Womb Prints: What Are You Carrying in Your Womb Space? (Part 1)

The origin of the word ‘pelvis’ comes from the words: basin, container, goblet, vessel, bowl and cup in various languages. The pelvis contains our pelvic organs and has a bowl-like appearance. It holds, contains, carries and protects the tender organs inside, including the womb, and our other reproductive/sexual organs.

The ‘womb space’ is another way I refer to the womb and pelvic area in general- in an energetic sense. Not all of us have uteruses and ovaries, but we all have an energy centre here. Like the pelvic bowl holding and containing our tender organs, the womb space holds and contains our tender feelings, creativity and sexual urges. If we are pregnant, it holds, protects and interacts with the baby. In relationships, it holds the energy of the bond and its intimacy.. 

What I call the ‘womb space’ is akin to the Sacral Chakra in Yoga. In sanskrit, it’s called Svadhisthana, meaning ‘in one’s abode’. The element of this pelvic energy centre is water. The emotions and sexuality are synonymous with water, as fluids are released when we cry, give birth, menstruate, make love or orgasm.

So, our pelvic bowl/womb space are essentially holding ‘water’ energetically. This begs the question: What is the quality of this energetic ‘water’ we are holding? Is it murky, sludgy and in need of release? Is it hot, boiling and frustrated? Is it warm, luscious and sensual? Is it cold or frozen? Stagnant or flowing?

I ask myself these questions on a near daily basis- when I do my regular womb check-ins and my yoga practice. In the span of one day, I may get different feedback. I may have weeks or months of general stagnation, or frequent bouts of hot and boiling. Like the ocean, my womb flows in waves and cycles. And it definitely is attuned to the moon. If you menstruate, you may find your cyclical patterns to be more attuned to your hormones than the moon- everyone is different.

At some point in time, many of us may experience symptoms related to an imbalance or blocked energy in our womb space. This may manifest as:

  • Lack of inspiration/creativity
  • Sexual frustration or overdrive
  • Sexual disinterest or shutdown
  • Issues with emotional or sexual boundaries
  • Repeated toxic relationships
  • Guilt or shame around sexual orientation, gender, identity
  • Pelvic pain, cysts, disease
  • Painful, irregular or heavy periods
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Infertility, issues with pregnancy and birth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent financial issues
  • Lower back pain
  • Unable to receive pleasure/ excessive pleasure-seeking

When we have symptoms of imbalance, we are likely carrying energetic ‘water’ that needs to flow or be cleared. We may have attachments to others that are toxic or unhealthy, or grief to let go of.  We may have had traumatic or negative experiences that left an energetic imprint on our womb (we will explore this in an upcoming blog on womb trauma), that we have yet to work through. We also may have an inner conflict that causes stress. 

How can we heal the womb space?

Each individual’s womb space is completely unique and requires a personalised approach to healing. There is no ‘one size fits all’ method. This is why I like to focus on one-on-one healing sessions.

But for starters, we can begin to just give ourselves the time and space on a regular basis to ‘check-in’ with ourselves. If we have any of those symptoms listed above, our womb has already been trying to get our attention.  

The best thing for it, it to give it that attention. I like to do a little check-in I call  ‘Womb Listening’ as part of my practice, and with clients. 

How to do ‘Womb Listening’:

Take a moment alone, in a peaceful environment. Lie down or sit comfortably, place your hands on your lower belly, and just breathe.

Slow down your mind, and just tune into your womb space. Some people like to play relaxing music in the background, or light incense or a candle. Do whatever makes you feel relaxed, calm and focused. 

Feel your hands resting on your belly, gently moving with the flow of your breath. It can be very subtle. Let your thoughts quiet. Think of your womb space as a wise, truthful, living entity of its own, that really wants to communicate with you.  Then ask your womb ‘what do you need right now?’

If you feel pain, allow for the pain to ‘speak’ and listen for an answer.

The womb space may not communicate through words, although you may ‘hear’ words- it also likes to move, bring an image to your mind, sing, or make sounds. Allow for it to communicate however it wishes to. Just be open to receiving it. Give it expression. 

Take in a deep breath and let whatever sounds that needs to come out, to come out on the exhale. Maybe it’s a big sigh, or an ‘ahhhh’ sound, or a grunt, yell or even a scream.

Maybe it wants a massage. Maybe it wants to shake, dance or to be completely still. Do you best to give it what it needs in the moment. Notice how doing that changes how you feel. 

