso, creating the effect of their bodies becoming an actual tripod. This allows for easy, short and fast penetration.
The Milk and Water Embrace
Got a taste for adventure? This one involves the use of a chair (the more cushy and comfortable, the better) with no arms.
The male partner positions himself in the chair first, and then the female partner sits on top of him, facing away. For this one, the intensity of penetration is symbiotic, allowing for creativity and shared control when finding a rhythm.
This one is especially great for couples who are long distance or who are reuniting after a stretch of being physically separated, because it allows for total-body contact, passionate kissing, and intimate eye-to-eye gazing. Essentially, it’s a more lazy and relaxing variation of the missionary position.
To achieve, both partners simply lie down across a comfortable surface, their legs stretched out and aligned. The female partner opens her legs as narrow or as wide as she wants, depending upon the desired intensity of penetration.
Queen of Heaven
Literally named after a queen, the wife of Indra, this one is rumored to send lovers soaring straight through the gates of ecstasy.
To accomplish, the female partner lies on her back, her knees bent closely into her chest. The male partner positions his thighs on the outside of her legs, penetrating her and using his hands for increased pleasure.
Imagine a gorgeous flower unfurling its delicate petals. For this one, the male partner kneels onto the bed or floor and elevates the female partner’s hips while her head remains lowered and resting on the surface. Her legs fall securely on either side of his hips, keeping their lower halves as closely together as possible.
This pose appears pretty and graceful, but don’t become disheartened if you’re not quite flexible enough to achieve it, advises Rankin. “Unless you’re regularly practicing yoga, you’re not going to be able to execute many of these positions perfectly, but the key is to keep trying and enjoy the adventure,” she says.
To give it a go, the female partner stands and faces the male partner, balancing delicately on one foot. She then wraps her opposite leg around his waist for support.
Splitting the Bamboo
For this one, the female partner stretches out across the bed, shifting her weight slightly to one hip. She then raises that same leg up and rests it on her male partner’s shoulder. Her other leg remains stretched out on the bed, giving him freedom to control the rhythm and intensity of penetration. The best part? Her only job is to simply breathe… relax… and enjoy.
This is a beautifully intimate position, creating the effect that your bodies are literally “padlocked” together. It allows for plenty of hair tugging, sensual nibbling and kissing.
While seated on a firm, secure surface such as a dining room table or a dresser, the female partner reclines back slightly. The male partner leans into her, pulling her toward him, lifting her pelvis up and cradling it securely. Locking her legs around his torso or hips, the female partner then clasps her feet together as he dominates penetration.
Still curious? Consider Modern Tantra…
If your curiosity remains piqued, Dr. Yarian suggests you explore Modern Tantra, which he describes as “an amalgam of tantric principles from ancient Indian teachings with insights of modern psychology and sexology.”
He recommends The Art of Sexual Ecstasy, The Art of Conscious Loving, and Urban Tantra to his clients. Each offers unique introductions into deeper realms of sexual experimentation and personal evolution. But regardless of what sparks you choose to follow, Dr. Yarian stresses that the best mindset with sex is one that is “less goal-oriented and urgent” and more curious and explorative. Because the point is the process of discovering pleasure.
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