As I write, I am emerging from some time out after a week or so of strong physical and emotional release (and with Samhain just behind us the timing feels good for this, despite the discomfort! are you with me?), and also integrating our immersive four day Tantra and relating retreat with our dear guides Karam and Raaji last week. It was a deep trip into our inner worlds of sexuality, sensuality, the masculine, the feminine, boundaries, fears, old imprints, blockages and the wonderful landscape of conscious communicating… and in my personal journey a profound invitation to explore my own sexual energy and flow on a deeper level, as I revisit the work no longer as Maiden but as Mother. What a potent transformation from the tantric perspective… and knowing that I will always be finding ways to integrate the trauma and imprints from the difficult birth of my first child, it’s an invitation that is so very welcome. I share it here as this is a sphere in which we can get lost, in shame, judgment, sadness, grief and the rest… and yet if we can face these mirages and stay with the journey, we can uncover the life force and source pleasure that is every man and woman’s birthright and which might not be so far away after all.
I spent the morning after the retreat in a prayer to my temple – with which I have also lost touch on some levels as the demands of motherhood and its adrenaline pull me in ever new directions – and its most sacred centre, practising a herbal yoni steam and honouring the source energy flowing within, however it feels and looks in each moment.
I was first initiated into this ritual by dear Samsara Tanner, who closed my bones after giving birth and included this in her healing ceremony. I knew right away that it was good and gentle and nourishing and an almost mystical conversation with my deepest centre and the magnificent herbs which offered themselves up to it, and it’s a practice I feel every woman, of any walk of life, can receive great benefit from both physically and energetically. As we know, we are open portals.
Before we speak about the practice itself, I want to take a moment to open a new conversation here, as I see how vital working with our sexual and creative centres is on the path to wellness and vitality. And I have already touched on this with an introductory expiration of yoni egg practice. For some, I know it feels a far (and perhaps daunting) cry from the healthy food and holistic recipes that this blog was born of; for others, it’s an area of the healing path we fearfully hope (or ardently tell ourselves) we can bypass because to look with honesty at the stories, emotions and beliefs we hold so very deep within us can be almost too painful to bear; and for yet others, who live in vibrant sexual relations, it might not seem that there is anything to look at here. And then for the mamas – those who have created, birthed, grieved or transformed on the most profound level whatever their journey, the yoni becomes something so vastly different than what is was before, coming home to her new incarnation can leave us lost in the woods of our own changing physical landscape.
The good news is: there are many ways to open the softest, gentlest and most loving dialogues here, and to fully be well, we must. This is wellness at our core. Simply using water (of which we are the carriers) and flowers is a perfect starting point; as we receive the medicinal steam, we open to the goodness of mother earth, we are cleansed, warmed, comforted by the plants and by pachamama, as the energy travels upwards. And as we breathe and receive, we can visualise that which no longer serves being released, transformed away with the alchemy of the steam, and we return anew. It’s simple, sacred and connects us with the golden thread of ritual to all those women who have practised before us. As they healed and blossomed, so we heal and blossom, and there is kinship in that.
So, when to steam? The wisdom I received stated that part from moon time or any other bleed, yoni steaming can be practised whenever feels good (of course, if there has been injury, surgery or you are healing exposed reproductive tissue in any way this is not an appropriate time). It is advised by some not to practise it while pregnant, and if you have an IUD ten minutes is recommend as sufficient (or you may wish to avoid it completely until it is removed). For some women with particularly heavy cycles, steaming may help to detoxify and lighten the symptoms. Have a google and a world of information comes up – personally I see this not as a textbook exercise, rather as another invitation to connect more deeply to our own rhythms and see when and how it works for you. When does it feel right and needed? How does your womb respond? What lunar and menstrual phases are you passing through and how does the experience correlate? Every woman is unique, as are her rhythms, and her bodily intelligence, so it seems counterintuitive to say the least to enter into a one-size-fits-all mentality, in this most personal of arenas. Feminine self-knowledge and empowerment doesn’t come from someone else’s schedule.
That said, if you ever experience feelings of physical discomfort or unwellness, give the practice a rest and try again another time. If emotions come up, they are welcome, and the wisdom of the detoxification; if you hold trauma or a strong story in the area and need therapeutic support it is good to seek some to explore what’s coming up in a safe space.
And then, which plants? The floor is open and I would love to hear your ideas or recipes. Personally I recommend the gentlest and most calming herbs: lavender, chamomile and rose are my go-to trio. It doesn’t need anything else. Many cultures and traditions use a wide variety of plants, but I would recommend some proper research before you go for anything rare or potent, or not recommended for use when pregnant or breastfeeding (indications of the latter).
The how is up to you. You will need a metal bowl, a blanket or a towel, a candle to create a sense of sacred space, and a pocket of time where you can simply be, and feel secure in your aloneness. Some prefer to sit on a chair, or bolster, with a blanket around bent legs and knees to keep the steam contained, while for me the best place is on the toilet.
Light your candle, turn off the lights and smudge the room. You might like to use a mantra, affirmation or prayer to open the space. Have your towel or blanket close by and any supports you’ll need to be as comfortable as you can be. Place a generous handful of herbs in the bowl, and fill it with an ample amount of freshly boiled water before carefully placing it in the bowl and then replacing the lid. Undressed from the waist down, sit on the seat and wrap your towel around your legs to create a seal around the steam.
Connect to your breath, extending the in and out breath. Sigh, let go, open your body slowly.
As you breathe down into your heartspace and your belly, gently invite your womb and yoni to open and relax.
Allow them to simply receive the steam and the plants, keeping a deep and soft breath throughout. Whatever thoughts arise, let them pass like floating leaves in the river and come back to your body, your belly and your yoni. Let go, let go, let go. The rest can simply happen.
When you intuit that it is time to finish, stay slow, and soft, and try not to rush or come back into your thinking mind too fast. Slowly dry yourself and stay warm, giving a moment of gratitude to the water, the plants and your own beautiful body, and close the space in your own way.
You can return the herbs and water to the ground with thanks and love.
Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical practitioner or childbirth practitioner, and all information given here is simply drawing upon my own experience and offered as a guideline. I do not accept responsibility for any personal injury or harm that may arise from engaging with the practices outlined above.