Some people find automatic writing revealing. Hold a pen in one hand, and place the other on your womb, and let it speak through whatever words flow through you.

It may not happen right away. It may take days or weeks of practice, but eventually, it will speak and you will hear what it is trying to say. This is where the healing begins!

 

 

What is embodiment? What does it mean to be ‘disconnected from our body’?

Our relationship with our body is a complex thing. A lot of us doing embodiment work use the word ‘embodied’ without much thought- as though the meaning is obvious. It’s the opposite of being ‘disconnected from our body’. But what does that mean?  I like to say that my services teach ‘embodied self-care’. Ways that people can get in touch with their inner needs, take care of their body’s needs and live in a way that is empowering and honoring of themselves as a whole. But what does that look like in real life?  

Embodiment is about our mind, body and feelings being in an ongoing conversation, and attempting to work together.  Kind of like being in a band- each musician works in harmony with one another- contributing to the whole. Likewise, In order to be embodied, there must be a balance and harmony between mind, heart and body. It’s about developing an awareness and curiosity about our experience while allowing ourselves to be in the experience at the same time. 

I could be doing a yoga class or a heavy workout and still be mentally disconnected from my body throughout it!  If I’m doing something physical, but my mind is busy replaying a conversation from yesterday, I am anxiously thinking about an interview tomorrow, or I am forcing a mental  ideal that my body cannot safely do, I am not fully present in my current physical or emotional experience, and therefore not moving in an embodied way. In this state, I can miss cues from my body, and may move in a way that causes injury or strain.   

It’s not about your mind calling all the shots, but it’s also not about your physical desires or discomfort calling them all, either. It’s about learning to differentiate between pain and discomfort, and being curious about the feedback your body is giving. Being a witness to your physical experience. 

I often used to say to students ‘listen to your body’- which is a bit overly simplistic and doesn’t take into account the complexity of the feedback our body can give us. We don’t necessarily need to avoid things things the body feels a resistance to, nor is it necessarily healthy to always do what the body wants, or else I would probably try to live off of chocolate and spend 15 hours a day in bed. Being embodied can mean to just take in the feedback the body is giving us, and be curious about it and experiment . So I now often say to students now “get curious about…”

Notice the sensations and adjust when necessary. Sometimes we need to just move into that comfy, familiar place. Sometimes we need to step out of it. It’s about presence and awareness of the here and now- and keeping an open conversation between mind, heart and body. 

 This is easier said than done. To help the mind and body to communicate, we often need to slow down and get curious

Take a deep inhale.. Exhale.. Now get curious about the sensations in your left foot. Is it cool or warm? Wriggle your toes. Alternate between pointing and flexing. How does your ankle feel? Try rotating it, make a few circles with your foot. Now try flexing the foot as your inhale, and pointing your toes as your exhale. Notice how your left foot feels different from your right foot. 

Even now you are a bit more embodied than a few seconds ago! And maybe you feel like moving your right foot now, for balance. 

Take a moment to reflect on your daily routines. How often are you curious about what your body is saying? Do you take time to fully feel your emotions?  Do you allow time and space for that? Why or why not?

Why is embodied self-care important? 

 We can miss important cues from our body or feelings that are informing us to make a shift in our lifestyle to preserve our health and well-being. Maybe we haven’t processed some old grief or allowed our anger to be expressed. This can be stored in our body, and subsequently limit us from moving forward in our lives. We feel blocked. Maybe we develop pain. Embodied practices can help move that emotional energy locked in our body, and ease pain. Embodied practice can alert us to imbalances we have and prevent them from becoming worse or manifesting illness. 

 Trauma may be stored in the body: Perhaps we feel ‘numb’, depressed or anxious. We may ‘space out’ doing certain activities, or generally feel disengaged from things we used to enjoy. We may feel our body is not a safe place to reside, due to previous trauma or unresolved emotions. Embodied practices such as yoga and mindful movement in conjunction with talk therapy can do wonders for healing trauma. But it does not happen overnight and should be facilitated by a trauma-informed practitioner. Being embodied with trauma history can take a lot of practice and require an extra dose of self-compassion and support from others. 

What can I do to live in a more embodied way?

One thing to remember is that no one is living in an embodied way 24/7! 

It is normal and natural to be in a dynamic relationship with the present moment- we often vacillate between pain & pleasure, numbness & feeling, attraction & repulsion, and in between. This is normal. 

