Vaginal beauty and self-care is having a huge moment right now, between the trends of vaginal steaming, doing pelvic floor exercises with a jade egg, and even labiaplasty procedures to change the look of the vulva. In addition, there are special vaginal massages (also known as yoni massages) you can get to show your vulva some extra love.
But, the goal is not necessarily to score an orgasm. Instead, the aim is a hotter sex life post-treatment, and in some cases, they can be a way to care for yourself by releasing pain and even trauma that you might be holding in the pelvic area. Curious? Let these sexologists explain what you need to expect if you go for a yoni massage with a practitioner, and how you can experiment with the practice on your own time.
What does yoni mean?
According to tantric tradition, yoni is sanskrit for vulva and translates to “sacred portal” or “sacred cave,” says Isis Phoenix, a somatic sexologist who specializes in yoni massage. “A yoni massage is a ceremony where a person invites touching on their vulva,” says Phoenix. “When we invite touch, there’s opportunity to cleanse a sense of energy.” She says it’s a therapeutic process meant to help people become aware of their sexuality.
Sooo…what’s a yoni massage actually like?
Phoenix starts her session with deep-breathing exercises to connect and bring awareness to her client’s body and pelvic floor. Sometimes she’ll ask people to roll around with an exercise ball to bring more attention to their pelvic area. Occasionally, she’ll use herbal treatments to help her clients relax.
Once the client feels calm, they’ll lie down on a table, and Phoenix will massage their body using essential oils and coconut oil. This massage can also focus on certain erogenous zones, like the breasts. After that, she stretches out the client’s hip flexors before moving on to the internal portion of the yoni massage.
Phoenix and her client sit on a table in a butterfly position with the client’s legs draped over hers. When she’s ready, Phoenix places her gloved hands on her client’s vulva. Then, she asks her to repeat the breathing exercises, while gently touching the client’s labia. During this portion of the massage, Phoenix assesses how the client feels and asks them to start inhaling through their mouth and exhaling through their nose.
If the person is willing, Phoenix will put her fingers inside to analyze any tension in the client’s vagina. When she finds a tight spot, she presses into it and asks the client to contract around her fingers, hold their breath, and release, says Phoenix.
Who should get a yoni massage?
Anyone who wants to have a little one-on-one with their vagina is welcome to explore yoni massage, says Phoenix. One purpose of this experience is for people to discover new areas of pleasure. But Phoenix says clients also seek treatment for a variety of reasons, such as
Uncomfortable pelvic tightnessChronic pelvic painOvercoming traumaMoving on after a breakup
Phoenix says that it’s possible to release any emotions that may be “stuck” in your vaginal muscles by experiencing different sensations during the massage. But most of her clients come in to discover a new area in their vagina that feels good, she says.
What are the benefits of a yoni massage?
While some people actually have an orgasm during the process, reaching the finish line isn’t the point, says Phoenix. It’s more about discovering what makes you feel good.
“The biggest benefit is that they feel a sense of embodied wisdom of what gives them pleasure,” she says. And, hopefully, they use that knowledge to do some solo exploring with their fingers or though a vibrator, she says. Plus, learning more about your pleasure zones can make you a better communicator, which could lead to better sex.
Yoni massage can also be beneficial to people with pelvic pain. “The pelvis can contain a huge amount of tension even from how we sit and stand,” says somatic sexologist Emily Royce. The massage doesn’t need to be internal, she says; massaging the thighs and the vulvar tissue can provide relief as well. For internal massage, she practices gentle “clockwork” with her clients, going in with one finger at “6 o’clock” and checking in with her client to see if they’re feeling pain, numbness, or pleasure, and moving to the next “number” on the clock with their go-ahead.
The goal is to bring on some myofascial release (the bound-up fascia, she explains, can form scar tissue, especially from something like an episiotomy), and eventually, pain relief from releasing some of that tissue. Even just lightly placing one finger on a spot, before you even get to massage, can release tension, Royce points out.
