*Editor’s Note: No website is designed to, and can not be construed to, provide actual medical advice, professional diagnosis or treatment to you or anyone. Elephant is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional advice, care and treatment.
Sometime in September, as the nights wax and the days wane, the trees grow sleepy.
Energy slides slowly like sap from skyward leaves to deep roots which pulse slowly, heavily within the cold and sturdy mountains. The woods are aflame with bursts of burgundy, amber, and marigold as the plants halt production in their chlorophyll factories, all at once transforming the world into an impressionist painting, blurry with splashes of warm color amidst the cooling air.
I have never understood people who dislike the cold seasons when the air is so crisp it swipes away the sticky cobwebs in your mind.
When the sidewalks are blanketed in crisps of crimson and cider-brown leaves, when you can open your mouth and see a dancing, transparent sign that you are truly alive. And breathing. Blankets, scented candles, foggy mornings, wood smoke. Gray fields dusted with glitter in the frosty dawn, twinkling lights and sparkling snow, straight out of a fairytale. Grounding foods, potatoes, beets, broth, and sweet apple pie sprinkled with cinnamon. Nurturing sleep, long hours of deep, snoring sleep, wrapped in velvety blankets, our bodies mimicking the trees, sending energy slowly, down, deep, where it won’t awaken until the first knocks of spring.
I find myself particularly in tune with my womb during this time.
The coddling darkness of winter, swaddling myself in sweaters and blankets, the motherly quality of hot soup when I am sick, surrounding myself with walls and comforting darkness as I rest indoors. It all transports me to the place in my body where these qualities lie, always.
Those who have (or have had) a womb are intrinsically connected to all cycles of nature. Our bodies know the cycles of life and death. Light and dark. Hot and cold. Moving and resting.
I have found that simple rituals, which include heat and nurturing self-care, help me to listen to the trees and intentionally draw my energy within myself, to the core of my being, in order to use this time for healing rest and grounding.
1. Yoni steaming.
Yoni is the Sanskrit word for womb or vagina, and yoni steaming is an ancient practice that nourishes and eases the uterus and womb space. Gently invite warmth into your cold bones by allowing the healing volatile oils to enter your womb.
Purchase some womb-healing herbs such as basil, lemon balm, rosemary, oregano, and lavender, a makeshift yoni stool, and take this time to meditate on your innate creative forces. The womb is the most creative force in the world. It creates life itself.
The dark months, just as the dark, new moon, are an ideal time for setting intentions and visions. As you sit, allowing the heat to enter your creative center, meditate on what you want to create in your life.
*This should not be practiced while pregnant or menstruating.
2. Uttar Basti.
Another ancient self-care remedy that has been used to treat many imbalances in the womb space and to bring overall health and nourishment to our female reproductive organs is Uttar Basti. Uttara means womb, cosmos, or that which is filled.
To practice this Ayuvedic self-care, you will need rose buds/petals, raspberry leaf tea, and an enema bag with a tube.
Brew a tea of four cups water with four tablespoons of rose buds/petals and four tablespoons red raspberry leaf. Let steep for five minutes. While the tea is brewing, gaze into the water and meditate on the enriching, feminine qualities you are inviting into your womb with these herbs.
Lay a folded towel in your bathtub, and dim the lights or light candles. Strain any sediments from the tea, then, when the tea is only warm and not hot, pour it into the enema bag, careful not to allow any to exit through the tube. Lie down on the folded towel and hang the enema bag from the shower rod or a bath hook, still blocking the spout of the enema tube. When you are comfortable, gently tilt your pelvis upward, and allow the warm tea to pour into the yoni, stopping the tube every few seconds and allowing the tea to wash up as far as possible and then to pour out naturally. Do this until all of the tea is gone. Retain any sediment left over and take a hot bath.
*This should not be practiced while pregnant or menstruating.
In Ayuveda, the use of oil and heat to bring healing is referred to as snehana, which in Sanskrit means both “oil” and “love.” Since fall and winter are considered Vata—a cold, dry dosha—seasons, snehana is remarkably soothing to our bodies during this time and is healing to the womb space year-round.
First, warm sesame oil in a double boiler. Lie on a towel on your back, either on your bed or couch or your yoga mat. Test the temperature of the sesame oil before pouring it, slowly, over the area from your belly button to your pelvic bone and over to your hipbones. (I like to think of this as a ritualistic act of anointing my own holy temple.) Use your palms to very lightly rub and massage this area, focusing on the heat radiating from your hands and from your womb. Allow the oil to soak into this place for as long as you like, then wipe away any excess oil with a towel.
Another way to invite snehana into your womb is through the use of castor oil packs. Instead of sesame oil, use unheated, organic castor oil. Cover the pelvic area with a folded towel, place a bag (optional) over the towel, and on top of that a hot water bottle. Lie back and allow the medicine of snehana to nurture your womb.
*Castor oil packs should not be used while pregnant or menstruating.
4. Practice kind menstruation.
During the fall and winter, our bodies naturally need more rest, which would explain why menstruating can be even more exhausting during this time. Give yourself more slack during your moon time. Be like the syrup, which trickles from the taps in the silent, snowy woods. Take your time. Slowly, meditatively cook your food. Think of yourself as a queen of winter—elegant, graceful, and pampered. Pay attention to the flow—the flow of blood, the flow of emotions. In Ayurveda, our periods are considered the Vata part of our menstrual cycle, the same dosha as fall and winter, and a powerful down and out energy. Try not to use tampons, as they are said to block this outward flow of energy and are very drying.
5. Yin Yoga.
Yin is my absolute favorite style of yoga. What’s not to love about a yoga practice that regularly encourages the use of blankets and pillows? It is an extremely gentle, feminine practice in which asanas are held for longer periods of time—anywhere from 45 seconds to five minutes. Yin yoga is all about receptivity, allowing feelings to arise, and breathing through them. It is also the ideal practice when you are sick or tired.
6. Womb up your home.
My absolute favorite Sunday activity is what I call “hibernating.” As someone who values balance, I am a strong believer in lazy Sundays after a week of working.
Close all of the blinds and curtains so your home is dark. Light candles and play soft music and do yin yoga (or watch Netflix). If you have the luxury, channel your inner bear spirit and give yourself a day, or even just a few hours, to rejuvenate in your own personal hibernation cave.
Remember, resting is not lazy. You are allowed to take it easy.
Author: Felicia Bonanno
Editor: Catherine Monkman