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S1 E24: Vaginal Steaming with Kit from Kitara

podcast Jan 06, 2022

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Amanda: Hey, this is Amanda, women’s health dietitian.
Emily: And I’m Emily, nutritional therapy practitioner.
Amanda: And this is the Are You Menstrual? podcast where we help you navigate the confusing world of women’s hormones and teach you how to have healthy periods.
Emily: Each week we will be diving into a different topic on women’s health and sharing our perspective using nutrition, female physiology, and metabolic health.
Amanda: Our goal is to help you wade through conflicting health information and empower you on your healing journey.
Emily: We hope you enjoy it.

Amanda: In this episode, we are diving into a fun and sometimes controversial topic—vaginal steaming, also called yoni steaming. I'm joined by Kit Maloney who has been in the world of women's health and wellness for over 20 years. Over the past two decades, she's been an academic, entrepreneur, victim advocate, and pleasure activist. Kit earned a master's degree in gender and social policy from the London School of Economics and has been featured widely in the media, including Glamour, Self, and Bustle. Marie Claire named Kit an “Amazing Woman” for her work celebrating women's sexuality. After experiencing for herself the tremendous healing benefits of vaginal steaming, Kit set out to help spread the word on yoni steaming magic all over the world by launching her newest venture Kitara.

Kitara makes beautifully designed and handcrafted products for safe and easy in-home vaginal steaming. You can check it out at kitaralove.com. And I'll link that in the show notes as well.The Kitara product line includes everything you need to see. And this is why I really like it and why I was so drawn to your products. I was like, I'm new to this, I need this to be easy. I need to not hurt my brain trying to figure this out. So from whether it's like a one-on-one consult, which I did do with Kit, I'm sure we'll talk about that. But also gorgeous steam seats, you have great herb blends that are specific to the person which is really cool. And then special hand-dyed robes and blankets. Kitara makes it safe, easy and joyful to benefit from the ancient healing modality of vaginal steaming in the comfort of your home. So thank you for being here, Kit, I can't wait to dig into all this.

Kit: Oh, man. I'm so excited to be here. Thank you.

Amanda: So I'm really curious, because I know that steaming is obviously very special to you. Why did you get into it in the first place?

Kit: Yeah, thank you, as you beautifully shared my bio, I've been in the world of women's health and wellness for many years now, two decades. And about four years ago now I first heard of vaginal steaming or yoni steaming. And at the time, I was doing work really focused around women's sexuality and using orgasm for healing and stuff that's, you know, pretty on the edge. So I was coming from a perspective of thinking I was open minded and pretty aware of a lot of modalities, particularly holistic modalities.

And I was at this workshop for learning about female ejaculation. Again, so I'm like thinking I'm pretty, like, switched on. And there are a bunch of women talking about the benefits of yoni steaming and how much they loved this practice. I was really struck by my initial skepticism, I had this initial voice that was like, this is too much, this is too weird, I'm not doing this. And I was driving home from that workshop, and really struck by that consideration that here I am really doing this work to try to expand our consciousness around orgasm and self-pleasure and being in connection with womb space energy and the divine feminine—and I still had this resistance to exploring other modalities.

And so I like to say that this was one of several moments of realizing patriarchy’s grasp is strong. And so I had that awareness and realized I could change the skepticism into curiosity. And a couple of days later, I booked my first yoni steam appointment. And I was living in Denver, Colorado, at the time. I drove up to Boulder, met with this wonderful practitioner who had been guiding women through yoni steaming for many, many years, and I had this unbelievable experience in my first time steaming, where I really felt connected to my womb space. I felt this energetic release, an opening that was very profound, and connection to feminine energy in a way that was really special. And this is coming from me, who had thought, I had known that I had already done lots of work like this. And so to realize that there are still so many additional modalities and that yoni steaming was one that I could explore and deepen with was super exciting.

And so from there, I started to notice not only the emotional and spiritual connection, but then for the first time in my life, my period pains were just eliminated. And I was like, holy smokes, this is really, really cool. And I hadn't, I had considered myself lucky, because I probably took an Advil once a cycle, and maybe two to three times a year I'd have a really painful bleed and…isn't our world, it's kind of wild that, like, that was positioned as, like, oh, you're a lucky one. And after I started steaming, I had no stagnation, no brown blood before or after my bleed, and I had no lower back pain or cramping. And that sustained throughout the several years. So I started studying, because I had this amazing experience myself, and I wanted to learn more and more.

And then, in my studies, I ended up becoming a practitioner and was really excited to share more expert information about the practice. And two years ago, I thought, I want to buy all the things, so, like, sign me up, kind of like you were saying you were ready to do it. And it just wanted to go to a place where it was really easy to purchase everything needed to do it safely and comfortably in your house. And at the time, there wasn't a brand that was meeting the mark and so that's when I decided to launch Kitara so that we could have really beautiful, expertly crafted, handmade yoni steam seats out in the world. And we now have six custom herb blends and a variety of steam pots and beautiful hand dyed blankets and robes, as you said, so…

Amanda: And candles.

Kit: And candles, yes.

Amanda: Oh my gosh, my husband will not stop using the lavender. I, he's got, like, foot issues, he's been using it to massage his feet and I was like if you use the whole candle on your foot, I'm gonna…

Kit: My husband too, we should, they should be promoters of the candles, because my husband when I first gave him a back massage with it…So for our listeners, we have this massage oil candle that you burn and it turns into massage oil and it just heats at a beautiful temperature. Definitely test it on your palm before you just slap it on somebody, but it tends to heat at a really beautiful temperature and it just goes on the body so wonderfully.

Amanda: You don’t need a lot either, it's crazy.

