The How and Why of Semen Retention
In the Yoga Sastras it is said:
Maranam Bindu Patanat, Jivanam Bindu Rakshanat.
Falling of semen brings death, Preservation of semen gives life.
There comes a point in every Tantric Sexuality workshop where I mention that in Tantra, the men choose not to ejaculate (noting that ejaculation and orgasms are not the same, Tantra fully supports orgasms without ejaculation). It’s always an interesting moment, filled with various reactions. Some men nod, completely understanding, having already discovered this for themselves. They are, of course, the minority. Some think it’s a joke, some are flabbergasted at the very idea. Most have some serious defense mechanisms that immediately spring into place such as – ‘It’s ok for others, but not for me’ or, ‘but I’ve read studies that say ejaculating frequently is good for you’ or just plain shutting down and blocking out this message.
I fully expect to get similar reactions to those reading this article. If you’re still reading then don’t worry – I will both explain why it’s a recommended practice in Tantra, and some tips from experience on how to integrate this into your life easily.
“My dear brothers! The vital energy, the Veerya that supports your life, which is the Prana of Pranas, which shines in your sparkling eyes, which beams in your shining cheeks, is a great treasure for you. Remember this point well. Veerya is the quintessence of blood. One drop of semen is manufactured out of forty drops of blood. Mark here how valuable this fluid is!” – Swami Shivananda
It is recognized in Yoga and in Ayurveda that semen is the essence of the life-force of men, and that there is a direct connection between the loss of semen and the loss of life-force. Which it must be – it is the very stuff that, when mixed with essence of woman, can create life; the essence of life-force.
Many professional athletes notice the loss of energy that accompanies ejacutlation. In an article on expertboxing.com it is written, “Having sex before a fight,takes away your motivation to succeed.”and “From my own experience, it’s much better not to have sex [before a fight]. I can even feel the difference during my training days with sex and without sex.” It is said that Muhammad Ali would abstain from sex for months before his title matches.
According to the Yogis, this life-force energy is not just connected to physical vitality. It is also the energy that supports one’s emotional, mental and spiritual states. The notion of the five bodies tells us that all of our ‘bodies’, the physical, energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies are interrelated.
The idea of these more subtle aspects are supported by Einstein, who wrote, “What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.”
Almost certainly you have noticed the loss of energy and vitality that follows ejaculation, especially as one progresses in age. However, the more subtle effects are often overlooked, as they are, by definition more subtle. From my own experience, and that corroborated by many colleagues and students, is that there is a resulting drainage from all of the bodies of man as a consequence of ejaculation. A feeling of being emotionally flat, or low, with less zest for life, and more irritability. Being mentally dull, unfocused and scattered, with a difficulty of focus and concentration. And a loss of spiritual aspiration, devotion, and much less general consciousness.
These more subtle effects are also difficult to notice if this is one’s constant state. It takes often some time of retaining one’s life-force substance before these states begin to shift. At which point the loss is then drastic and obvious.
In other words – semen retention not only grants more physical vitality, stamina and endurance, but more energy for every aspect of life – creativity, emotional well-being, mental and intellectual pursuits, and for the spiritual path. This is beautiful expressed by the following quote from Mantak Chia (who is not Tantric but Taoist – a Chinese spiritual path that also recognizes the importance of semen retention)-
“The enormous investment of our bodies in producing sperm energy is to speed our overall evolution. The more successful a man is in transforming his stored energy (sexual) into higher creative and spiritual energy, the more rapid his evolution… If this immense reservoir of psychic energy were to be redirected towards love and spiritual harmony, the possibilities for peaceful existence seem unlimited.”
The process of learning to master one’s sexual energy, to retain the semen and to separate the ejaculation from orgasm is certainly a challenging one. It’s a good thing that men thrive on challenge!
This process is also highly individualistic, taking much self-awareness and willpower. However there are certainly some practices that are vital to this process, and some steps that seem to be commonly experienced.
One idea that is crucial to the successful and healthy practice of semen retention is sublimation.
Sublimation is the process of lifting the energy within the system, from the lower levels to the higher levels.
Sexual energy is generally connected with the lower two chakras, muladhara and svadisthana, and isolated there. If one doesn’t raise this energy during sex not only is not-ejaculating nearly impossible, but will result in an overabundance of heavy, dense energy in the area of pelvic floor, and testicles afterwards, gifting one with the wonderful experience known as blue balls. Leaving energy in these parts of the body again and again is unhealthy, and has been linked with an increase in prostate cancer.
