Someone said the word yoni to me personally for the first time at a recent movement and meditation class. It was suggested that we visualise ‘embracing our yonis’ and imagine them being bathed in light and love (smirk) before settling in for silent reflection.
Open my Insta feed and there it is again. Yoni wands, yoni eggs, yoni tea, yoni massage (eek). OK…so what the hell is a yoni?
Interesting that you should ask because when I Googled around in search of clear anatomical reference, I got a lot of different answers. No one could really agree on which specific anatomical organ the yoni is meant to represent. The uterus? Vagina? Clitoris? I saw it all. I eventually read on a site called Yonifest.org that the word yoni actually transcends anatomy (ohhhh….) because it’s the temple where the divine female essence can be honoured. Okay then.
I think part of the appeal of this vague word is that in the English language, there is no single word that encompasses all of the female reproductive system. You’ve got the internal organs such as the uterus (womb) and vagina and external such as the labia and clitoris. It is kind of convenient to have a single word that can apparently encompass it all.
But is this really helpful? As a massage therapist I am often so surprised that many women have no idea where their uterus or ovaries are located in the pelvis, or how often women don’t know the names of their own sexual organs. I personally find it not only helpful to know but also empowering. If for example you need to visit a doctor about pain or discomfort, it’s really useful to know your own anatomy and not rely on what someone else tells you alone. Sexual health educators also stress using correct anatomical terminology as it leads to a decrease in sexual abuse; children and adults who know the correct terminology are more likely to disclose. Food for thought.
I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m all for women feeling like they have permission to consider their reproductive organs in a more sacred or special way. For many centuries, women have felt that this part of their body is rather abstract, serving only clinical or sexual purposes. But I need to draw some lines when something that is passed off as 'spiritual' is actually unfounded or even dangerous.
So let’s put on our common sense hats and talk about some of the latest 'yoni trends'.
YONI WANDS AND EGGS
What pray-tell are these? Well, in most cases these are objects shaped like they sound, made out of jade or other crystals and intended for insertion in the vagina. Wands are meant to act as dildos and the eggs are purported to help strengthen the pelvic floor, give you better orgasms and 'balance hormones' to name a few claims. Jade eggs got a lot of notoriety on the lifestyle website Goop.com. The site was eventually fined $145,000 for making unsubstantiated claims about the eggs. Health professionals have been highly critical, citing things like infection, constipation and pelvic pain as potential outcomes of putting a rock egg in your vagina every day.
The wands are being marketed as 'self-care devices' and women are encouraged to take a 'yoni care day' where I guess they masturbate with porous crystal and hope not to get a bacterial infection? In fact, many gynecologists have weighed in on the outright dangers of using micro-porous materials such as quartz crystal, because of the potential for it to grow bacteria that can cause infection or even toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
OK so let’s move on to yoni teas. If, like me, you read that and thought it must just be some kind of herbal tea made with herbs that are toning to the uterus or help with cramps – you’d be wrong. I was pretty surprised when I read about what this actually is, which is basically a teabag that you use to 'steam and detox' your vagina in the bath. Yes…
So how it works is you drop the teabag into the hot bath and let it steep before getting in and/or hover your vagina over the rising steam so that it can 'cleanse and detox' your bits. In some cases, women are advised to actually insert the tea bag into the vagina.
Health experts warn that anything inserted into the vagina that disrupts the natural bacterial environment is potentially going to cause problems. The vagina is actually quite good at self-regulating and doesn’t need ‘cleansing and detoxing’. They further warn of the unhealthy example that is set by these products, which imply that vaginas need to ‘smell better’ or be ‘cleansed’. Um, yeah.
Lastly, let’s talk about…
So considering that the word yoni doesn’t actually refer to specific anatomy, what exactly does this mean?
Well I’m sorry to say that what it typically means is that someone, who can have any level of training from a gynacologist to a rando who paid $29.95 for an online training, is going to literally insert their fingers into your vagina, move them around eventually touch your cervix.
I’m not kidding and as a health professional I was really floored. This is presented as a type of therapy that helps women to heal. Well, if it has helped you, I’m glad? But for most people this is so incredibly outrageous, especially considering that the level of training a person may have had can be minimal. If a woman disassociates during her massage, is this person qualified to address that? Are there any studies to prove that a stranger touching your cervix is in some way healing?