Kit: Yeah, yeah, exactly. You don't need a lot.

Amanda: I learned that. I was like giving a massage and was, like, too much. He's very big so, like, it was fine. Like, I ended up using it all, but I was, like, do not put too much on my skin when you massage me because it's… I just like thought you were gonna need a lot more, but it goes a really long way.

Kit: It goes a really long way. Yeah, yeah, my husband was so funny. He's like, I think I think you need to order more immediately.

Amanda: So you said that, so, I was, like, very excited when I got my kit and the candle was in there. But I just, like, I was like, I don't know. I mean, I've seen, like, soy candles and stuff before, but there's, it's like a better texture and it doesn't leave your skin feeling waxy or weird at all.

Kit: Oh, I'm so glad to hear you say that. I completely agree. It's designed by a really dear friend and beautiful healer, Anita Kopacz and she is a tantrica and she designed this candle with her sister who makes candles, Yvanna of Lomar Farms. I agree with you. It just melts in such a beautiful way and it leaves the skin just hydrated but not sticky or waxy.

Amanda: Where are they located?

Kit: They're just north of New York City in Palisades, New York.

Amanda: Okay. And you're in Maine, right? So they’re not that far. Okay, interesting. You went from Denver to Maine. I'm like, how did this happen?

Kit: Yes, so I'm at this time where I was really deepening into reverence for yoni steaming, I had just gotten married, and we had been married maybe four or five months. And I decided I wanted to move closer to my family on the East Coast. And so it was actually right in the middle when we had sold our house in Denver, but hadn't yet moved to Maine where I first said to my husband, I think I'd like to start this new company. And that was super exciting. He was super onboard with it. And so I was making phone calls from Denver to Maine setting up conversations with woodworking teachers. So that the second night that we were in Maine, in spring of 2019, we actually spent the night at, my woodworker teacher has a little bed and breakfast associated with his woodworking shop, and so we spent the night there. And the next morning I told him all about my vision for this beautiful yoni steam seat. And he's super special. He's this older gentleman in his mid 70s. And at first I was a little bit nervous and realized that was my all my own stuff, because he got it and he was like, oh, my daughter's a nurse, I think this is fascinating. Okay, best thing to do is just to get started.

Amanda: I love it.

Kit: And so we spent the summer designing this together. And now I work with a wonderful woman who's turned into a friend who lives just 55 minutes west of me in Maine, and she has a family farm with a woodworking shop on it and so she makes all of the seats for us.

Amanda: That's awesome and they are really beautiful. I think that's the other thing, and, like, the blankets that come with it you get, there's options for colors, which I do really like. I’d love for you to explain, like, what is actually happening in the body when you're steaming

Kit: Beautiful. So first of all, if you are somebody who's brand new to steaming, and know that you are in the vast majority of people, and I was, I was with you just a matter of years, a few years ago. And so basically yoni steaming is positioning yourself over heated water that is at a temperature that feels very safe and soothing and gentle. So it is always the first step in yoni steaming is to test the heat so that it makes sure that again, it is comfortable, gentle, but I say is that if you are ever positioned over the heated water, and you even have an inkling of is this too hot, then it is too hot. And that's when you stand up and let it cool. And so you're positioned over the hot water. And you may or may not decide to use some herbs. The herbs are there to support whatever ailments you are working towards alleviating in your body. The general principle, actually for any reason to steam, is that this steam is helping support the uterine cleanse.

So all of our organs have an innate ability to cleanse themselves. And for the most part, our culture is very onboard with supporting these organs through that natural innate cleanse. So we do all sorts of different cleanses for the liver, right, juice cleanses, all sorts of it, and we do breathwork to help the natural cleanse of the lungs…the colon, the skin, we exfoliate. We're pretty much onboard with the beauty and reverence for the body to have these cleansing, naturally cleansing organs, and, and how can we best support them in in their cleansing?

When it comes to the uterus, we often say in this very dismissive way to women and yoni-bodied folks, oh, that's a natural cleansing organ. So that's it, don't do anything about it. And you just can't even really imagine if you came to a doctor and said, you know, I haven't had an elimination in a month for them to say, oh, the colon is actually naturally cleansing, so just carry on. And so for lots of us, we have uteruses that are just asking for a little extra support. And that's what the steam is doing. It is inviting the heat and the steam and carrying with it, oftentimes, the healing powers of the herbs to support the cleanse.

And so this is why we use disinfecting herbs to support the release of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. We use a variety of cleansing herbs to support women release fibroids and cysts and stagnation. And we also have rejuvenating or strengthening herbs that can support women who are experiencing shorter cycles so that they can benefit from the extra cleanse of the uterus while also sending some strength up into the body to hopefully work towards lengthening out their bleed back towards a 28-day cycle. So when you ask in general the way and the reason, the steam is so effective is because it is supporting this natural uterine cleanse.

Amanda: I love it. The way that you put that, like, that we support cleansing other, so many other systems in the body, but not our uterus. A lot of when I was doing research for, like, what is conventional medicine say about yoni steaming, and a lot of it is, like, your vagina is self-cleaning, right? That's kind of, like, the message that we get. So you don't need to clean it. But I'm like, that's not really what you're doing with the steam.

Kit: Well, exactly. It's also really not listening to women who are saying, I have stagnation, I have proneness to infection, I haven't fully recovered from postpartum, I am experiencing menopausal symptoms. I mean, all of these things that can be supported through using really wonderful earth-based modalities that are holistic in nature and can be done at home. This is outside of the current paradigm of Western medicine. It is focused at the root cause here, which is inevitably some sort of stagnation in the body. The steam and the herbs are working together to help release that stagnation and therefore alleviate the root cause that's causing the symptoms. And so it's not symptom management, actually, it's really root cause management, and that can be really empowering as well as tremendously beneficial toward our healing.