However if one practices sublimation of sexual energy during, and especially after, engaging in sexual activity, this energy doesn’t remain in the lower chakras. Rather it flushes up through the entire system, activating all the energy centers of the being, and spreading out throughout the rest of the body. The sublimation described is vertical, but there is also a horizontal one, in that the energy refines and transmutes and spreads into the deeper bodies, energizing the emotional, mental and eventually the spiritual bodies as well.
This process is, in fact, a huge reason why sex has been included amongst the Tantric techniques – because of the ability to easily create huge amounts of energy in the lower centers which can then be shifted, or planted, into the higher centers of the being. The higher centers, such as the heart chakra, the third eye and the crown, facilitate higher states of consciousness such as unconditional love, spiritual devotion, non-attachment, lucidity and clarity. These centers are not as easily energized as the lower, so practices that activate them are important.
There are many different techniques that achieve the sublimation of sexual energy. Two of the easiest and most obvious are the inversions – literally turning oneself upside down and performing shoulderstand (sarvangasana) or headstand (sirsasana). These must be practiced for a long duration to have the desired effect. Take care to build up the practice slowly, starting with however long it’s comfortable to hold the position, and adding a minute a week to that performance, until one is able to hold the posture for 5-10 minutes or longer.
However the most powerful technique (that can safely be given to beginners) is known as Uddiyana Bandha. This technique combines the use of breath and a bandha or lock from Yoga, and mental concentration. It requires a bit of practice, but is one of those techniques that will change your life. Click here to receive a free tutorial on this practice.
If one is celibate, then this section of the ‘how’ doesn’t matter at all, however I assume most readers will not be taking that route. In that case it’s important to learn to be more aware of one’s sexual energy during sexual encounters. We track this with the understanding of arousal and curves of pleasure, and the recognition that there is a point that, if you go beyond it, you will ejaculate. Learning where this point is, and how close one can get without going over the edge, is an important part of the process of not only retaining one’s energy, but also of learning to separate ejaculation from orgasm.
The best practice for this is called ‘edging’. That is, getting close (but not too close) to the point of no return, and then backing away and letting the arousal calm down a bit. And then getting close, backing away, getting close, backing away, etc. Repeating this process again and again can eventually lead to certain types of orgasms, give a lot of pleasure, an ultimately help the brahmacharyi to contain his vital seed.
The last point I’d like to make is to think about how to approach semen retention. I know many men that, when they first learn about this and are convinced of its importance, decide to never cum ever again, from there on. 99% of them make it for one week or one month, and then through a moment of weakness or mistakenly getting to close to the point, ejaculate.
This fills them with shame, remorse, and a determination to do better next time, which starts a cycle of self-flagellation continues until the eventual mastery or completely abandoning the practice out of a sense of defeat. I know this by my own experience in fact.
What I wish someone had told me, and I suggest now to others – is to slowly wean oneself off of this habit. Remember – our bodies are biologically programmed to ejaculate. We are culturally conditioned to ejaculate. And we have been training our bodies to cum since we first learned to masturbate, however many years ago that was. This are incredible forces that we are up against! So the method I suggest is the following:
- Choose a target number of days that seems easily doable to not ejaculate. Perhaps 3-7. Cultivate your willpower during those days, practice sublimation and edging, but do not cum.
- When you have reached the chosen number, then actively choose to ejaculate. Do so consciously. Pay attention to the experience. Notice the pleasure, notice the thoughts directly before and afterwards. Bring awareness to your energy levels, emotional and mental states directly afterwards and for the next few days.
- Repeat the process, choosing a slightly more difficult benchmark. If first you chose 3 days, now try 7. If first it was one week, now do two.
Continue this cycle, each time allowing yourself to consciously ejaculate, with awareness, and each time then lengthening the time in between. Eventually, one will know, in the bones, that ejaculation is not helpful, not healthy. No longer is one just basing this on what others have experienced and shared, but is deeply felt and understood. At this point the deep craving for this emptying will start to fall away.
There are many more things that could be said about this process, of course. If you have questions ask them below, on the Facebook groups, or contact me for private coaching.