This post, in honour of International Women’s Day 2019 is kindly supplied by the incomparable Yvonne Lumsden of One Love Medicine for the Soul based in Melbourne, Australia. Yvonne – complete with deep and friendly Scottish accent – could be called ‘The Vagina Whisperer’ if that weren’t so limiting. She does, in fact, offer a wealth of wisdom and provides a range of services to men and women needing help to find their way. She is also a Reiki practitioner and teacher, a published author and Kundalini dance facilitator. In this guest post, hopefully the first of many for Fifty Plus Me, Yvonne introduces us to the ‘Yoni’ and what it means to us as in our fifties. Over to Yvonne …
What is a Yoni?
You may be asking: “What is a Yoni?” ‘Yoni’ is a Sanskrit word that encompasses the female sexual and procreative organs – the vagina, vulva and uterus – and, loosely translated, means ‘divine passage, sacred temple’. The word is Hebrew in origin, derived from ‘Yonatan’, meaning ‘gift of God’ and it is pronounced “Yoh nee”.
The anatomical words and what they mean
Vagina is the internal canal that connects to the uterus, also known as womb. Vulva refers to the outer area of the genitals.
I use the word ‘Yoni’ nowadays. For me my body softens and relaxes when I hear this word and ‘womb’ for my uterus. It’s whatever feels true for you.
Where it all began, from a 50-something woman
The sex education I was given could really have been written on the back of a postage stamp for how helpful it was to me. I learnt that my vagina was functional; it’s where babies are made and come from. I didn’t even know that I peed from a different place – I thought it was all in one! (This continued on to when I trained as a nurse. I still didn’t know my anatomy as a young woman.)
I certainly cannot remember pleasure or self-love being spoken about in sex education. Sex was something to be fearful of because you could get pregnant and “woe be tied you” if that happened; shame on you!
I was brought up with the word ‘vagina’ as a child, adolescent and young woman. I had an instinctive dislike of this word; my body would cringe on hearing it, and partly, I’m sure, because of the shame associated with this part of my body. I also felt a harshness to the word; it reminded me of the queen somehow: Regina vagina! So I would rarely say the word, but what could I use instead? Nothing, which sums up my past relationship with this part of my body. I was cut off, disconnected from “her”. My Yoni is not separate from me, so I was disconnected from all of me. She provided me with a release of tension, gave me great pleasure and I could use my sexuality as a force over men when I was feeling insecure or lost within me. Back then I didn’t know any of this. I thought I was having a good time and if I had a bloke at the end of the night, it was a good party!
I was under an illusion of being a sexually empowered woman. I didn’t subscribe to the “it’s ok for men but not women to have sex without a relationship” way of thinking so on one level, perhaps I was an empowered woman, on a deeper level there was also a hurt inner child within me.
What’s this about an inner child?
You may be asking yourself: “This is an article about Yonis and now she’s talking about inner child??”
The reason is because as young children we take on, absorb and believe … from society’s influences, interpretations and messages about sexuality and body image, to our cultural, religious, families, friends and teachers’ messages. Then there are our own personal experiences, from childhood to adulthood, with lovers, partners, doctors, nurses, past sexual experiences and sexual trauma. these influences and experiences begin to form our belief about ourselves as a child and as an adult.
I want to draw your attention to something as you read this. There is a woman reading this information and inside of this beautiful woman there is an exquisite inner child; the most fragile aspect of you and the doorway to ecstasy! This wee soul heard messages about her body, words that were used by her mother, parents, teachers, friends who all felt differently as they said the word ‘vagina’. She soaked this in and made interpretations about herself and her body based on this.
I want you to consider, what were the wider influences you may have taken on and believed to be true about your body, your Yoni? I want you to consider them free from the blame shame judgement game, from a place of compassion for yourself.
How your Yoni was referred to?
Was she met with reverence, love, beauty, care and sacredness? Or considered something shameful, dirty, dangerous, something not to be touched or explored because that was bad? Did you hear a loving message along the lines of: “Just as our faces are unique and beautiful, so are our Yonis!”?
We have all had many experiences, probably more than you realise, that have impacted our relationship with our Yoni and being a woman. Experiences of becoming a woman and bleeding, our first sexual experiences, comments made towards us and our body. We have different experiences around childbirth, terminations, miscarriages, sexual trauma, menopause, prolapse, operations and episiotomies and they all have a bearing on our relationship with our Yoni. Some of these experiences, I never gave a second thought to and just got on with it. I was unaware of the pain, both physical and emotional that I held in my yoni – at times of discomfort when having sex, I’d force my way through, and other times there would be no pain. The times when I ignored the pain, I was abandoning me and betraying me! This may sound dramatic and over the top but at the core of my being I was not loving me and looking after me, to give myself what I needed from a place of love. I came to discover that my physical pain was my Yoni talking to me, letting me know something, and I was ignoring her.
My physical pain was my unresolved emotional pain; old hurts, past experiences of all the times when I said yes to sex when really my body was saying “I’m not ready yet”; pain from miscarriage, termination, pain carried through the female lineage in my family.
