canberra_doula_midwife_anne_castles

Using sage to smudge my new yoni steam throne (an up cycled commode, which has been thoroughly cleaned).

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 know well. One practice that I return to when I’m feeling tired, cranky or otherwise premenstrual is 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. Known in Korea as chai-yok and in Spanish as bajos, vaginal steams have been practiced to help restore health to the womb by increasing warmth, circulation and encouraging a normal menstrual cycle. Vaginal steaming has been used preventatively as well as to treat different conditions or reproductive issues. As with lots of traditional practices you won’t find peer reviewed studies backing up these claims, so you’ll have to be your own scientist and see how the practice works for you or not and how it impacts your own holistic health and well being over time. Quite simply the process basically consists of sitting over a big cup of herbal tea and soaking up the steam!

I’ve noticed there are lots of negative blogs about this practice in response to Gwenyth Paltrow sharing that she uses it. As I’ve said this is a personal practice, and it’s up to each of us to use our own common sense and take ownership for our own healing practices. What will feel good for one woman won’t for another. And I imagine the nay-sayers probably haven’t used this practice, and might have some disdain for women making their own choices about their holistic health care needs … ok rant over…

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
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender

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.

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Homegrown lavender, rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano, marigold and rose petals.

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. Many women like to bring their healing prayers and intentions into the water, which I also like to do.

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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.

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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/blanket around you to keep you warm and to keep the steam from getting out.

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.

***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 from the Mayan and other Mesoamerican First Nation peoples. As an Australian woman, from Greek-Irish-English ancestry, I think it’s critical to be aware of how we practice medicine that originates with Indigenous communities. There has been a long history of cultural oppression, violence, colonisation and racism enacted upon Indigenous people, and still continues to this day, and this has included being punished for practicing “traditional” medicine. Westerners can now access and culturally appropriate these practices, and in many instances claim this subjugated knowledge as their own. I want to acknowledge that I am not an expert in this or other practices, and I pay my respects to the communities where this practice originates.  I have been blessed to have this practice, and others like it, shared with me and I humbly share it here in the hope to bring greater awareness of the many ways we as women can reclaim the healing process with plant medicine and wise women practices. 

Cheers to happy wombs & happy women!

Love,
Anne

For more information:

http://indigemama.com

https://www.arvigotherapy.com

http://www.birth-institute.com/birth-wisdom-events/rosita-arvigo-vaginal-steams-for-preconception-and-postpartum

http://www.birth-institute.com/alternative-medicine-and-childbirth/vaginal-steams

 

 

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