The Yoni Steam
Interview with Emma Etaka Ako founder of Mama Luna
What is the origin of vaginal steaming and cleansing and where is it popular today?
Womb steaming takes place all over the world but has origins in South Africa. It is most popular in rural areas in Africa in rural areas in Nigeria, Bakino Faso and Ghana.
In northern Africa it is also practised in places namely Morocco. As well as Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan.
Yoni steaming is practiced in rural areas for post pregnancy wellbeing. Usually there is a 40day ritual to help get the body back to full health and yoni steaming is used for this.
Outside of the continent yoni steaming is popular in Korea and in Thailand where it’s called Chai-yok
In India steaming is practised in the Ganges region and it is here the practice is called Yoni steaming. Yoni means temple or sacred gateway. And in Europe the practice of yoni steaming in most popular in Poland.
Womb steaming is most commonly used from puberty in Central South America in countries such as Peru where it is called Bajos. But the western society is still just coming on board with steaming.
What made you start learning about yoni steaming?
Well, I have always been into natural health.
In my early to mid-twenties I explored in my curiosity towards natural health and I was really interested in women’s empowerment.
I was really interested in sisters circles and wicca. I had read articles about witch craft – to be clear the origin of witch craft before being demonised! I found myself focused on West Africa and England. I learnt a lot on how to use nature, herbs and tinctures to heal. What was important to learn was how women held this knowledge as the healers of the community.
Then I read ‘Scared Women’ by Queen Afua who is based in Brooklyn, New York. This was a guide to help cleanse the womb, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I came across yoni steaming in the book and it took ages for me like 6months after finally reading the article to try steaming. This was because I was not in a place yet where I was empowered about anything to do with my womb. So for me it was a natural journey from natural health, women’s empowerment, and reclaiming wisdom of being carriers of natural health.
My family looked at me like I was a witch at first. I’m not from a family of this understanding. I am from a Cameroonian family. My family is very conservative and no conversation about the body were had. Even starting my cycle there was no discussion of the change, when growing up you had to wing it, or use magazines or ask the school nurse. So I do not come from a background with an empowered or positive outlook on women and the womb. The womb was not discussed. But my family have been open to what I do now and it has been a journey and now three of my sisters are into steaming too.
How do you find vaginal steaming has been embraced by the black community?
It has definitely been embraced by the US more, probably linked to Queen Afua’s book. They have been more ahead of the times in terms of having the conversations about the womb and steaming. Even most of my sales come from the US.
In my research more magazines are owned by women and as a result they control content and the yoni eggs are becoming a popular feature.
Over here however, it is very challenging. Even though we are in Britain a lot of us 1st or 2nd generation still have our parents and grandparents mentality and are largely conservative in our views.
Another blocker is that women may have difficulty embracing the womb health because of a lack of safe spaces for women to speak about it. I know that black women do not feel safe by the black community. So there are still a lot of conversations to be had on this where women feel they are not going to be judged or rejected. But I think we are definitely on the way. So far I had been to events in Brixton, London. These were simply introductions to womb steam but it’s hard to get women to come. And that’s because they’re aware of the shaming they might receive from anyone who sees them at the event.
For me a safe space would be a place where women know that all judgement and negativity is not allowed. When I facilitate sessions I would ask that all women understand we are all at different points in our journey and we are not all empowered by the same thing and that is OK. No questions is out of bounds and there are no wrong questions. There would be no barrier to anything.
A major part of making the space correct would mean no men at the events is allowed, not even children. This is because there is no distractions from what we are talking about. Any words that might trigger emotions such as coercion or rape would be flagged to the group.
Also, finally I setup an altar with precious items and burning oils this is to help the attendees be comfortable in the space they created. It does a lot for the atmosphere and energy.
What are the benefits of steaming and how have you found it?
Where do I start??!!![in west African accent]
The benefits are so far and wide. On a physical level: it is very relaxing. The steam rises up through the womb relaxing the parasympathetic system and sends signals to the brain to let you know that you’re relaxed. This in turn makes the brain create the chemical dopamine and sends through the body. This is great for relaxation and helps those with mild insomnia.