Some easy practices you can take into your day:

  •         Notice the Breath: A basic way to become more embodied is through becoming more aware of your breath. During the day, if you are waiting in line, or sitting on a bus, or reading an email, try taking a moment to just bring your awareness to all the sensations of the inhale and the exhale. What parts of your body expand as you inhale? What happens in your shoulders as you exhale? Try with your mouth open. And then try with your mouth closed. How do they feel different? Don’t overthink it. Just be curious. 
  •         The Feet. Our feet are most often touching the ground. But how often do we really get curious about that sensation? Wiggle your toes, get the blood flowing. Feel the floor or ground underneath. If you sit a lot, a hard ball or foot roller or squishy mat can help you stay grounded and connected to your body through your feet. Give your feet massage breaks. They will thank you!
  •         Mindful eating: Mindful eating is incredibly simple and yet, many of us don’t habitually do it. Next time you are eating something- slow the process way down. Take a very small, intentional bite.  Bring all of your attention to the sensation of lifting the food to your mouth, the sensation of it hitting your tongue, the taste buds activating, saliva, the reaction in your stomach, overall body, emotions. Put off chewing as long as you can. Take your time just feeling it in your mouth. Then make each chew very slow and fully experience it! Notice your feelings and emotions in relation to your experience of eating different foods. 

 The more curious you get about what is going on in your body, the more ‘in tune’ your mind and body will be. The less stress you will feel, the more accepting of yourself you will be. The more you will have a deepened sense of ease and flow in your daily life.

 

I don’t get my period anymore and I love it…

I don’t get my period anymore and I love it…

That’s all I wanted to say.

Just joking. But really, it’s heavenly.

And no, I haven’t gone through natural menopause yet.

I am on continuous, very low estrogen birth control. And, it works for me right now. For my body, and all it’s been through, this was the best choice. No more flooding, clots, excruciating pain or passing-out. No more gut-wrenching elimination issues, painful cysts, etc.

Thanks to this medication, I was able to complete a 2-year, full time,            8-courses-per-semester college diploma. Something I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting through before. Sitting in an chair all day and eve, being that tired and that stressed out would never have been possible for me on top of everything else. But I did it, and did very well. I am tired and recovering now. But, with a sense of accomplishment.

I also finally got my full G drivers licence. I am not a fan of driving in Toronto, and prefer to walk when possible. But again, I would never have made it through that, with all the pain before. Another accomplishment.

I can lift weights again, and challenge my body more with intense workouts, sometimes.

I’ve been able to think about other things than my diet, my pain, my hot packs and my beloved Advil.

Without the overlapping rhythm of my hormonal cycle I am now more able to be more in tune with the lunar rhythms. I also feel more connected to my inner Wise Woman- a deep, stable inner strength and infinite power that only felt fleeting before.

I cherished moving through the phases of Maiden, Mother, Enchantress & Crone through each month. But, it was tumultuous and damaging to my body. So now, I enjoy it mainly on the psycho-spiritual level, through the moon phases from a more stable, reflective place within myself.

Most importantly, I can be a better mom and partner now. I can listen more intently to my daughter and be more present for her through her tween and teen years. My partner and I can be active and travel now. I hiked around Machu Picchu and trudged through the amazon jungle with him. We can be more spontaneous, and I feel much more free.

Yes, there are side effects and risks like with any medication. For me, they are manageable and worth the benefit right now. If I died of an extremely rare blood clot tomorrow, I would have died with no regrets. For some, this may not be the case. And it is every woman’s right to decide what’s best for her. Everyone is unique. And can change their mind, and know that what they feel they need now may change one day and that’s ok.

I will never shame anyone for the choices they make for their own health and well-being.

We all have our own healing journey.

As an advocate for living in tune with nature’s cycles, for womb-love, womb-health and being in touch our natural rhythms- it took me a long time to feel ok about getting back on the pill. My doctor recommended it when I was suffering but I politely declined as I pursued the all-natural route, determined to heal my disease this way. After all, there were a bunch of naturopaths and herbal product creators I found online that insisted it was doable, and preferable. I tried the diets- eating specific foods for each phase of my cycle, the endo diet, anti-inflammatory, vegan-low-, glycemic, paleo-ish. I followed each diligently for many months over several years.

I did herbal infusions and tinctures, homeopathy, bodywork, shamanic healing, energy healing, prayer, etc. All part of my healing path, and helped in their various ways. But my disease was quite advanced. And the root of the problem was still structural. Cells laid down in the wrong spot when I was forming as a fetus. Excess uterine-like tissue in places it didn’t belong, responding as it should to a healthy immune system attacking a foreign invader. My tissues were fighting a losing battle, and required the big guns.

