*Image by the talented Jem Magbanua
When it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive health, attitudes matter. Our culture shapes the way we feel about our bodies and more deeply, how our bodies respond.
“Safe sex” in classical Chinese thought is sex that does not drain the body of needed energy and vitality, but increases it.
Chinese medical history is long and traverses time to places where cultural norms about women’s sexual and reproductive health were quite different.
East Vs West – Views on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health
The Eastern wisdom traditions of both Dao and Tantra say sexual energy is a possible pathway for awakening consciousness, divine enlightenment and healing.
That is what imbibes the language that they use to describe the body.
The Sanskrit word for the female organs is Yoni. Yoni means ‘sacred space.’
The Chinese equivalent is The Lotus Flower or Jade Gate.
There was a time when Jade was the most precious stone in China. Names including Jade indicated the most precious of all treasures.
The blooming of the lotus flower in Buddhism signifies enlightenment.
Let’s contrast that with the terminology in use presently in the West.
The pudendal nerve innervates the genitalia and pelvic floor. The term pudendal comes from Latin pudenda, meaning external genitals, derived from pudendum, meaning “parts to be ashamed of”.
That should give you a quick snapshot of the difference in cultural values regarding women’s sexual and reproductive health.
Cultural Attitudes to Female Sexuality
It’s my opinion that there have been strong, recent (last 100 years) cultural influences that have shaped our view, treatment and expectations of the female body. We also inherit a history of inherent sexism in the way anatomy and physiology has been investigated and presented.
I believe this has led to a distinct lack of natural curiosity and open, intelligent communication around these potent organs and glands and how to keep them healthy and vital.
In more ancient times in the East, the sexual dynamics of both female and male bodies were thoroughly explored and researched.
They saw arousal and the hormonal cascades it released and the circulation it cultivated as a potent force of generating vitality. They also understood that humans needed practice, technique and correct environmental conditions to fully harness the potential power of sexual arousal as a healing dynamic.
They researched and came to understand:
- fluid movement
- breath dynamics
- ability to harness desire into the broader sensory experience of ‘orgasmic energy’
- focusing the mind
- taming the ego.
All yielded significant holistic health outcomes.
They developed specific technologies for both women and men.
This article focuses on practices specifically for women’s sexual and reproductive health. These practices can stand alone or can be incorporated into your existing yoga, Qi Gong, meditation or self-pleasure practice.
Before I outline the practices let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of what we are talking about.
Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Female Anatomy
How the Chinese from the Tang dynasty described the female anatomy:
Vagina: The Jade Gate or The Lotus Flower
Vulva: The Golden Valley
Clitoris: Precious Pearl or Bright Pearl on the Jade Steps
Cervix: Inner Gate
Uterus: Jade Palace or The Cinnabar Field
Saliva: Sweet Wine Spring
Colostrum: White Snow
Vaginal Secretions: Moonflower
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, organs aren’t just the organs. They are networks, connected by channel pathways.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health
The two main sexual/reproductive channels in classical Chinese thought and therapeutic practice are:
- The Ren (Sea of Yin/Nourishing Vessel)
- The Chong (Sea of Blood/most primordial channel connected to Source Qi, aka one of the first embryological fascia folds.)
These channels include:
- connective tissue pathways
- blood circulation
- nerve pathways.
They connect the:
- pelvic floor
- clitoris and clitoral body
- vaginal canal
- adrenal glands
- emotional heart
- vocal chords
- pineal gland
Here is a simplified illustration of what the Ren channel looks like:
There is lots of neural innervation to the female sexual and reproductive organs. More research is surfacing about these unique tissues and glands, what they are connected to and what they have the potential for.
A new area of research is the vagina-brain connection.
This is a pic of the Vagus nerve – the curious nerve, the ‘wandering’ nerve. It gets a lot of attention when it comes to the gut-brain connection, but it wanders further, innervating the cervix. This looks a lot more meridian-ish.
To see more closely the functional relationship of the pathways of Ren and Chong, I’d also suggest that you research recent images of:
- the pelvic nerve and pudendal nerve
- pelvic floor musculature
- MRI scans of the clitoris
- the vascular supply to the cervix.
The basic premise of Chinese medicine is that if circulation is impeded then disharmony develops, leading to disease.
The Impact of Shame on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health
So, what happens when we have shame, judgement, ignorance, fear, trauma or lack of activity in an area of the body?
Daoist and Tantric solo practices:
- Encourage the flight and fight response to switch off so that growth/repair/rest and digest can switch on.
