Tantra is a complex tradition, interwoven with the spiritual teachings of India and beyond.
Unfortunately, Tantra in the west today has come to be associated with special sexual practices, different sexual postures and sexual rituals.
Although this does represent an aspect of tantra, thinking that tantra is characterized by sexual practices would not cover the truth.
While some tantric teachings mention such practices, they are not necessary parts of nor the main focus of tantric yoga.
True yogic traditions center on mantra and meditation. Many tantric texts contain no references to sexual practices at all.
Tantra is a life and body affirmative approach to the spiritual path.
There are two main approaches on the tantric path:
Is the renunciate tradition. On this path all sexual activities are voluntarily given up. This path allows the aspirant to focus entirely on practice. It is more strenuous, and is the exception rather than the rule in all times and cultures. In the modern age and in western world there is no cultural tradition to supports this approach.
Is the householder tradition, in which moderation in sexuality is practiced.
This tradition may include sexual yoga practices. It also aims at sustaining the social order through the family system, and thereby emphasizes sexual purity and loyalty.
Tantric teachings are an integral part of the spiritual traditions of India. In India a tantric master usually means a person who is a master of mantra or an energetic type of yoga practice. There are well-knows great tantric teachers who were life-long celibates. This does not mean that one has to be celibate to benefit from tantra.
Many great yogis have come from householder traditions, and many vedic rishis were married and had children. In the hindu tradition human beings can live a householder life and fulfil their social and family duties and still achieve liberation.
Yoga and so tantra yoga does encourage self-discipline and is part of an organic process of higher evolution whereby we naturally come to transcend our outer limitations into a state of inner freedom and contentment. In the yogic prospective our real happiness resides in consciousness, not in any material form, identity, or activity, still we must not give up what provides us with happiness, rather we should consider where our real happiness comes from.
Yoga tradition does not reject sexual energy either. Celibacy is only recommended along with spiritual practices to transmute that energy for usage on another level.
Tantra is a body-affirmative form of spiritual tradition, as opposed to teachings which negate the body. Tantra sees the body as a mystic symbol, and affirms the importance of the body as a temple for the divine and grants it a sacred reality.
Even though the body is not our true Self, we should respect the body and care for it properly because it is our means of gaining experience and enlightenment. Without energy and sensitivity in the body we cannot go far on the spiritual path, and we shall follow the natural intelligence of the body that shows us how to use it in the right way.
Tantra is associated with the worship of the Goddess, the feminine aspect of Divinity, however it does not limited to Goddess worship. Tantric teachings focus on Gods as well (Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and others). It affirms that the God and Goddess go together, support each other, and shall be worshipped together.