YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD of the Kama Sutra, the ancient Hindu text that’s basically an A to Z of sex positions. But you probably assumed that it’s full of awkward and ridiculously acrobatic positions that only the most limber among us would ever try.
Well, that assumption is incorrect, my friend. There’s a reason why the Kama Sutra has been a go-to sex position guide for thousands of years: It’s full of practical, actionable tips for couples who want to mix up their usual bedroom routine.
What is the kama sutra?
The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, more commonly just referred to as the Kama Sutra, is an ancient Indian Sanskrit text.
According to Suzannah Weiss, AASECT-certified sexuality educator and sexologist for BedBible.com, it’s so much more than just a sexual playbook. While you will find advice for connecting on an erotic level—like tips for “striking” during sex (a.k.a. impact play)—Weiss notes that you’ll also find actionable advice about how to find a romantic partner and how to build emotional intimacy.
“[It’s] a guide to embracing the pleasures and the true purpose of life, including virtue, success, and desire or pleasure,” explains Shannon Chavez, Psy.D., K-Y’s sex therapist. “It was the first shame-free text on how to embrace pleasure in life and celebrate sexuality through guides on technique, relationship dynamics, and permission to be free in your sexual expression.”
The sex positions in the Kama Sutra are simply a way for you to embrace your sexuality and talk openly about sexual pleasure. Mastering the positions isn’t the goal. Use Kama Sutra sex positions to “develop new values around sexuality and debunk myths about gender roles in sex, sexual expectations, and goal-oriented thinking in regards to sex,” Chavez says.
What the Kama Sutra says about sex
The main goal of the Kama Sutra isn’t just about sexual education, says Cooper. It aims to teach people how to embody pleasure in all parts of their life—not just in the bedroom.
“The Kama Sutra teaches that it’s important to be good at sex, but also to enjoy it, to be creative and playful in your erotic adventures, and to embrace love and sex as ecstatic expressions of the beauty of being alive,” adds Jaiya, a somatic sexologist and the founder of The Erotic Blueprints.
According to Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, a sex and relationships expert and professor with a Ph.D. in relational and sexual communication, these are some of the main teachings of the Kama Sutra:
- A woman’s pleasure is just as important as a man’s.
- Penetration is not essential for a good sex life.
- Pleasure is paramount, and sex is not solely for the purpose of reproduction.
- Sex is not the only form of intimacy.
By the way—the Kama Sutra doesn’t only pertain to heterosexual relationships.
“The book also covers queer relationships and includes sex positions for gay partners,” Cooper adds.
With all that in mind, we asked experts for their favorite Kama Sutra positions. Here are a handful that are worth trying at least once—and aren’t actually impossible to pull off.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #1: Sammukha
The Sammukha position is a relatively easy position to get started with, and one you’ve probably never thought to try. In this position, the receiving partner leans back against a wall while standing and spreads their legs as wide as they can while the penetrating partner enters them. This position does lower them a bit, so if the receiver is shorter, they may need to stand on something, like an ottoman.
Although this position might seem a little awkward at first, it’s actually an incredibly passionate and romantic position thanks to all the eye contact, says Eric M. Garrison, a sex expert and author of Mastering Multiple Position Sex. It also offers incredibly deep penetration.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #2: Janukurpara
Sex standing up gets a bad rap, but the Janukurpara position is well worth it. In this position, the penetrating partner lifts up the receiver, locking their elbows under the receiver’s knees and gripping their butt with their hands while the receiver places their arms around the standing partner’s neck to hold on. Janukurpara offers extra-deep penetration, lots of eye contact, and it has the added benefit of making you look like a champion.
“A lot of acrobatic positions offer just bragging rights, but some offer bragging rights and pleasure,” says Garrison. “Janukurpara allows for great penetration, and can be the reward for time in the gym.”
Kama Sutra Sex Position #3: Piditaka
As Garrison notes, acrobatic sex doesn’t necessarily equate to pleasurable sex. The Piditaka position is a comfortable, laid-back position that has the benefit of being incredibly pleasurable. In this position, the receiver lies on their back and pulls their knees into their chest, resting their feet on the penetrating partner’s chest as they kneel in front of them. With the penetrating partner’s knees on either side of the receiver’s hips, they can raise the receiver’s hips onto their thighs and enter them.