- Increase circulation
- Initiate relaxation
- Encourage hormone and endorphin release
- Increase self-awareness
- Cultivate a loving and accepting attitude to self and others
- Increase your capacity to feel pleasure
- Align mind, breath, heart and sexual body.
They also go from external to internal in nature.
When there is a culture of shame focused on the female anatomy and women’s sexuality, these healing benefits are not attained. The good news is that we can use sexual healing practices to turn this around.
*Here is where I stress that this article is just a messenger, an introduction.*
To start working with these practices please seek support from the resources list at the end. Some techniques are explained more fully than others, so please take the terminology and conduct your own searches. There is a world of books, videos, courses and online resources if you’d like to learn more about any of this. I highly encourage you to get curious.
7 Sexual & Reproductive Health Practices for Women
(A mix of classical and contemporary practices)
These are usually guided practices until you get established in the technique.
- The Micro-Cosmic Orbit
- The Inner Smile
- Womb Wisdom
- Ovarian Temple
- Heal Emotional Pain
- Sexual Pathways Yoga Nidra Journey
2. Feminine Qi Gong
Includes breath, sound, movement or visualisation.
- Kuan Yin Qi Gong
- Ovarian Breathing
- Shakti Flows
3. Breast Massage
There is so much benefit for this technique. It’s also such a lovely practice to do. Boobies rock. They are a powerful dynamic place for women and so intimately connected to your heart and endocrine system.
Breasts are very important to take care of and are one of the easier areas of the female body to cultivate a relationship with. With regular massage you will start to notice how dynamic, intelligent and responsive breasts can be.
You can help flush the lymphatic system and your body can produce oxytocin this way. The upsurge in oxytocin helps us feel more connected – to our body, to people and life. It cultivates the impulse to self-nurture and self-love and also helps prevent breast cancer by assisting with early detection.
Check out this video if you need more direction.
4. The Female Deer
This is a seated meditation practice in which you sit cross-legged with a heel pressed gently against the clitoris, or if you can’t reach you can place a ball in between your foot and clitoris. You can, if you have the flexibility, close of the opening of your vagina with your sole of your foot.
To start, you gently encircle your boobs moving from the nipple outwards and then reverse out to in. You do this both ways about 36 times. Take your time.
You alternate between focusing your attention on the feeling of your breasts in your hands and your hands on your breasts.
After the self-massage you sit and observe the sensations occurring in your body… or you can proceed to the micro-cosmic orbit. (Which in a nutshell is visualising light or energy drawing up from your perineum/pelvic floor up your spine, over your skull, down the front line of your face and body, deep into your womb space/cervix and back to the perineum.)
5. The Yin and Yang of the Pelvic Floor
Lifelong pelvic floor functional integrity so much depends upon the interplay of good pelvic tone and your capacity to release pelvic tension. You can include simple practices into your yoga, daily life, sexual practice or exercise to keep your pelvic floor happy and able to do its essential work.
Did you know the Kegel exercises were designed by a male for men with urinary incontinence? They are not useful for women.
In France, a minimum of 10 sessions with a specialised pelvic floor therapist is offered to every woman, post-birth.
The pelvic floor is such an integral part of our architecture. It contributes to core stability and lower back support, holds the reproductive organs in place, is important for bladder and bowel function and connects to the genitalia.
For all things pelvic floor, including learning about the ‘pelvic parfait’, I highly recommend the amazing, practical and beautiful teachings of Nina Isabella aka Mamashanti.
6. Jade Egg Practice
This is a self-love, awakening, honouring and devotional ritual to heal and nourish your sexual organs and glands. You utilise a crystal egg to massage your body, sexual organs and pelvic floor, first externally and then you can insert the egg inside the vagina. Internally it’s used to invigorate trigger points inside the vaginal canal and pelvic floor.
The jade egg is a potent tool for release of stored emotion within the tissue and for connecting your mind and heart to your sexual organs.
In advanced practice there is also muscle strengthening and releasing work you can do with the egg known as vaginal kung fu or vaginal weightlifting.
For more info & resources, look no further than Wild Sacred Feminine.
7. Stimulating the Cervix
This is a deeper practice in which you create a safe sacred place to clear pain/trauma/numbness/emotions stored in the cervix, heart and sexual organs. You utilise a crystal or glass wand or fingers to gently stimulate the cervix. When you find an area of pain, tension or numbness, you soften and expand into the sensation.
This practice will also increase circulation and increase hormone delivery to the cervix, awakening its capacity for pleasure and ultimately DMT release.
Check out Self-Cervix.