Book Review - Yoni Shakti: A Woman’s Guide to Power and Freedom through Yoga and Tantra

Uma Dinsmore-Tuli has gifted us with the most comprehensive and radical book on women’s sexual health and yoga to date.  Yoni Shakti:  A Woman’s Guide to Power and Freedom through Yoga and Tantra is 600 pages of feminine-infused ritual and practices, historical reclamations, personal narrative, cultural critique and revelations of the inherent superpowers within all womb bearers. The work itself liberates and exudes shakti, feminine energy and power, all the way down to the beautiful illustrations and sacred geometry found among its pages. 

Sex and Your Nervous System

I want to have better sex (but I’m not really sure what that means or what that looks like).

I want to enjoy sex. 

I want to experience more pleasure.

I want to experience orgasm in a different way.

I want to have more connected sex. 

These are some of the most common desires that I initially hear from clients and students that are wanting to work with me. People are attracted to my work because there is something that they want to shift in their sexuality.  What occurs when we begin our work together is that we embark on a winding road that ventures into all kinds of territories that they have never connected to their sexuality.  I ask them about their childhood, stress, lifestyle habits, the various voices in their head and the stories they’re telling about their life, the ways that they process emotion, how and what they eat, their digestion and elimination. We begin to widen the field around sexuality and question what sexuality even means. In a culture that still runs largely on the story of original sin, most of us have cut off and compartmentalized sex from the rest of our lives—which is where the longing for “more” in our sexual lives actually originates from! 

What I have learned from working with many people over the years and from my own healing is that unless there is a supportive foundation that includes a strong sense of safety then the relaxation, receptivity, freedom and openness required for all of the “mores” and “betters” when it comes to sex is not possible. 

Reclaim the Power of Your Pussy

I know that many of you vagina owners out there have a very distant relationship with your vagina.  She exists in some kind of dark void buried deep in your subtle awareness.  You don’t look at her or touch her.  You may have gone your entire life without really acknowledging her.  You might reserve her pleasure for the pleasure of others.  Maybe you allow her to enjoy toys but would never feel her warm, juicy texture with your own fingers.  

Some of you might actually dislike your vagina. You might have been told she’s dirty or gross.  You might think she looks weird.  She may have been a source of pain or discomfort.   She may have represented unbearable vulnerability.  She may have meant that you’re a girl and you might blame her for the prejudice and disempowerment the world has shown you simply because you own a vagina.

It’s time to make friends with your vagina.  It’s time to reclaim the power of your pussy!  (Yeah, I said it). 

First, things first, we need to clear up what a vagina actually is.  (Oh, my inner anatomy geek is getting all turned on).  Your vagina is a muscular canal and potential passageway that opens when it wants to envelope something or during childbirth.  Contrary to popular language, it does NOT include all of the external parts like the clitoris and labia.  The external parts are called the vulva.

Pelvic & Vagina Healing Post Birth

(A brief rant followed by some very solid advice for postpartum pelvic healing!)

We have a cultural obsession with bodily strength.  We are constantly bombarded with words and images that say, “you are not doing, or being, enough”—a popular mechanism for the circulation of wealth within an economy based on the consumer’s primal fear of not being good enough to belong.  

Not even our yonis are spared with Instagram campaigns of women cross-fitting their vaginas by hanging weighted objects out of them while donning yoga poses.  Ughhhhh!  Now, not only do I have to strive for the impossible task of “flat abs” but now my vagina also has to wield heavy objects?!?!?!

Overly tight yonis and pelvic floor muscles cause pain.  

I’m writing this piece for the volume of postpartum women that I’ve spoken to whose sacred birth portals have not become too loose for pleasurable PIV sex, but instead have become too tight and painful for it.  

First, what causes this post baby tightness?

You Might Call it Discharge, I Call it Divine Nectar

I believe that we might change the world if we came up with more honoring language for our body parts and their functions. (We might even start with the word functions).  One area that this is especially true is that of sexuality and particularly women’s anatomy.

Here are some terms that are worth reconsidering when we look at their origins:

Masturbation - to defile with one’s hand

Intercourse - exchange or commerce

Vagina - a sheath

Let’s compare these English words to the Sanskrit word yoni.  Yoni is a Sanskrit term that encompasses all of the female sexual parts (womb, vagina and vulva).  It also is a symbol of the goddess, Shakti, and means source of life and sacred place.  

Language creates identity and meaning.  A name casts a certain spell.  The words we currently use to describe aspects of our sexuality carry the dark underpinnings of a much different time.  A time when women’s sexuality was owned by men and men’s sexuality owned by a punishing god.  I can’t help but wonder how the currents of these spells still emanate through our collective psyche when it comes to our relationships with our own bodies and the bodies of others.