What is happening in the bigger picture here where our sexual organs have been reduced to buzz words that are used to sell us therapies and products that are not only weird but potentially harmful? Is it really empowering to women to continue to not use actual anatomical terms and be sold products and services which have little or no proven benefits at best?
As a woman, it personally bugs me to be sent messages that my vagina is in some way flawed, dirty, frigid, too tight, too loose or whatever. As if we don’t have enough to deal with via the bombardment on our external body, now we’re asked to look at what is 'wrong' internally as well.
Now it’s absolutely true that women can have a history of both physical and emotional trauma associated with their reproductive organs. Rape and assault, miscarriage, traumatic birth – none of these are a joke and you have my deepest compassion if this is you. However, you deserve qualified, professional help from people who are not only trained, but experienced and can give you the best level of support.
I also get it that kegels are real and can be difficult. But it shouldn’t be dangerous or all-consuming and there are plenty of safe products and health professionals who can guide you in that arena.
In other cases, dare I say it, 'relax, your vagina is fine…' You don’t need to lose sleep, self esteem or money over these products and services.
As a licensed professional aromatherapist and massage therapist, I’m sometimes asked by clients how they can better connect with their female anatomy, perhaps due to cramps, bloating or help dealing with grief. I don’t promise to balance hormones or increase fertility, but I do teach my clients the facts about their body and safe, gentle ways to feel connected through external massage. I also have cards of trusted professional therapists on hand at all times and make referrals when the needs of the client go beyond my scope.
A really nice thing to do, especially during or just after your period is some gentle external massage on the pelvis and breasts. Essential oils such as lavender and chamomile blended in a carrier oil like grapeseed can provide additional benefits as well. Massage can be comforting, encourage circulation and potentially relieve some discomfort from fluid retention and cramps. I offer these types of services and education to private clients who I have done a full medical background interview with and work to their specific needs. Many women find it empowering to understand their anatomy and have a simple and gentle way of supporting their health.
Whatever self care you decide to use, as always, keep it safe, keep it professional and be sure to enjoy every moment of it!
Lauren Keizer-Gilbert, MIFPA is a licensed clinical aromatherapist and body-mind-spirit professional based in The Hague, Netherlands.
Belluz, J. (2018, September 6). Goop was fined $145,000 for its claims about jade eggs for vaginas. It’s still selling them. Retrieved from www.vox.com : https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/the-serious-education-of-teaching-kids-correct-names-for-genitals/article23313079/
Bielska, Z. (2015, March 5). Why you should teach your kids correct names for genitals. Retrieved September 15, 2019, from www.theglobeandmail.com: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/the-serious-education-of-teaching-kids-correct-names-for-genitals/article23313079/
Boundless. (n.d.). The Female Reproductive System. Retrieved September 15, 2019, from www.boundless.com: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ap/chapter/the-female-reproductive-system/
GOOP. (2019, September 15). JADE EGG. Retrieved from www.goop.com: https://shop.goop.com/shop/products/jade-egg?country=USA
Raghuran, Y. (n.d.). Anatomy of Female Reproductive System - Ayurvedic Perspective . Retrieved from easyayurveda.com : https://easyayurveda.com/2018/11/29/female-reproductive-system/
Roshini, R. (2017, November 22). Can 'Yoni Teas' Really Make Your Vagina Smell Nice? A Doctor Weighs In. Retrieved September 15, 2019, from www.health.com: https://www.health.com/sexual-health/yoni-teas
Scott, E. (2017, September 2). It’s not a good idea to use herbal yoni tea to detox your vagina Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2017/09/02/its-not-a-good-idea-to-use-herbal-yoni-tea-to-detox-your-vagina-6898138/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://
twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/. Retrieved September 15, 2019, from www.metro.co.uk: https://metro.co.uk/2017/09/02/its-not-a-good-idea-to-use-herbal-yoni-tea-to-detox-your-vagina-6898138/
Thompson Publishing. (n.d.). Yoni Massage Online Training Course. Retrieved September 15, 2019, from www.proprofs.com : https://www.proprofs.com/store/course/?id=64765
Yoni Fest. (n.d.). Did You Say Yoni? Retrieved from www.yonifest.org: http://www.yonifest.org/definition-yoni-english