To Yoni Steam or Not To Yoni Steam
What the heck is a Yoni Steam?
A yoni steam, a vaginal steam, a hip bath - they all describe a treatment that is meant to help with any issues that involve the vulva, vagina, ovaries, and related organs. It's a health practice in a variety of different cultures and countries, including South Africa, Thailand, Korea, and other Indigenous cultures. Though there isn't any scientific evidence of all the health benefits, many women and people with vulvas believe that it can aid in healing after childbirth, regulating menstruation and relieving menstrual pain, and treating yeast infections.
Then white women learned all about it, and it became a trendy part of a spa experience (Thanks Goop).
It became synonymous with getting a "clean" vagina, which is not how it's spoken about in the cultures that regularly practice yoni steaming. Just a quick reminder: Vaginas don't need cleaning. Part of the job of the vagina is to help remove bacteria from the body to protect the uterus, which is why there is vaginal discharge. Vaginal steaming does not "clean" a vagina.
Okay, but, like, would you try it?
I have to be honest, when I first learned about it through the lens of white women, I was angry about the hype over it. How could there be yet another procedure created to make people with vulvas feel awful about themselves? You might as well add some labiaplasty to your day!
When I learned that it was (of course) appropriated and more about the history of it, I softened up a bit. If non-Western cultures have practiced yoni steaming for thousands of years, then who am I to tell them it doesn't help in some way?
Look, I'm a huge fan of science. But I'm also a bit "Woo Light." I value evidence-based, comprehensive information, and I like to dabble in crystals and candles every new and full moon.
So, when I was with some fellow sex ed friends at a Korean Spa, feeling all relaxed and nurtured, and there was a sign for "hip baths," I had to give it a try. For science.
What did you have to do? What was it like?
Let's start with the fact that there are specific chairs being made out there just for yoni steaming. As no photography was allowed in nude areas, I sadly don’t have a picture of the stool.
Just go ahead and Google Image search "yoni steaming stools." Go for it. I'll wait...
*goes to pour a glass of wine*
Oh, hey! You back?
Aren't you happy you did that Google search? It's amazing, isn't it? These adorable stools with little openings, made just for yoni steaming!
A little hot plate with a pot with water and herbs like rosemary, lavender, and mugwort fits right underneath. There are plenty of recipes online. I wouldn't suggest that you go and try to do this on your own unless you have an extensive knowledge of what the different herbs are for and how your body will interact with them.
Alright, so, not only are you sitting on this adorable stool, but you're also given a giant mu-mu-like covering. The elastic part stays around your neck, and the rest of it creates a tent around you, the stool, and the pot of herbs. The one I tried didn't have any sleeves or arm openings. It made for really awkward tea drinking, since the woman running the hip bath station gave us little cups of tea to enjoy while we steamed.
For the first 10 minutes or so while the pot is heating up to a boil, I didn't really feel much. It was certainly warm enough under the covering. I became really aware of the air between my vulva and pot beneath me. At around the 10-12 minute mark, all of a sudden, it becomes unreasonably hot. I was then VERY aware of the heat.
At some point, the woman turned the heat down on my hot plate so that the boil became more of a simmer. It was still quite warm, especially with the covering trapping most of the heat inside there. I could feel my whole body sweating. It was like my own personal sauna - except I was sharing the experience with other hip bathers in their own personal saunas.
Part of that sauna feeling was concentrated on my vulva. I was sweating around my vulva and mons so much, it almost felt like maybe I was accidentally urinating. I imagined that the sweat and the steam were mixing and dripping, which accounted for the urinating feeling.
Was my vagina absorbing all the nutrients from the herbs? Vaginas don't just randomly absorb things like that, especially since it's constantly trying to discharge any toxins. Also, it's not really about absorbing as it is about maintaining homeostasis. I assume that the vaginal walls are trying to compensate for all the heat and moisture from the herbal steam, thus discharging excess water and other toxins.
After about 30 minutes, the session is over. We got up, removed our mu-mus and placed them in a hamper. Then, we were happily on our way to enjoy the rest of our day at the spa.
So, what did you think? Would you do it again?
My friend reported that she felt much more refreshed afterwards. I personally didn't feel anything different per se. I don't do saunas very often, but I feel like it's the same "detoxed" feeling but just around my vulva.
In the following days, I noticed that my natural smell around my vulva area was a little different, more floral and herbal in a way. It wasn’t “bad.” Just…different.
I would totally do it again, though my personal body doesn’t need it as a regular practice. But I also don’t really need saunas that often either.
As you would expect, I would rather float around in a pool or get a massage as my version of self-care.
If reading this personal account makes you go, Naw, I’m good, then there you go. Yoni steams are in no way a requirement for people with vulvas.
If a yoni steam is something that interests you, and you have access to a place that offers this service, I say go for it! Only you can know whether or not it’s something that you would both enjoy and feel is useful for your body. I encourage you to do more research into what’s available for you, what happens at the specific location that offers it, and what different people (of color) think about this practice.
As with anything sexual health related, as long as it doesn’t harm another person and it’s consensual, You do you, babes!