The other thing with the Western, more conventional people who are speaking about yoni steaming that does get under my skin is that these are people who are hypothesizing and they have not experienced yoni steaming. It is one thing to say, I had this experience and it didn't go the way I wanted it to. It's another thing to say I don't think you should do that because I think it might… What that's doing is negating the hundreds of thousands of stories that we are hearing, that I'm hearing daily and weekly about women's experiences with steam offering them such tremendous support. Is it a modality for absolutely everybody? Probably not. If not, certainly not, because no one modality is. That is it something that we're seeing able to really address and offer a tremendous amount of benefit? Yes.

Amanda: Like a lot of OBGYNs when I was, like, looking up stuff I'm, you know, I'm googling I'm like, oh, this is, this’ll be funny, right, this will either make me really mad or like make me laugh. It's funny because a lot of OBGYNs are like on the record with saying you should never steam and there are no benefits from it. The herbs don't even get up there is kind of like what they're saying. I'm surprised even know that there's herbs involved, honestly. We have some research, which I'm sure we'll talk about when we're talking about postpartum care. I mean, this is not just like brand new, like steaming has been around for a really long time. So can you talk a little bit about that history of steaming and how it’s utilized in other cultures?

Kit: Steaming is a truly ancient practice. It goes back thousands of years, and there are signs of it occurring on all lands across the globe. So we say your bloodline steamed, and you might have to go back generations and generations, but we all have ancestral connection to this medicine. That being said, we have certain cultures now who are more directly connected to their ancestral lines. We definitely want to honor that and really celebrate that this medicine has survived in certain cultures, particularly in Latin America and particularly in the African American community of the United States, has survived through the telling of it to daughters and granddaughters and nieces and sharing the benefits.

And now we have this chance where we're able to do more experiential work with steaming and study it. Maybe not in the sort of Western medical sense yet, although we are all so up for big studies on this. Talk to any yoni steam practitioner.

Amanda: Yeah, we are.

Kit: Yes. But you know, these, these studies take a lot of money and a lot of time and resources. It's not that there are studies that prove that yoni steaming is ineffective or dangerous, which has a particular eye roll to me, but it's that we are in an absence of studies. Of course, I would love to see more studies. I would love them to be done, though, in reverence for the cultures that have really sustained the practice and to honor that. And so I think we all have our own journeys with it.

I feel really fortunate to have studied under Keli Garza, Steamy Chick, she is a wonderful practitioner and leader in the space and really gives us the permission to, regardless of our ancestral connection, to step in and let really the steam itself guide us along that journey back to our indigenous roots. And so I'm very consciously on that exploration myself. And before the pandemic, had intentions of going back to my ancestral lands and really starting to have conversations with women there around their yoni steam practice and what herbs were used. And I just feel really hopeful and excited about the opportunity to connect that much more with the plants and with my own indigeneity, which is really what so many of us, I feel, our understanding is a key element to our inner sense of belonging. And I think that steaming gives us a really way, a really beautiful way to do that, whilst also balancing the reverence for communities of color who are really, really at the forefront of bringing this out into a more open dialogue, which I'm so grateful for.

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Amanda: And I think that's the big thing to remember is like, yes, research is so helpful in so many ways. It allows us to practice in an evidence-based way. But we can't wait our whole lives for people to do a randomized controlled trial on steaming to do it. Because you know, like, as long as you're practicing it safely. I feel like we might not have, you know, some specific research but we have many cultures all over the world that have literally done this for years and years and years. So it's not like there's no history behind it, it’s not like it’s this brand new practice that someone came up with and it's crazy, you know.

Kit: And to that point, it was helpful for me to understand why it became suppressed. And really the history there is that we for thousands of years had the medicine of women's bodies in the hands of women healers, up until the late 1800s when we saw the onset of Western gynecology, which has a really dark history. Which doesn't mean that everything about Western gynecology is awful, but it does…I think, I think it is very important to know the origin stories of things, because you start to see ways in which those origins have reverberated in our lived experiences. And so the origin of Western gynecology is rooted in men living in the Antebellum South and doing surgery on enslaved women. And when they figured out how to keep women alive during those surgeries, moving up into the North and charging white women for those services, it was a heavy power over, not power from within, and power over dominant and very focused on surgery. And so at that time, there was a lot of money to be made, there still is. And with the onset of Western gynecology, we see the banishment of midwifery. And we see for the first time, men really taking the predominant role in women's health. And these thousands and thousands of years of women passing along medicine and information amongst communities of women and yoni-bodied folks, we lose that, or thankfully, we don't completely lose it.

Yoni steaming is an example of things get really pushed down and sequestered, demonized, we're told they're dangerous, we're told they don't work. And yet we can talk amongst ourselves and start learning and reconnecting and really trusting our own inner wisdom and intuition. This isn't, this is like any medicine, I believe, but certainly these holistic modalities, these ancient modalities, they ask people to connect to the inner pain. If that's not there, then maybe you're assuming isn't your thing, and that's okay. But if you're feeling really called to try, if this is resonating, if this has sort of that feeling of, oh, this makes sense. I'm intrigued, get yourself some support so you can do it safely, and start and see if and how it is a practice that you want to continue with.

Amanda: And I think, too, it's, it's like that awful history, it is really wild. I forget the name of the book, there's, like, a really great book that talks about this entire history with, like, obstetrics and the different surgeries, like, everything that you're talking about. A lot of it was also based around, like, Puerto Rican women, and the studies that they did on them, which I'm, like, not that long ago, kind of creepy when you think about it, and you're totally right, like, you can't. Like yes, you, you can, like, buy a kit like yours, but you can also steam without that, you know, so like, no one's really making money off of steaming if people learn how to do it themselves at home.