“For those desiring the auspiciousness of the Kama Sutra even more, you can draw your partner’s feet up to touch your mouth and forehead, conveying tenderness, humility, and devotion,” says sexologist Yvonne K. Fulbright.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #4: Virsha
You probably know the Virsha by another name: the Reverse Cowgirl. In this position, the penetrating partner lies flat on their back while the receiver sits or kneels on top of them, facing their feet. The receiver then lowers themselves onto their partner and leans forward, gripping their ankles.
It sounds easy, but Garrison says it’s surprisingly tough. “Virsha is Sanskrit for bull, and as simple as it sounds, it’s no bull when I say that this is very difficult,” says Garrison. “Even the best can’t master it without practice—and what better reason to have lots of sex!”
Kama Sutra Sex Position #5: Tripadam
Tripadam is the perfect position for a quickie: It doesn’t allow for deep penetration, but it does allow for “short and fast” fun, says Garrison.
In this position, you both stand, facing each other. The penetrating partner puts their hand under one of the receiver’s knees and raises it off the floor, turning the two of you into a “tripadam” (or tripod). Then the penetrating partner can enter the receiver. (One note: This position works best if both of you are around the same height.)
Kama Sutra Sex Position #6: The Milk and Water Embrace
In this position, the penetrating partner sits down on the bed, a chair, or any surface. Then the receiver sits down on them with their back to the penetrating partner’s chest.
“This is perfect for people of all body sizes,” says Garrison. If you’re having P-in-V sex, “there is the potential benefit of four-hand stimulation for her (clit, breasts, inner thighs), and lots of leg intertwining for you both.”
Kama Sutra Sex Position #7: Indrani
Indrani is named for the beautiful and seductive wife of Indra, the supreme deity in the Hindu faith. With this position, the receiver lies on their back and pulls their knees into their chest. The penetrating partner’s knees can straddle the receiver’s hips so they have their hands free to stimulate their body, or they can be on their forearms.
“One of my caveats for any [penetrating partner]-on-top positions is that communication is key,” says Garrison. Because the penetrating partner will be able to penetrate quite deeply, it may cause the receiver pain. Therefore, “the two must communicate openly and honestly, before, during, and after the Indrani.”
Kama Sutra Sex Position #8: Uttana Samputa, or Closed Box
In the Kama Sutra, “box position” means doing it face to face. In this box position variation, the receiving partner lies on their back and the penetrating partner lies on top of them, face-to-face. You might also know it as good ol’ fashioned missionary position.
Missionary gets a bad rap for supposedly being boring, but any sex position gets boring if you do it all the time. We love this one because it’s intimate, with plenty of skin-to-skin contact and opportunities for passionate kissing and eye-gazing. (BTW, if missionary is your thing, check out these missionary-inspired sex positions that are anything but dull.)
Kama Sutra Sex Position #9: Parshva Samputa, or Lateral Box
In this box position variation, both partners lay on their sides, facing each other. Like uttana samputa, parshva samputa is an intimate position with lots of opportunities for making out and gazing into each other’s eyes. Both partners can use their upper hand to caress each other’s bodies, or even reach around for some booty play.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #10: Shulachitaka, or Impalement
The Kama Sutra’s description of the scary-sounding Impalement position is as follows, according to Yahoo: “The woman places one foot on the boy’s head and, extending the other, allows herself to be penetrated.”
If you really want to stay true to the original text, the receiver can lie on their back with one leg resting horizontally on the bed, and the other foot in their partner’s face. Or, they can rest their foot on the penetrating partner’s shoulder, if that’s more comfortable—remember, the Kama Sutra is all about embracing pleasure, so do what feels best! The penetrating partner enters the receiver from a kneeling position.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #11: Utphallaka
If you’ve ever done a glute bridge at the gym and thought it could totally be a sex position, Utphallaka is the move for you! In this position, the receiving partner lies on their back with their knees bent and hips elevated. The penetrating partner enters from a kneeling position between the receiver’s legs. (Pro tip: If the receiver needs some extra support to hold themselves up in a bridge, a sex pillow may come in handy.)
