S1 E24: Vaginal Steaming with Kit from Kitara


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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

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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