Kit: Right and learn how to take control of the beauty of our menstrual cycles and be in real relationship with them at home. And that is going to be a shift. I mean, I've, you know, Advil has lost one potential, up until recently, lifelong customer.

Amanda: That's a good point. It's a good way to put it. I mean, what I think is so cool about steaming, like, one of the reasons I was so drawn to it, is because you can use it in any phase or season of life for women. I love tools, and I like for the women that I work with to have tools in their toolkit that they can access, you know, whenever they want. They don't always, like, you don't have to, like, do something forever. You can use it during certain seasons. If you have more stressful season, maybe you like do more castor oil packs or something, you know, like that's kind of how I look at steaming. And it just, there's just so many benefits with it.

Can you talk a little bit more about fibroids and cysts? Because I know that I'm sure some people's ears perked up when you said that.

Kit: Yes, so fibroids and cysts are really, really tremendously common. I want to say about 60% of women experience them, and actually just pulled it up, and so 60%, I was correct, of women and yoni-bodied folk experience fibroids. Those numbers are really disproportionately higher in the black community. And so we're still wanting to have a lot more studies on to why that is. There is hypothesis that there are some, there's awareness that there are carcinogens in a lot of beauty products that are marketed toward the black community. And there is hypothesis that there is a connection there between those toxicities and the buildup of fibroids in the body.

Amanda: That is so interesting. I had no idea.

Kit: Yes. And it's really something when we talk about studies that, I mean, I'm up for all studies, but I'd really like us to study steaming for fibroids, because…

Amanda: Yeah.

Kit: …we have with the black community experiencing fibroids so much more, they are also experiencing hysterectomy so much more disproportionately. And right now hysterectomies, the removal of the uterus, is pretty much the go-to “solution” for fibroid…I don't know, you can't really call it healing, but addressing fibroids. And so women are often told that their only options are to see, just see what happens, see if they get bigger, see if they get smaller, just see what happens—doesn't feel very empowering to most—or that it's time to have a hysterectomy. A pretty dramatic surgery that carries with it lots of, lots of considerations on the physical and the emotional plane.

So with fibroids, women are likely going to be put on a schedule that is, involves a lot of steaming. So starting off every other day of steaming, never steaming while bleeding, and, because that's contraindicated, we can talk about some of the other times that it's contraindicated. But it is contraindicated not safe to steam while you're bleeding from your menstrual blood period. But for women who have fibroids, we're going to have likely, and I would encourage you to work with a trained practitioner, that have you seen every other day for a month and then evaluate your cycle and make sure that things are moving in the right direction. And if things are going well, if you're experiencing less pain, if your cycle hasn't reduced dramatically in the amount of length, then we might invite you to steam daily. And this protocol goes on for three to six months, so it is a pretty intense protocol.

What's amazing is that we have seen incredible results. So people having fibroids completely released—this is really dependent on what type of fibroids you have because the position of the fibroids is going to be either easy or easier or more difficult for the steam to reach. And depending on if they're sort of in the center of the uterus, or in the, on the other side of the uterine wall. But I have clients who have emailed me about going back in, a doctor in particular, which is really wonderful, but she has access to a lot more of the ultrasounds and great medical care. And she has emailed me recently about saying that her three fibroids are all reduced by 30-60% in size after just four months of steaming.

Amanda: That's amazing.

Kit: And so the effect of that has an incredible, profound lived experience on how easier her bleeding time is to manage. And many women with fibroids are also working for fertility. And so shrinking them to that degree can be incredibly beneficial for their fertility intentions. So really amazing impact. And the other thing to consider with fibroids is to really work with somebody who's going to guide you on the holistic path and address what foods you're eating, what movement you're able to do, and how your sleep hygiene is, and how we can get you more nourishment into your entire life while you adopt the steam practice as well.

Amanda: That's really cool. Have you worked with anyone with endometriosis?

Kit: I have heard, and I have a couple of, of colleagues who are really great with working with endometriosis and steam. I have studied this. And I just want to be really clear, I’ve taken all the modules, and I just haven't had a consultation yet in several years around endometriosis, which I think is really interesting. Endometriosis is such an intense experience, and there is so much thrown at women experiencing endometriosis that the, the friends, the people I know can feel overwhelmed by, by lots of promises and fear. The whole bout of it. But I have heard that steam can be really beneficial, and it makes sense. It just is something that you would also want to be working with somebody who has taken these particular courses on it. And also can support the whole mind, body, spirit with the journey of endometriosis and make sure that you're steaming enough to really have the impact that you're seeking.

Amanda: We have quite a few women—Kit’s going to do a class inside my membership soon—there's quite a few women in there with endo, so I'm sure that they will have questions. But I do think there's a lot of pain involved. I think there's a lot of fear of trying something like that. And most of the time they've already done so many other things. They might have even had surgery, excision surgery at that point and still not be getting enough relief. So I can totally see why someone would be hesitant with endo, but I'm also, like, if this works so well for fibroids I cannot imagine—most, a lot of women have both—so I cannot imagine that it wouldn't be, even just for like your pelvic floor. I definitely feel a huge release of my pelvic floor when I steam and I know that, like, that causes half of the issues for pain in women with endo.

Kit: Exactly. Yeah.

Amanda: What about postpartum care? Why is steaming a helpful tool? This is kind of where the research comes in.