“The pelvis can contain tension even from how we sit and stand.” – sexologist Emily Royce
The practice can also be a form of healing for trauma survivors, especially if they have scar tissue in the genital area. That same myofascial work may help release some of the pain stored in the body, and this may be coupled by some emotional relief, if the body feels safe enough. It’s important to work with a trauma-informed practitioner who will have the tools to help you work through any emotional release that comes up within the practice.
How much do yoni massages cost?
They can cost upwards of $300. If you’re interested in finding a practitioner, check out The Association of Somatic and Integrative Sexologists’ site, or The Association of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers for a list of practitioners near you. If there isn’t a bodyworker in your area, or you want to explore the practice on your own or with a partner, Royce recommends going to eroticmassage.com, where you can watch educational bodywork videos and hone your practice.
Are yoni massages safe?
You might be surprised to know that some gynecologists are on board with this practice. Though they might sound like foreplay, any gentle touching in the vagina can help you get aroused faster after the session and help with vaginal dryness the next time you have sex, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine.
“Logically, anything that increases blood flow to the pelvis increases sensitivity, arousal, and lubrication, which could help with orgasms,” says Minkin.
The biggest thing to avoid during yoni therapy: steam and herbs. Minkin says that any steam near the vaginal area is pretty dangerous. “This is the most delicate tissue on your body,” she says. “You risk burning yourself.” As for the herbs, she says you never really know what’s in that stuff, and the less you irritate your vagina, the better.
It’s also crucial the you feel the facility is clean and that your practitioner discusses boundaries and consent with you upfront. If you ever feel uncomfortable, it’s perfectly fine to end the treatment.
Can you perform your own yoni massages at home?
You can totally take this practice home, too, Royce says. Make sure you give yourself a solid hour of alone time to ensure that you can get in the zone without being interrupted. Once you’re in a comfortable environment and position, Royce suggests starting with a body scan to get yourself in a calm, open state, and setting an intention for the practice, without being rigid about what you might accomplish during that time (like an orgasm).
Then, get into the massage, starting with your hands, or a wand, so your fingers don’t have to do as much work. Don’t go straight to the vagina, Royce says. First, focus on palpating your hips and the underside of your butt to get yourself loosened up. Once you’re ready to move on to the vulva, start with cupping. “Bring a full palm over the vulva space, higher, on the mons, or down by the opening, and just hold it with how much pressure you want,” Royce says. Then, you can move from the outside inward, pressing and pulling as it feels natural. If you’d like to try rolling, take some tissue of the outer or inner labia in between your middle finger and thumb, moving the fingers in opposite directions, rolling over the tissue, Royce says. To add extra lubrication, try a nice massage oil, Royce suggests (some people prefer coconut oil or olive oil, or castor oil for dissolving scar tissue).
If you want to go deeper into the practice, you can try some G-spot exploration, Royce says. “You can play with a windshield wiper motion or a ‘come hither’ motion.” You may even be able to follow it back deep enough to find your A-spot, further back, and then the cervix even deeper, she adds, but definitely be gentle, because this whole area is delicate. It’s important to listen to your body throughout the practice.
Can you do yoni massage with a partner?
Totally! If you’re going to practice with a partner, make sure both consent and communication are really clear. Mental presence is the most important thing to bring to your partner. “Let the person receiving the massage direct, and the giving person should do their homework on their own beforehand,” Royce says. When those things are in check, yoni massage can be a really powerful experience to have with a partner.
Wait, I’ve also heard of lingam massage—what the eff is that?
Lingam massage is a similar type of massage treatment for people with penises. “Basically, you’re bringing loving presence to your genitals, and it can be a beautiful thing for partners to exchange,” says Royce. However, there may be a different outcome in the end because the genitals are exterior rather than interior. “A lingam massage is generally different than a yoni massage, but so is one lingam massage to another for the same person over time,” says Royce. “It’s best not to compare and just be present for the person you are practicing with and their experience.”