My girlfriends and I have a Whatsapp group, whereby around 50% of the conversations involve them laughing at my “crunchy, new age” ways – in a totally supportive way, I might add. So it was only fitting that just before partaking in my first vaginal steam (we have always been very open about our menstruation, sex lives, and anything to do with down there), I sent the group a picture of the steaming herbs as they floated serenely in a Pyrex bowl inside my toilet bowl, surrounded by candles. You can only imagine the response.
I’m constantly making my friends laugh with new additions to my holistic lifestyle. The important thing is that they laugh more at how Lauren it is, and support me regardless. Really, though, I often hope that they’ll take up one of my new ideas and implement it into their own lives, because when I find something that improves my general wellbeing, I want this for them, too, especially when, between all of us, we have suffered from menstrual, uterine, urinary, fertility or related problems in one way or another.
So why do I want them – and you – to consider vaginal steams?
Vaginal steaming – or yoni steams (yoni is the Sanskrit word that encompasses female genitalia as a whole, including the vagina and womb) known as “Bajos” in Mayan tradition – is an ancient global practice for cleansing, healing, & nurturing the woman’s reproductive system, and is being fervently revived by women today, thanks to Dr Rosita Arvigo.
Dr Arvigo is a Doctor of naturopathy, an herbalist, an international lecturer, and an author and teacher of Maya medicine. Dr Arvigo is the Director of the Arvigo Institute and she is the author of six books on the traditional healing of Central America. She has lived in Belize for thirty years where she studied with more than a dozen traditional healers. She is also the founder of The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy and runs courses in Maya Spiritual Healing. She is passionate about preserving the science and art of ancient medicines for the modern age.
My own remission only came about when I tapped into the knowledge that Mother Nature provides us with everything we need to heal, we just need to listen to her, so Dr Arvigo’s work really spoke to me and I set about to find a Maya Abdominal Technique therapist locally to me, who got me onto vaginal steams.
How does a Vaginal Steam work?
A vaginal steam is done much like a facial or nasal steam, except that in this case, a woman allows the steam from a pot with boiled water and herbs to reach the outer lips of her vagina. The tissues of the vagina are exceptionally porous and absorbent, and the warmth of the steam works to soften and open them.
When the herbs are placed in the hot water, their medicinal properties, including volatile oils, are released and carried to the surface of the skin, and to the inside of the vagina, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream and into to the uterus.
The herbal steam increases circulation, thins mucus, and cleanses the entire reproductive system, allowing it to shed unnecessary membranes and build-up. The results are varied, and can be amazing.
As reported by women for thousands of years, the treatments can:
- Significantly reduce pain, bloating and exhaustion associated with menstruation
- Decrease menstrual flow as well as reduce dark purple or brown blood at the onset or end of menses
- Regulate irregular or absent menstrual cycles
- Increase fertility, especially when combined with Mayan Abdominal Massage
- Speed healing and tone the reproductive system after birth
- Treat uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, uterine weakness, uterine prolapse and endometriosis
- Assist with the repair of a vaginal tear, episiotomy or C-section scar
- Assist with the healing of haemorrhoids
- Treat chronic vaginal/yeast infections, and work to maintain healthy odour
- Relieve symptoms of menopause
- Detoxify the womb and remove toxins from the body
How to do a Vaginal Steam
A brief consultation with your practitioner helps guide the session to best support your unique womb. After the consultation, the therapist will select the right herbs based on your history, and will talk you through how to do the steam. If you already have the herbs, here is how you do it at home:
Simply put a Pyrex bowl inside your toilet bowl, tip a cup-full of the dry herbs in, and fill with boiling water. While you let the water cool a little, prepare the bathroom by making sure it is clean and warm, turn off bright lights and light some candles, and turn on some meditation music. Check the temperature of the steam with your hand – making sure it is not too hot, to avoid burns – then sit (making sure you wear thick socks and are wrapped in warm blankets) for 20-30 minutes and enjoy the sweet, herby aromas that fill the room, as well as the warmth from the steam that will penetrate the delicate vulva, perineum, vaginal canal, cervix & uterus for an effective yet gentle womb cleansing process. It is a perfect time to meditate and set intentions, especially if you are doing this for increased fertility. Use the time to visualise your womb holding a baby.
Be sure to do this in the evening, and try to go to bed straight afterwards. The herbs continue to work on your reproductive system as you sleep, and you’ll wake up feeling healed and pampered. If you are like countless other women who have tried vaginal steaming, you’ll notice that your next period will be more comfortable, with reduced cramps, limited bloating and less fatigue, although the first period after a steam could be fairly heavy as a result of cleansing.
There are many herbs that work well for vaginal steaming, but if you’re not into the idea of steaming your undercarriage with the same herbs you cook dinner with, there are numerous medicinal and aromatic herbs, some rare, that healers and midwives have used throughout history to support the female reproductive system.
My therapist gave me a mix of marigold, cornflower, rose bud & lavender.
Some other common vaginal steaming herbs are mugwort, motherwort, yarrow, lavender and partridge berry.
How could it help your vaginal, menstrual or fertility problems?
From the Maya Abdominal Therapy perspective, women often have painful periods because they have indurated or encrusted fluids from previous menstrual cycles that have not been flushed. The combination of plant oils and steam moves into the uterine walls. The uterine walls are a bit like hills, valleys and mountains if you observe under a microscope. In between the parts of the membrane that rise, is something called the “venous lakes”. In those venous lakes is where we find the accumulation of incompletely flushed menstrual fluids from previous cycles. It tends to accumulate and then harden there, so by steaming, we are essentially “steam cleaning”. The plant oils then have their own effect of breaking up, separating and moving things along. The fact that it’s soothing, and helps you focus on your intentions for female health, also contribute.
How does it work for fertility?
There may be many reasons for infertility, but one of those reasons is induration of the uterine wall. When steaming is combined with Maya abdominal therapy – the deep external massage on the uterus – great results have been seen. After the treatments, once the uterus has really been cleaned out, therapists have seen pregnancy within 1-3 cycles. Of course, many things affect fertility so it can’t be relied on solely, but even if the build-up in the uterus isn’t the issue, who wants to put a baby in a dirty crib? Therefore, cleansing of the uterine membrane before pregnancy can only be beneficial.
It is also very good in pre-ovulation, to make sure that the tissue is moist and that the cervical fluids are clear and copious. It is used preovulatory to improve ovulation, and of course with improved ovulation and egg quality, we enhance our chances of fertility.
During fertility treatment
Steaming once at the beginning of stimulation and once before your embryo transfer helps to create a lubricated path for the insertion of the catheter through the cervix.
When not to steam / contraindications
- If you are pregnant
- During your period
- After embryo transfer
- If you have any infection
- Those with IUD
Free Your Yoni
The times of women’s health, periods and vaginas being taboo subjects are well and truly over. Now is the time for women everywhere to reclaim their right to femininity, their right to fertility and the right to be able to talk openly about it. How can we possibly expect to be healthy if we don’t understand our bodies or listen to them?
This is just one more way of using Mother Earth to enhance our physical and emotional wellbeing.
It’s time to retreat back into our proverbial red tents and really discover and heal our own bodies.
To learn more about conscious menstruality, I recommend this book.
Happier yonis mean happier women!
Happy yoni steaming, ladies.
Love & health,
To find a practitioner near you, click here