Kit: Right, so we do have a great first Western study postpartum steaming, which was conducted in collaboration with Keli Garza and Kimberly Ann Johnson, who wrote the Fourth Trimester, and Keli Garza is one of my primary teachers, Steamy Chick. Always like to give lots of recognition to both of them, because they've done so much with supporting the spread of great knowledge around steaming as well as conducting the study. And so it's a small study, but we do experience these great benefits in postpartum steaming. Again, the reason is, it goes back to this overarching, how does yoni steaming work? Well, that works by supporting the uterine cleanse. And so after you deliver, you have to go through a very intense uterine cleanse. And if we don't get that complete cleanse, it will show up in cycles after birth.

So it's interesting, you often have women on two sides of this. Women who have these stories of saying that they had really painful periods or really problematic periods, and then they had their first child and then their period was so much easier. Well, usually, that's because the birth actually was one of their first experiences of a full uterine cleanse. And so, and that can happen where they have a really great postpartum recovery and they've released everything, and so they no longer have the stagnation that they had in the, before pregnancy. Then we have women who say what is going on after postpartum. Their period comes back after several months, and there's a lot of pain, there's a lot of stagnation, there's erratic-ness in their cycle.

And so what we see with postpartum steaming is that we're supporting the woman to have that full release, and therefore setting herself up for faster recovery from after birth and for easier periods going forward. And so the study itself with which you can see on fourthtrimestervaginalsteamstudy.com, but it shows ways in which the women who steamed as compared to those who didn't. And they were able to have benefits that ranged from noticing the lifting of their organs back into place. So steam is a lifting agent, and that in and of itself has tremendous benefit, because you're back coming into organ alignment, which again, is a hugely important thing for feeling connected to your body. And after you've given birth, there is an understandable disconnection, and there's a lot going on. So the sooner we can get women back into feeling really good and nurtured, that's a huge benefit.

We see that the steam also really helps with keeping the sutures clean, which might be why we've seen that it's so helpful with accelerating the healing from tearing. And, and then what I consider the primary benefit is that it allows for the, the parent to have this full uterine cleanse. It's a challenge to get on a yoni steam seat for 10-30 minutes every day, for 30 days after you've given birth. You do want to wait a couple of days after you've given birth to make sure that your uterine arteries are closed, so work with a midwife or a trained practitioner on that. But then you're gonna steam, once it’s safe, for about 30 days. And of course, it's a challenge. It's also a really beautiful invitation to get into a pattern of receiving some time just for you. This is something that Kimberly talks about in the Fourth Trimester and that we're all starting to have more and more awareness around. But these early 10-30 minutes, it's like somebody else hold the baby or I can steam with holding the baby, but you know, like, let's just get into a routine of there is some time for this new parent to be looking after their body. I have a lot of folks just tell me how important and meaningful that has been. And that it's time really for them to connect. As I always say, it's like and cleanup is for somebody else.

Amanda: I love that. It's like when you have your home birth and then it's like they just clean up everything after, like, you don't have to do anything. It's like, who doesn't want that, you can just make your partner clean up whatever.

Kit: It's just kind of my, like, but, inside inside joke with newly postpartum folks It's, like, cleanup is for somebody else.

Amanda: A couple other benefits…so I have this study here and I'll link it in the show notes, too, but, like, bowel regularity and hemorrhoid reduction. I cannot even tell you how many pregnant women struggle with hemorrhoids and constipation after, and it's, like, I'm sorry, but if something like steaming can help… And, like, it's like healing of tears, gapping and swelling, expulsion of lochia, like, it's blood pressure and pulse, reduction weight and waist size. It's pretty amazing. And obviously, all of these things, like, the last sentence in the abstract is further studies are required to confirm these foundational findings because we do need more. But I think the whole point is that it is very promising. And I think that while we might not fully understand the exact science of steaming, I don't really think you have to, you know.

Kit: I like to say, for those of us who feel called, we just, we’re living the healing in our own experience. And therefore, why would we wait for the science to catch up? You know, like, I'm all about being really curious about the science. But I'm not going to wait for it, because I'm already having the benefits. And, and that's for all of us to make our own individual decision around.

Amanda: So I'm curious because this, you kind of mentioned this a couple times for those that struggle with recurrent UTIs and bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. This is something I see a lot in women. I also see it pop up on the healing journey, often the clients that I'm working with, because their body's trying to get rid of things, things are rebalancing. I feel like the first instinct is to think, oh, I can't steam, if that's my issue. So can you talk about…is steaming okay, for these people? How does it help those issues and stuff like that?

Kit: Yeah. So again, we go back to this overarching principle that the steam is there to help support the release of uterus and offer that full uterine cleanse. So we have bacteria that it was needing to be released. When it comes to infections, though, we need to consider a few things. One, that infections are usually building heat in the body, because the body is getting itself hot as a, one mechanism of trying to kill off the infection. And so if you are prone to infections, or if you have an active infection, then you are only well-suited for a short, or what's known as a mild yoni steam, which is just 10 minutes. And that is sort of the sweet spot of allowing the steam enough time to do its work about clearing the infection and anything that needs to be released. While it's not adding too much excess heat into the body at this time where the body is already heating up. We do use specific herbs so that they are more disinfecting in nature and help clear out the bacteria with some more efficacy.

And usually, again, there are some variations here. So that plug for working with a trained and trusted practitioner, but usually you're going to steam for 10 days. Usually, that's going to have cleared the infection. If it hasn't, you're going to steam to until the whole infection has been cleared. It is a little bit, like, keep steaming for that whole 10 days, even if you're seeing the benefit after two or three, which, like, you are just so that you can make sure that you've really had the full release of the bacteria and the infection. And this is a time to refrain from sexual activity and keep that area really clear and clean with the use of a peri bottle and things like that. There will be things to expect and to look for on the side as well, which is basically just more discharge.

