I’m always speaking with pregnant women and new mums about the importance of self care. Taking the time to care and nourish our bodies through times of stress and busyness is a challenge most of us face regularly. One approach that I’m reviving lately to nourish myself when I’m feeling tired, cranky and premenstrual is through ritual, warmth and herbs for womb health.
Introducing the yoni (aka vagina) steam…
This is an ancient practice that has been used by traditional midwives and healers cross culturally in many regions of the world. When I spent time in Central America a few years ago I came across this practice when learning about traditional Mayan approaches to health and healing. Vaginal steaming has been used in traditional medicine to restore balance in the womb, and has been used to treat many reproductive health issues including fibroids, dysmennorhea (painful menstruation), amenorrhea (absent menstruation), endometriosis, and ovarian cysts.
Known in Korea as chai-yok and in Spanish as bajos, the vaginal steam helps restore health to the womb by increasing warmth, circulation and encouraging a normal menstrual cycle. Quite simply the process of vaginal steaming is basically just sitting over a big cup of herbal tea and soaking it all up!
***An important note**** Although the renown healer and lecturer Rosita Arvigo has brought more awareness (to Westerners) of the healing benefits of the ancient practice of vaginal steaming and other traditional health practices, it’s important to acknowledge that this medicine is borrowed from the Mayan and other Mesoamerican first nation peoples. Hence I want to humbly acknowledge that I am not an expert in these practices, and I pay my respects to the communities where this practice originates. As a Australian woman, from an English-Irish-Greek descent I think it’s critical to be aware of how we practice medicine that originates with Indigenous people. There has been a long history of cultural oppression, colonisation and racism enacted upon Indigenous people, and this includes being punished for practicing their own medicine. In a sick twist of history and thanks to globalisation Western people can now access and culturally appropriate these practices, and in many instances claim this subjugated knowledge as their own. I have been blessed to have this practice, and others like it, shared with me and I wish to share it here so that it may assist other women in their own journey and dance with whole-health.
When to do the Vaginal Steam?
- In the week before your menstruation is due
- In the weeks after you’ve given birth
- After miscarriage
When NOT to use the Vaginal Steam (contraindications):
- When you have an IUD (intrauterine contraceptive device) in use
- If you have a fever or infection
- When you are pregnant
- When you are menstruating
- After a caesarean birth (wait for 6 weeks or until you feel ready)
- Also don’t use essential oils in the steam as these are too strong.
- Anytime it doesn’t feel right for your gorgeous body!
- If you have questions about your particular health concerns, consult a practitioner for more information.
Choosing the Herbs
- Rose petals
- Marigold flowers
Fresh is best, if not then dried is fine too.
DIY Vaginal Steam Instructions
Step 1. Pick your herbs from the garden or use dried herbs. I use a few handfuls of a mixture of whatever is growing well. I have all of the above in my garden so I use them all.
Step 2. Put herbs in a pot with water, simmer on stove for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and allow to stand and steep for 10 more minutes.
Step 3. If you don’t have a commode (a throne) then you can either squat over the pot, or if you like to relax and do less work then use a metal bowl that can be put inside the toilet rim. For obvious reasons you need to only use the bowl for this purpose (special yoni bowl!). Place the bowl in the toilet (it should be just the right size so it stays close to the seat), then pour your herbal tea into it.
Step 4. Dim the lights, create a sacred, undisturbed space and take a seat. Removing your clothes from waist down of course!
Step 5. Wrap a towel around you to keep the steam from getting out anywhere.
Step 6. Make sure your body stays warm enough, especially your feet.
Step 7. Soak up the magic and enjoy! You can sit for about 30 minutes or as long as you feel comfortable.
Cheers to happy wombs & happy women!
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