Kama Sutra Sex Position #12: Lotus
To pull off the Lotus position, start by having the penetrating partner sit down with their legs crossed. Then, the receiving partner lowers themselves onto the penetrating partner’s penis or dildo, wrapping their legs around the penetrating partner’s back. In-and-out thrusting is going to be a challenge in this position, but the receiver can grind into their partner and rock back and forth, Megan Fleming, Ph.D., sex expert for Lovehoney, explains in our Lotus position tutorial.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #13: Veshititaka, or Envelopment
Penises and vaginas come in different sizes, and the Kama Sutra offers tips for all kinds of combinations, according to Yahoo. Veshititaka—where the receiving partner crosses their legs during penetration to squeeze the penis even tighter—is apparently ideal for smaller-than-average penises going into bigger-than-average vaginas. That said, anyone can try the leg-cross move to make for a tighter squeeze during penetration.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #14: Dhenuka
“Dhenuka” is Kama Sutra for doggy style. In this position, the receiver goes on their hands and knees, and the penetrating partner enters them from behind. (If you’re super into doggy style, check out these techniques for making your favorite position even hotter.)
The Kama Sutra was all about mimicking animals in bed. According to Yahoo, the text says: “One can imitate other animals, mounting the woman like an ass, playing with her like a cat, attacking like a tiger, stamping like an elephant, pawing the ground like a pig, riding horse-fashion. Thus, one learns a thousand ways to copulate.”
Kama Sutra Sex Position #15: Peasant
This one may resemble the Milk and Water Embrace, but it’s slightly different. In the peasant position, the penetrating partner sits with their legs together, and the receiving partner straddles them, facing away. Pro tip: If the receiver has a vulva, this is a great position for them to hold a vibrator against their clit.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #16: Jrimbhitaka
Also known as “the yawn,” Suwinyattichaiporn likes this position because it should feel familiar: it’s very similar to good ol’ missionary. It also offers the opportunity for lots of sexy eye contact and physical closeness.
In this position, the receiving partner lies on their back, and rests their legs on their partner’s shoulders. Meanwhile, the penetrating partner props themselves up on their hands and thrusts from above.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #17: The Curled Angel
Looking for a position that targets the G spot? Cooper says this one fits the bill. Think of it like a more sexual version of spooning—or a more relaxing alternative to doggy style where you both get to lie down while still enjoying rear penetration.
To get into this position, both partners lie on their sides with the penetrating partner directly behind the receiver. Both partners then curl their legs up, bringing their knees toward their chests. This allows the partner in back to enter the receiver from behind. The penetrating partner can also reach their hands around to caress their partner’s nipples or clitoris.
Kama Sutra Sex Position #18: Nirvana
There’s a reason why this position is named after the ultimate state of perfect bliss. According to Cooper, it provides intense friction for the clitoris, which can lead to quite a powerful orgasm. It’s also a great position for people who prefer more shallow penetration, or who find deep penetration painful.
Here’s how to try it. Have the receiver lie down flat, with their legs stretched out in front of them and close together—leaving only enough room for penetration. The penetrating partner climbs on top of them and enters them, with their weight in their hands and their legs stretched out long behind them. Traditionally, the receiver reaches their arms straight overhead to grab onto the bedposts or headboard. The penetrating partner can use a rocking back and forth motion, rather than just an in and out motion, to stimulate the clitoris.
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance writer currently writing about Sex & Relationships at Men’s Health. In her free time, she enjoys generous pours of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, true crime podcasts, and writing music (under her stage name, BEX). Rebecca is a graduate of Emerson College (BA) and The Boston Conservatory at Berklee (MFA). She has also covered health and wellness, fitness, travel, and lifestyle for Insider, AskMen, Healthline, Health.com, Clean Plates, StyleCaster, Eat This Not That, Best Life, and Bustle.