And this is why sometimes there is a misunderstanding of things, because people can say, oh my gosh, I steamed and then I got an infection, like, immediately. Well, actually, what's much more likely is that you had an infection that the steam helped you release. And so it can be sort of that mental shift. I've had some, some women even with fibroids who are, like, wait, I am now experiencing… Often with fibroids I will say there's a journey where you have two to four months where the periods are dramatically less painful, which is so wonderful and such a relief. And then in the non-healing, nonlinear healing journey that we are on as womb-having humans, we tend to also then have some cycles that have the pain come back. And one of the reasons we think that might be is because we are dislodging things. And so the uterus has a couple of different tools, as you say, to utilize. But one of her most effective tools is cramping. And she doesn't cramp to piss us off, she cramps to help us get something that's inside of us that shouldn't be out. And so on the fibroid journey, sometimes we loosen those and then she's, like, okay, I might be able to help out here again, so I'm going to cramp. And so this is another reason why it's really good to work in connection with somebody so that you can understand these things that might seem like the not-so-good are actually in the right progression of your healing.

And so yeah, so back to the BV and yeast infection side of things, too, the steam isn't causing them it is causing the release of that discharge, which is actually really wonderful and what we want.

Amanda: I feel like that's so good to know, though, before you steam. I didn't have any issues like that, thank God, but I can totally imagine that would freak someone out. Like, say they were having no symptoms and they steam, in their head… I get where you're making, like, the immediate connections, like, it's from the steam. But I think that that's, like, such a helpful way to put it. It's like, no, your body's actually just getting rid of that. And so because it helps your uterus, that's why it's so helpful for fertility?

Kit: Yeah, it really, it helps have the uterus be clear and ready. And so there are several things with fertility that are going on. You want to make sure that you have, really the best thing for your fertility is to have a really healthy and regular menstrual cycle. And so steaming is going to be helping work for that. And if you do have stagnation and cramping, then that means that there's some old blood residue in in the uterus that needs to be released. The uterus, again, is using her tool of cramping. And we're trying to give her some support through the steam so that this release can happen more easily and she doesn't need to cramp. At that point the old blood and that residue and stagnation has been cleared, making it that much easier for implementation.

Amanda: I think that, yeah, that's, it's really cool. And it's so, like, I, the reason I even connected with Kit is because I was in my preconception phase where I was, like, we're going to start trying for a baby soon. We had been trying like a year previous and it didn't work out. I'm going to do a whole podcast on that eventually. But basically, I was thinking about the postpartum period, because I feel like my whole world is supporting women in conceiving and during pregnancy. The time that I find the most challenging for women is postpartum. And so that's mentally for me, I've been really trying to prepare for that. So I was like, I want to do steaming now, because I wanted to use it postpartum. Well, I talked to Kit, we have a one-on-one session, because I want to make sure, like, get a steaming schedule, just make sure I'm doing this correctly. And she's like, oh, you can use this for fertility, like, this is not just for postpartum. And I was like, okay, and it just kind of blew my mind, I didn't realize.

And after two months of following my steam schedule, I actually did conceive. By the time this podcast comes out, you guys will all know. So I can say it. And we weren't trying, then, of course, it happens when you're not trying. I was like gonna do three cycles, that was what Kit and I talked about. I was like, okay, I'll do three cycles of steaming and then we'll try to conceive...that would have been like, September, basically, like mid-September. It ended up happening a month early, even though I was steaming. So I really do think for me that steaming was a really big part of that preconception, like, fertility journey. And it's funny how, like, I was drawn to it for postpartum care, but it helped me actually conceive.

Kit: I just love this story so much, Amanda. Yeah, it's so beautiful. And so many times, right, we, we think we know why we're called to something. And thank goodness we just follow the calling and don't get too attached to why we are experiencing it, because sometimes it's actually meant to be for something else.

Amanda: And it’s so funny, because I've talked to so many friends and colleagues and stuff about steaming now. A lot of people have not done it. So when you said that, in the beginning, like, most people are right in the same boat as you—it's very true. Even people in the women's health space have not done steaming. I still think it's considered a little woo-woo even though we now have that great research study on postpartum care. I hope that those studies expand. But even if they don't, I would definitely encourage you to, if you're curious about it, to look into it. But I think the coolest thing of our conversation was how you said that you can actually use it during what is it, like, 37 weeks or something before labor to help with labor?

Kit: You can so and I have a whole blog post about this over at Kitara Love, which I'm sure Amanda can put in the notes as well. But steaming for labor prep is really wonderful. And so once you're at 37 weeks, the baby is fully, fully cooked, ready and, right, and good to be released. And so it's up to you to decide if and how you want to support that labor starting, and steam is really helpful with three factors that are really at the root of getting the labor going—which is adding lubrication, which of course steam does, supporting circulation, which steam is great at, and releasing stagnation. It's a really beautiful tool for that and it's such a relief for people who are past their due date and searching for something that's going to make a difference. That article also has a bunch of different really wonderful holistic things that you can do in this, in that time.

Amanda: I definitely will be utilizing that, and I was gonna link all of Kit's articles, but she told me that she's actually making a nice… what is it like a PDF download for everyone to have them all together?

Kit: It’s gonna be at kitaralove.com/pages/yoni-steaming-101. But it will also be featured on kitaralove.com as a free gift that is the essential guide to in-home yoni steaming. And if there are things in there, if you have questions that don't get addressed in that document, you have my full invitation to email me at [email protected] because my intention is to put almost, if not every little morsel of information that I think is useful for knowing about steaming when you're going to be steaming at home into this guide. And if I miss anything, it's a living document and I will be so grateful for you to point out things that haven't yet been covered. And I will add to them immediately.