Every menstrual cycle became a traumatsing roller-coaster ride. Like those old rickety ones that don’t feel safe. And it was constantly on the go, gradually wearing away at the tracks, the wheels, the cars, and falling apart.

The best thing for my body was to stop the menstrual roller coaster altogether. My expert surgeon performed an excision, the gold standard treatment to date for endometriosis. Afterward, he told me I had stage 4, very severe disease, and removed all he could. He strongly suggested I suppress my periods or the endo will likely grow back and I will be in another surgery in 5 years or less.

I tried a progestin-only medication which caused constant spotting and other issues, so I needed that bit of estrogen to stop it. Got a new prescription and success! And here I am almost 4 years later, and still pain free. My physio is happy with where my tissues are at, too.

I don’t have endo pain to talk about anymore. But, my relationship with my body is still a dynamic, ever-challenging thing. It is still my path of learning and growth.

But now I am more capable of helping others.

So I am here to help you too, if you need it.

My mission with Willowroot Healing Arts is to take all of my lessons and learning and help you navigate your unique journey. Supporting you with all I know, continue to learn, with fierce compassion and devotion.

I will continue to call out pill-shaming that I continue to encounter in the holistic health community. Capitalism and health don’t mix well, and while many practitioners point out the evils of ‘big pharma’- and yes, there’s lots to complain about- but there’s a lot of capitalistic lies and greed in holistic health business as well. On top of that, a general stance of shaming towards people who take pharmaceutical medication for their mental health, womb health, or just in general. How is this any better than being shamed for taking the natural route?

This attitude doesn’t uphold true wholism- if our mind, body, emotions and spirit are all integral aspects of our health and we are social beings- we need to take all of this into account- such as physical limitatons, social limitations, financial limitations, trauma history, privilege and equity issues, and focus on the most important thing to the client at this time. The more options, the better.

Also, I’m just not into shaming. Nor taking sides.

Sometimes people need something natural. Sometimes people need something pharmaceutical. Sometimes both, or different things at different times. Often, we don’t really even have a choice because of financial limitations, or other accessibility issues.

My wish would be that we could see the necessity of all branches of medicine and respect each other’s sincere desire to be well and make our own decisions based on our own experiences.

My path is not your path. But if your goal is to be well,  I will support you in that goal, taking whatever path you wish to take.

 

 

Dancing with Issues in our Tissues- Embodiment, Pleasure & Pain

We all struggle living in our body- at least from time to time. I’d be willing to say that most of us, if not all of us find this ‘meat suit’ we carry around at odds with our human desires at many points throughout our day.

The topic of embodiment (consciousness & body as one) is endlessly interesting and personal to me. Living with chronic pain as a mover & dancer, having an uneasy relationship with my own sexuality due to sexual assault & harassment, societal messages, inter-generational trauma, being in a female body in this world- all ad up to a complex relationship with body. What am I embodying, exactly? If it is my soul, or the Sacred Feminine, and my body is flawed, my womb is flawed, how can I embody the vastness and beauty I feel inside?

Our minds are powerful. We can separate our consciousness from our body by placing it solely into our mind and imagination. We can choose to focus on one important task at the expense of all others. We can astral travel, we can meditate, we can focus all our will into actions that are at odds with our bodily needs to help us achieve specific goals through our day. It may be what distinguishes us from animals, but I am not sure where that line really is. Perhaps it is a uniquely human thing to dissociate from our body willfully?

We can slip into more serious forms of dissociation as a protective survival mechanism against trauma. It is a way to escape the full impact of our feelings, enabling us to survive. For example, we may develop addictions or other coping mechanisms to help us live life after trauma. Sometimes our coping mechanisms outlive their purpose and can be destructive.

Many of us are familiar with common manifestations of not being embodied: Repetitive strain, athletic injury, dissociation, addiction, bad dietary habits, lack of sleep, overwork, stress/burnout, etc. Some of us may also have experience with slightly less common manifestations such as eating disorders, body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, cutting, suicide.

Living in a body is hard. Harder for some of us than others. Yet, we can distinguish an aspect of ourselves as separate from the body, an essence that inhabits it. We have a saying that we are ‘Spiritual beings having a human experience’ and all religions have some form of belief that we have a soul or spirit that is living in our body. When we refer to ‘embodiment’ in the holistic health community and the conscious dance community, we are speaking about the tangible body and intangible spirit harmonising into this deeply present, grounded and yet transcendent state of being. It can feel truly ecstatic, euphoric, natural and grounded, yet blissfully otherworldly all at the same time.

