With all the torture we inflict on our vaginas these days – waxing, lasering, chemical-laden douches, synthetic tampons and pads, antibiotics, hormonal birth control, vaginal rejuvenation surgery, bleaching, spermicides..I could go on and on – I’m frankly shocked at the recent backlash in the media about vaginal steaming.
It’s mind-blowing to me that everything I listed above is considered completely normal and okay but sitting over a bowl of hot water and herbs for 30 minutes is going to ruin our health. I mean seriously?
What’s really ruining our health is all the toxic sh*t we keep putting into our bodies, not a traditional practice that’s been used by women for a very long time.
I believe we should be asking how we can better take care of women, rather than bashing them for their personal health choices. Especially since we live in a country where maternal mortality is rising, C-sections and hysterectomies are the first and second most common surgeries among women and 58% of women on birth control use it for other reasons than birth control – regulating periods, acne, painful periods etc.
Vaginal steams, also known as bajos in Spanish or chai-yok in Korean, have been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of conditions like painful and irregular periods, endometriosis, fibroids, uterine prolapse, chronic vaginal infections, infertility and brown/dark blood during menstruation, amongst others.
In fact, I did one just two weeks ago at Earth and Sky Healing Arts, owned by my friend Katinka Locasio, a licensed massage therapist, Maya Abdominal Massage Therapist and provider of vaginal steams to women in the NYC area! 🙂
How does vaginal steaming work?
I’m gonna preface this by saying that there are no double-blind placebo controlled studies on vaginal steaming. It’s all anecdotal at this point. My opinion is if it’s working for women, what difference does it make whether there is a study or not. It’s no one else’s business what you do with your vagina.
As Katinka pointed out to me, “modern women are really suffering, so why not use tools and techniques that have worked traditionally”. I’m with ya Katinka.
According to my other good friend Barbara Loomis, a Restorative Exercise™ Specialist, and certified practitioner and educator of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy®…
“Vaginal steams have been thought to work as a uterine lavage to soften and cleanse the uterine wall of accumulated debris. The steam does not directly enter the womb, but the warmth of the steam softens the tissues and relaxes the belly and pelvic floor and increases blood and lymph flow.
Because of the abundance of blood vessels and mucus membranes, it is believed the essence of the plant compounds are more easily absorbed through the walls of the vagina. Because of this permeability, doctors often prescribe vaginal suppositories to fight infections or balance hormones.
In the first few months of doing bajos in combination with the Arvigo massage, women have reported that their menstrual blood looks different. Some women have reported blood that resembles coffee grounds (old dried blood) or even the passing of fleshy tissue.
Usually by the third month women see a bright red oxygenated blood. Even women who haven’t bled in years because they’ve been through menopause, have reported a “cleansing” of old indurated blood.
Improved blood and lymph flow increases the health of the tissue on a cellular level. I’d also like to add that outside of improving blood and lymph flow in a congested pelvis and softening the pelvic bowl, I believe the vaginal steams have a healing effect in a way that can’t be explained by science. Many women use vaginal steams as symbolic cleansing to help clear the energy of sexual abuse, rape, past sexual partners or miscarriage.”
Personally, I have found vaginal steams to be very useful for painful periods over the years. My uterus sits pretty far back and is slightly tilted (I think!) and as a result old blood gets stuck up in there relatively easily. Unfortunately this means that with each new period, my uterus has to contract something fierce to get all this hardened and thickened old blood out, hence the painful cramping. What a job our uterus’ have huh?!
So what does vaginal steaming involve?
First, I highly recommend going to a skilled Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® practitioner to get a massage AND a steam. You can do just the steam though, if that’s all you want.
Basically you get naked from the waist down, wrap a blanket around you and pop a squat on a stool with a big hole in it, above a steaming brew of herbs. The herbs usually consist of rosemary, lavender, oregano and basil but can also include motherwort, mugwort, burdock leaf, calendula, yarrow and lemon balm.
Then you hang out there for about 20-30 minutes. Pure bliss.
How to do vaginal steaming from home?
Here’s what you’ll need to prepare your own vaginal steam:
A crockpot or large bowl – metal or glass, or plastic if you’re me! Haha.
A slatted chair, a shower chair like this one, or you can put the bowl into your toilet. This is pretty easy to do with a low flow toilet that doesn’t have a lot of water in the bowl. I totally do it this way. BUT you must clean your toilet really well before doing the steam!!
A blanket to wrap around your waist and maybe one to drape over your shoulders
Herbs – I love the blend created by Rainforest Remedies. You can also find a cool wooden stool there too if you want to make this a regular habit.
Here’s how to do your own vaginal steam:
1. In a medium-sized pot containing 1-2 quarts of water, place the herbs. Boil for 10 minutes then steep for another 5-10 minutes off the stove.
2. You can transfer it to a bowl or keep it in the pot. Place the pot/bowl of water and herbs under the stool or slotted chair, or in your toilet.
3. Sit over the pot without underwear. Be careful to make sure the steam has cooled enough so that you do not burn yourself! Put your hand and forearm over the heat to test it. Vaginas are very sensitive to heat so please don’t burn yourself.
3. Cover yourself with a blanket from your waist down to the floor so that no air can get in. Keep your feet warm with slippers or socks, and drape the second blanket around your shoulders.
4. Stay seated over your pot of herbal steam for approximately 20-30 minutes or until the steam as decreased. This is a perfect time to relax – meditate, pray or just sit in silence.
5. It is commonly suggested that you do this before bed and then go straight to bed or do it at a time that you can lay down for an hour afterwards.
When NOT to do a vaginal steam/precautions:
If you have extremely heavy menstrual cycles, if you have a vaginal infection, open wounds, sores, or blisters.
During your period
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
If you have genital piercings, remove them, because the heat will cause the piercings to burn you.
Don’t use essential oils because they are too potent. Only fresh herbs.
You can do steams up to three times during the week before your period if you are experiencing extreme symptoms. Otherwise you can do them 1-2 times a year or whenever you feel like you need one. I did mine right after my period.
As Dr. Lissa Rankin, an OB/GYN says,
“I’m a big fan of checking in with your gut (and your lady bits!). What does your body tell you? Is this for you? Do you believe this will benefit you? If not, skip it. But if the wisdom of your body speaks to you and says, “YES! This is the answer for me,” pay attention.
That little voice can be much wiser than any randomized controlled double-blinded clinical trial. And as long as you’re not putting your body in danger (I personally doubt you are), what’s the harm? Worst case scenario, you’re out $50 and the pores of your vulvar skin are squeaky clean and tightly closed. And if it works to help you meet your goals, more power to ya.”
I couldn’t agree more Dr. Rankin!! 🙂
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