Amanda: Yeah, I think that was going to be, I mean, all your blogs honestly are so, so helpful. So like, if you guys want to just search for stuff right now, it's like you can definitely do that. But I think that download just having it all in one place is so easy and nice. You can search PDF documents, I’m like oh my gosh this is gonna be really nice.

So you kind of describe the process of steaming, you're basically standing over or sitting over, like, warm water that is at a safe temperature to provide steam. What is, what is, like, the steaming seat, like, can you kind of… obviously this is a podcast there aren’t any visuals. People can go to kitara.com to see visuals, but, like, what is this whole process of steaming like? How can someone steam at home?

Kit: Great. So there are a couple of different ways. And I do also have a blog post and a video about this. And actually, I have a blog post that's called “How to yoni steam at home without a seat” because I think that's really important. That's how I started steaming. And for so many folks, you want to start steaming before you make an investment in a seat. So there are ways to do it safely. I do encourage you to check that out just because it will be the visual. Basically, there are ways to do it in child's pose. And there are ways to do it with some tilted furniture. So you sort of put a chair on its side. But you have to be really certain that you are up for balancing and you have, like, the quad strength. And actually, it was at that similar setup that really got me over the hump of, like, I'm starting Kitara. Because I did have, like, a little slip when I had my, like, chair situation setup and thought, okay, it's time, like, I'm super in love with this practice myself, and it's time for me to go make myself a seat and see if others would like one.

So if you get to that point where you think, okay, I've now tried this, I've seen some benefit, and I'm ready to invest in a steam seat. And the steam seat itself is basically just a wooden box, but then the top has an opening so that you can sit safely on the wooden box, open your legs wide, and have the steam come up and adjust the whole pelvic floor and pelvic region. And inside that box, ours are designed so that they work with a burner and then you put the steam pot with water and herbs on top of it. And then take the steam pot lid off after the herbs have cooked and put the lid of the sauna or steam seat on top and then have yourself a seat after you've checked that the temperature is super gentle, safe, and comfortable.

Amanda: It always blows my mind how the big Western medicine argument is that you're gonna burn yourself. I'm like, you just stand up. If it's too hot, you just stand up. I just don't understand this whole thought process.

Kit: Well, I'm so glad you mentioned that because that was certainly my first reaction and is true—you stand up. And then I started digging deeper into it and deeper consideration. And what does this mean that we don't think that women know how to stand up. What some truth is, is that so many of us have been so conditioned to be disconnected from our bodies, and in particular disconnected from this region of our bodies, that we could experience some numbness and some degree of uncertainty. Well, Kit said that I should steam for 10 minutes. So even though at minute five, it starts to heat up, maybe it shouldn't. You know, putting the power outside of ourselves, back on to me or a different practitioner or an article you read rather than really harnessing the inner voice and that intuition. Because it is so simple. You have to stand up. And then on the other hand, sometimes standing up isn't simple.

So I actually do have a conversation with a dear friend, Rachel Sizemore, who is a healer who loves steaming. And she and I had both heard a couple of people saying, you know, I got a little burned Kit. And they were in the world of women's health and wellness. And it just blew my mind. Like I was, like, how can this be? And it came down to well, you told me to steam for X amount of time, you know, and you told me to wear this wrap. And you know…I also said about 18 million times to stand up if it got too hot. But again, we in this culture can be too conditioned to focus on what the “expert” says rather than what our body is telling us. And so I'm here for that discussion. I think that steaming is a great invitation for us to be in that deeper connection of, where are we overriding? Because if you're burning yourself, you're not just overriding your instincts, you're also overriding your reflexes.

Amanda: Yeah.

Kit: And so that's some pretty intense disconnection that you want to be aware of. And again, if you're listening to this and you're, like, you know, what, I don't feel like I'm connected enough to my, to my body, to my womb space to do this safely by myself. And beautiful, then you're listening then you're listening to yourself, right? And so give yourself some gentleness and some time. And maybe you want to go and steam in person with a practitioner. And maybe you want to start out with a two-minute steam. And maybe you want to start out with no burner. There are all sorts of ways that you can take your own steam journey really gently. And that really is an additional aspect of this medicine, this practice, that I find profound is that to do it and to benefit from it, it has to be done gently. And that is very counter to so much of the messaging that we receive. And it feels like a really magical invitation from the divine feminine—this almost cheeky, playful, like, we are going to drop you into the power of gentleness through this modality.

Amanda: I, that's when you were talking about where’s that disconnect if we're not standing up, like, we're putting the trust in, like, an expert or outside of ourselves. I also think about how, like, it's, like “no pain, no gain” is, like, a very common thing. And, like, things are, like workouts are, you're supposed to be exhausted after a workout and you're supposed to be starving all the time if you want to lose weight or whatever, you know. So I could totally see that, like, having it be a little bit painful for someone them thinking that oh, no, this is good, it means it's working.

Kit: Yes, yes, exactly. That is what we've been inundated with. I certainly was. I bought into a lot of that crap for years. “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.” That was like a slogan in my high school.

Amanda: Oh my gosh.

Kit: Just, like, what I mean, so I honor as like I, I am with you. I certainly want women to feel seen and understood and don't, I mean, please don't feel any shame or guilt around feeling this disconnection or numbness or nervousness of if you're going to be able to know when to stand up. Like, we're having this conversation right now to really mean that the complexities of it and that we're doing this very healing ancient pro-yoni-bodied medicine under patriarchy. Like, let's, let's think about that, which we're doing right now, which is so wonderful and has me so jazzed. And, um, and I also say steaming, it, we live in a work hard, play hard culture that steaming doesn't fit into. And there is no benefit, no extra benefit of steaming “hard”—that is going to be completely counterproductive, if not very dangerous.