When it comes to these sort of what I’ll call ‘embodiment practices’, such as conscious dance, pagan rituals, tantra, hatha yoga- practices that bring us into our body, we may find they also tend to bring us into our pain, into our limitations, because when Spirit meets body, it goes through layers of complexity- emotional, mental, psychological.

If we are accessing Spirit through the body, we are going to have to go through the ‘muck’ of repressed emotions, desires and fears, possibly lifetimes of trauma, karmic imprints, inherited trauma through DNA, environmental toxins, coping mechanisms, societal pressures and expectations and more.

Amazing Yoga

Our issues live in our tissues, as they say. And, naturally we work to transcend them- by working through them, being in relationship with them. Sometimes it seems they don’t really go away- we just learn to live with them instead of fighting them. Sometimes they dissolve. It’s a bit mysterious sometimes. It is ongoing self-awareness, really. Those new levels of self-awareness sometimes lead to freedom, joy and self-acceptance.

Speaking from a chronic pain point of view, I find it extremely inspiring to watch professional dancers, as they move in ways I cannot. Dance is my favourite art form, and I think it is because they seem to have figured it out- how to transcend the limitations of the body while also accepting them. How to push beyond comfort zone after comfort zone, without breaking. How to create something beautiful, something that expresses the freedom of spirit while still in form. I strive to do the same. In my own body, in my own way.

I am one of those people who processes all my emotions (and often, those of others) physically. Its like everything must get funnelled through my tissues. I sometimes wonder if I am making up for lifetimes when I neglected my body. Or, it could just be that my healing path requires that I focus on this relationship with my body as the primary way to feel whole, to feel my Spirit.  It draws me in again and again, so that no matter how hard it feels sometimes, when my body just won’t do what I wish- I must come back into a patient, loving relationship with it, and must face the totality of my emotions.

Chronic pain gives us an opportunity to keep refreshing our relationship with ourselves. We don’t have the luxury of ‘checking out’ as much as others do, as our body screams for our attention like a newborn baby. We must tend to our wounds. Now. Our body often does not do what we ask, when we ask. Its like having a much more ‘spirited’ child who requires special attention. Others with well-behaved children look on, perhaps thinking it is us that is the problem. We need to pick our battles. Accept the wild child we were given and do our best to not compare ourselves to others.

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For 17 years, I have been practicing yoga and for 12 years now, I have been bellydancing. And I have gained perhaps a deeper insight into the healing impact of the ripples and sacred shapes we make in the dance that only someone with chronic pelvic pain can appreciate. I may also have more experience with dissociation while dancing than most, due the pleasure/pain combo that comes with it. For me, it is a healing art and mind-body practice, and that is how I teach it, combined with yoga and meditation.

For my path, as a dancer, a mover, ecstatic dancer, yogini- My most favourite feeling in the world is how I feel when I dance, move and stretch. The feeling of not being in pain is blissful. Movement releases endorphins and the circulation helps me feel better. It releases tension and emotions and layers of accumulated energetic gunk. But its more complex than that.

Sometimes, after a fun, vigourous dance class or practice, I’ve been in pain for days after. This is why I was not able to continue in one of my beloved dance troupes. This was the case before my excision surgery. I would feel fine during the dancing itself but afterwards would pay a hefty price. Eventually, I wasn’t able to dance at all. I was restricted to very basic gentle movements prescribed by my pelvic physio. It felt like starting from the bottom all over again, like all my years of mind-body practice went in the garbage. It was incredibly humbling and frustrating. But it was just a hurdle I had to work through. For me, my practice evolves in a circular fashion- one step forward, two steps back, around and around again. But I am moving forward, up a spiral of healing, in my own way.

I am inspired by people who do what they love against the odds. An example that having a physical disability or limitation is not always a red light on living their passion. However, I also understand that sometimes our limitations are a way of showing us new things to engage in and new ways of expressing ourselves. Either way, there are lessons and hard work that should be recognised.

Even though I don’t aspire to anything Hollywood, I am glad to know there are strong, successful women out there with endometriosis, including Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Hilary Clinton, Julianna Hough from Dancing with the Stars and more.

And there are amazing painters who are blind. 

And not just one but several  famous composers who were deaf. 

So, maybe a body with limitations is given to those with the strongest will & passion to accomplish their dreams. Maybe it is a lesson in refinement, patience and self-love.

Either way, embodiment keeps me endlessly inspired and motivated.