The first time I experienced a healing Yoni massage, I felt pain like no other. The inside of my vagina felt as if she was on fire yet at the same time, I had a strong sense of all the women in my past generations there with me. I was healing my pain and the transgenerational pain of shame. This might sound a bit out there, I know. I’m personally not one for focusing on past lives for we are in this life and when we focus on what’s here in this body, the past takes care of its self. I do know that we store old memories, messages and experiences in our dear body.
This is not uncommon when women come to me for healing Yoni massage/mapping sessions. Old memories, at times long disregarded, surface for healing.
Our bodies change as do our Yonis; I don’t believe we are encouraged to celebrate and accept those changes. Instead, they come with scrutiny, judgement that something is wrong such as getting old, skin changes, needing to fix it up as if something is ‘broken’.
If we listen to media, we tend to focus on the looks and appearance rather than sensations and feelings. How do you feel when you see your Yoni? How do you feel when you touch your Yoni? How do you feel when someone else touches your Yoni?
Do you show how you’d like to touched, stroked? I didn’t. I played ‘good girl’ and went along, too sacred to say anything, and also because I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted and, more to the point, could I ask for what I wanted?
Underpinning all those questions is this … what is it I didn’t want to feel by asking for what I wanted?
I’ll tell you. I didn’t want to feel embarrassed, ashamed, rejected by the other or abandoned and worthlessness.
Now they might sound like heavy duty words; we are at the core now, the core of emotion of what is driving your relationship with you as woman and your relationship with your Yoni. Is it fear or love? Is it your dear inner child that is at the wheel driving your bus through life, or is it the woman?
I have come to learn that when I approach sex (and really this can apply to life) slowly and gradually, coming home to me first and foremost, whether with my partner or me on my own, my body relaxes and more pleasure occurs.
So, this is our job as a woman; to come in and look after this soul, to let her know she is safe, so loveable and that she has done nothing wrong; she’s beautiful and perfect, exactly as she is.
Only when your body and your dear inner child feels safe will your body begin to relax. Feelings and sensations will arise. We cannot experience and feel pleasure or any other feeling while we are in a state of fear and contraction. If you feel numb, check out, your mind is racing, or you feel paralysed and going through the motions, this tells me – your body is feeling scared.
This is not about thinking our feeling of fear away or distracting ourselves as this only creates more fear and disconnection. As a result, we fall into a cycle, a loop in our mind.
Exploring your own Yoni
I invite you to bring the beautiful qualities of curiosity, innocence and compassion along on your journey and do whatever you’d like to do to make a date with you.
To explore your woman’s body from a place of childlike innocence and curiosity, find a mirror and if you’ve done this before … sloooooow the experience down, Beauty. Your mind may say “ah I’ve done that before”, but you’re a different person now. Let’s get curious about what occurs for you now.
I’ve a deep feeling of love and appreciation and awe for my Yoni, for what she has taught me about me. When I look at her, another layer of love and acceptance surfaces; another layer of uncomfortableness, shame or judgment may also arise for healing. I meet more of me as a woman as I sit with myself and allow uncomfortable emotions to pass through me and dissolve. I may cry – a lot or my eyes may just well up. I allow myself to feel all with a deeper knowing that these uncomfortable emotions are not the truth of me. They’re just an old layer coming to the surface for healing and transformation.
Our Yonis can change like the rest of our body; lubrication may change, skin may change colour and texture, perhaps your Yoni has changed after childbirth. This is all natural.
I spent a long time trying to fix me or be someone other than me. That is, until I became my own best friend. The time has come to stop trying to improve ourselves. This is a bottomless pit that our egoic mind will have on the go forever and a day. We need to surrender and love and accept ourselves for the incredible beauties that we are.
I love to see us human beings – men or women as flowers – all so different in shapes, sizes and colour. Nature doesn’t compare itself; I can’t imagine one flower comparing themselves to another!
About Yvonne Lumsden
Yvonne is a Reiki Master, Kundalini dance facilitator, relationship mentor and photographer. Originally from Scotland, Yvonne has travelled around the world speaking at sexuality conferences, facilitating workshops and retreats, guiding individuals and couples to develop a deeper understanding of themselves.
With more than 30 years as a general and mental health nurse, Yvonne’s approach is grounded in results and offers practical tools to shift and heal emotional and physical wounding.
Through sessions, classes, workshops and retreats, attendees experience a greater understanding of themselves and get to know what’s really going on. They leave feeling calm, confident and empowered with a deeper connection with themselves and more loving communication with others.
Yvonne’s innovative book Heart of the Flower: The Book of Yonis is an inspirational, provocative and educational work that celebrates the female body and challenges sexual taboos. The 164-page hardcover book features stunning photography, along with heartfelt personal stories shared by women and men.
Heart of the Flower is designed to celebrate and showcase the feminine in all her forms. A deeply healing and empowering book for women and men. A gift for all families as an inroad to open up conversations around sexuality with teenage children.