Amanda: My schedule was, was shorter sessions, and I, I'm a very extreme person. I like to do something and do it all the way as intense as I possibly can. And I was like, oh, man, I gotta do, like, shorter steams. But then it was like I was able to create this whole ritual where I’m steaming, like, as it's heating up, I'm journaling, and lighting my massage candle. And so, like, it ended up being, like, 30-40 minutes regardless. So honestly, I was like, this actually works out because it's, it doesn't quite, it's like 30 minutes. Like you can, I can always fit it in 30 minutes, you know. But I kind of had that thought of, like, oh, I'm not doing this for an hour, you know. And I think people think that you're steaming for an hour, like, it's really not, it doesn't have to be that long.

Kit: Yes, many people will have sensitivities that mean that they are only suited to steam for 10 minutes. And even if you don't have those sensitivities, it's not good to steam for longer than 30. So as you say, relatively, this is a short practice. And I love that you have seen the steaming piece as, the act of steaming piece, as one part of the practice. And I do encourage us all to do that, to really have the heating of the herbs, be connected to them, the journaling of the sort of pre, middle, and end, and making sure that after you're off the steam that you are hydrating and relaxing and integrating. And so a 10-minute steam, as you say, can be a 30-minute practice.

Amanda: Exactly. And it's really nice. I really enjoyed it. Obviously, I can't do it now because I'm pregnant. But I'm, like, looking forward to when I can. I miss steaming and castor oil packs, man. And that's like, so I'm, like, oh, I can't wait until, like, I'll definitely get to implement it. Like we're going to schedule a call my third trimester and talk about, like, how I can implement this before labor. And then obviously, we'll do, like, put together, like, a postpartum plan.

But I mean, I just think it's such…I love when it's something that women can do at home themselves, right? It's like, it's so much more powerful. You don't have to go somewhere to do it. You also don't need a kit, which I think is really cool. So I'm going to link the blog and video of you showing people how to steam without a kit. If you like it, I think it is worth it to invest in it. It's very relaxing when you can sit on the stool. And I feel like it's easier to, like, integrate into your routine. I will also say, like, the burner is so nice because everything's right there. So if you don't have a ton of space, I just have it in like one spot in my bedroom and I don't even have to, like, move anything. So I feel like if you don't have a lot of space that could be nice to have the burner there too. So you're not like going back and forth.

Kit: That’s what I found. I myself was, when, when I was in Denver and steaming my stovetop and where I was steaming was on the same floor, but in Maine they're on different floors. And I started using a burner and then I started realizing, like, we all could just use a burner, because it just makes it that much more simple and you don't have to carry the pot from one place to the next.

Amanda: And you can adjust the heat, you know. Like, if I like, at first I was definitely not heating it quite enough. So I would turn up a little bit I would notice, you know, so I feel like you can, it makes for like an easy adjustment. But I mean, I feel like there's so many great places for women to start. I would honestly check out kitaralove.com and then the IG is the same @kitara…

Kit: So it's kitaralove.com and then the IG is b-y-kitara, @bykitara.

Amanda: Okay, okay. I'm gonna link it anyway in the show notes. So you guys will be able to…

Kit: Type in kitara, if you don't see me you're gonna find me.

Amanda: But I, I highly recommend checking out like the video if you want to start steaming at home. I think that's a great place to start. And if you like it, and you're, like, I want to invest in a kit, you can get 10% off with the code hormonelove.

Kit: You get $10 off your steam seat.

Amanda: Oh $10.

Kit: Yes, yep, on any steam seat including the savings bundles with hormonelove.

Amanda: Oh, for like the whole kits and everything too? Yeah, I did the kit. If anyone's wondering just because it has like the burner in there, it's got the pot, really cute ceramic pots for the herbs, a candle, and then a cloth. So it's, I feel, like, it's, like, everything, you don't have to, like, purchase things again. And then you have the herbs to on your website. I didn't order those until I spoke to you though.

Kit: Again, an individual consideration. And I tried to give as much information as possible about why you choose one herb over the other for you and your body. And it may be that you want to speak to me or speak to a trained practitioner or to give you that extra oomph of why you've made that choice. But there are descriptions, the key thing to know is that if you have a cycle that's on the shorter side, 27 days or less, choose the Rejuvenate Strengthening herbs. If you keep that as sort of the golden rule, then everything else is very intuitive. And so yeah, it's, as all explained there as well.

Amanda: And it's funny, because I had a feeling, like, I didn't order mine until we spoke because I just wanted to make sure. But I was, like, I think I need the release ones. And you're like, yep, you need the release. So I was like, okay, I could have just bought them. But so it is I feel like you can definitely tell

Kit: Fifty percent of the time women know. But we do understandably want that assurance as well.

Amanda: But yeah, so definitely do that. And you can, like, book a one-on-one consult if you do want to talk. Say you have fibroids or endometriosis in your health history, definitely book the consult. It's nice because you can just do a one-off consult and then the follow ups are very affordable, which I feel like is nice because it makes it accessible. And you're very accessible over email, which has been awesome. So I really appreciate you coming out and teaching everyone about steaming. I'm like very curious to see the feedback and if people are going to try it now.

Kit: Oh, Amanda, thank you so much. I love these conversations. And I'm so grateful to be, have been a little part of your steaming journey and sending so much congratulations about the pregnancy and looking forward to supporting your community in any ways that you desire.

Amanda: Thank you. Yeah, we'll, I’ll do an IG live and go into, like… I'm gonna see what questions people have on Instagram about steaming. And I think that'll, like, if we haven't covered it in this podcast. We'll definitely answer it there. And then people, they usually come live and ask some really good questions, so it'll be fun.

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