Steaming helps as a great way to detox. The steam reaches the large intestine on top of the womb and works to draw out toxins.
For a women’s period the steaming helps to bring them on if necessary and helps to reduce those who experience heavy bleeding.
Most periods are 2-3 days full on and a few days of spotting. The steaming helps to reduce flow and duration for those with a heavy flow.
It’s also great for women in menopause. It’s all about the connection between the nervous system and the brain. There is a major disconnect and the steam helps to balance that out. Those transitioning into menopause can be surprised by how dry they get and the steaming provides natural lubrication.
For people who experience panic attacks the steaming is like a reset button. For those with panic attacks and anxiety slowing the breathing and to focus on the stomach not the chest is important, otherwise you are in the fight or flight mode. The steaming helps to relax the nervous system, slow down breathing and bring the breath down to the stomach to relieve the panicked feeling.
Yoni steaming is also good for boosting fertility and increasing the chances of conception. This is because the natural state of the womb is alkaline and this is also the best environment for sperm. As steaming helps with detoxing it breaks down any acid in the womb.
For postnatal women steaming helps to tighten up muscles and repairs the tissue damaged from the birth.
Steaming also helps to remove /stop bacterial infections, mainly bacterial vaginosis. As steaming also reduces the stagnant dead energy in the form of acid sitting in the womb, and is great to naturally breaking down fibroids as they thrive in an acidic environment. The heat and steam will work to breakdown the fibroids bit by bit as they’re made from tissue cells. So as well as helping with fibroids, steaming also helps with managing endometriosis, PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome and cysts.
Finally, steaming is a showing self-love and self-care. It is really great to just be there. 20-30mins is good for someone who is new to it.
It’s a great way to bring awareness in the womb as a physical structure. We are not taught about the vagina in general. So steaming is an amazing way to feel the womb. I can’t say it any other way!
When you are aware the muscles get stronger, and awareness of the womb develops too.
Womb empowerment is so important. It’s a muscle and source of life. So all women need to know how to take care of that part of themselves.
So yeah, steaming is gentle yet extremely effective!
Those are the basics. It is important to note that the effects will vary from woman to woman but it is very beneficial.
What advice would you give a woman who wants to start steaming?
I would advise to set aside a good chunk of time in the evening. You must be completely uninterrupted.
The biggest stumbling block is creating the time.
Set aside time and a nice space for yourself, low lighting, incense and oils. A lot of women say that they don’t have the time but it truly is worthwhile.
Women should boil the kettle, put herbs in a bowl and add the water for 5-10mins.
Steam for about 20-25mins.
Before I used a pot but it was cutting into my thighs. Some people squat but this position puts pressure on the legs and you can’t really relax.
So I was happy to start making the seats. You must be comfortable to steam. It’s important as the muscles will begin to relax, and when the steam hits then if you are tensing up it undoes the work of the steam.
I encourage women to really build themselves a ritual out of it. I am a massive advocate for it now compared to my life pre-steaming. Take each steaming session as it comes.
One of the things that benefited me after 3 months was that my period pains practically disappeared and it’s a great way to connect back to my cycle. My cycle became so regular and I was so in tune that I could physically feel it coming on and it’s been amazing! I understand my body and my emotions so much more, plus can use the energy of each part of my cycle to manifest and create magic!
I advise women to try and be as authentic and present as possible. Do a journal and you can look over it. Journal steaming is important so you know what does and doesn’t work for you. And your own personal development and reconnection.
You feel a deep level of self-love and care. All those years of silence, shame and stigma is steamed out of the vagina. Left is love, adoration and a deep sense of self love or care. I journal and see the amount of effort to remove the role religion has played to put a taboo on my female body. Steaming is a strength from a positive side of you, using the wisdom of herbs.
Embrace the journey. It is beautiful!
For more information on Mama Luna visit https://mamaluna.bigcartel.com/
Emma Etaka Ako founder of Mama Luna
12th Oct 2018