We women are extraordinary, in body, brain and soul. And as women who travel we get to explore ourselves in many wonderful ways. Here are some unique experiences and festivals from around the world to celebrate our female form and function. From experiencing sexual pleasure to praying for childbirth and honouring menstruation – here’s to us!
Have you ever had your lady parts massaged by someone else? No, we don’t mean from a partner. Yoni massage stems from India and is a form of intimate massage. What this means – in the simplest of terms – is relaxation and pleasure derived from intimate touch and erotic massage. Aficionados would continue to tell you that Yoni massage stems back centuries in Hindu and Buddhist practices, and that taking part in it will help you connect with your vagina sexually, yes, but also emotionally and spiritually. Yoni massage is as much about exploring your own stimulants and pleasure as it is the final climax; something achieved as you learn techniques for breathing and techniques to – well – pleasure your yoni.
And yes, yoni does mean vagina in Hindi and Sanskrit. Don’t say we never teach you anything.
Speaking of your yoni, have you tried vaginal steaming? It’s a fairly common spa technique across Southeast Asia and is (almost) as simple as the name suggests – steam is directed onto and up your female parts. We say, ‘almost’ because based on stories from those who have participated in this ancient ritual, any preconceptions of personal privacy must be left at the door as you strip naked from the waist down and sit on a chair with a ‘steaming potty’ underneath it. The steam may come from water alone, or it may be herbally-infused. Common herbs used in vaginal steaming are lavender for relaxation, rose petals for toning, and mugwort to ease cramps. If you’re not sure whether it’s for you, we spoke to someone who’s actually tried it, to find out what it really feels like. She said; ‘while the experience was incredibly intimate, it also felt strangely natural. It was refreshing and calming and left me with a feeling of having been completely cleansed – it’s not dissimilar to the feeling of a facial steam!’
Every June the ‘bleeding goddess’ of Hinduism sees hundreds of thousands of people visit her temple in the Northeast Indian state, Assam. Otherwise known as Kamakhya, she is a tantric goddess who is believed to menstruate once a year, during which pilgrims from all over India celebrate with a 3-day festival, the Ambubachi Mela. Menstruation is commonly viewed as taboo within India and as such regulations are often asserted on women during this time; no cooking, no sex and no entering temples, for example. The Ambubachi Mela – while progressive in its acceptance of female bodily functions – ultimately follows course as the Kamakhya Temple closes for 3 days while the goddess is ‘cleansed’. Visit to tune your mind into your body, and to join thousands of others in praying for fertility.
Can you wake up at 4AM and stay silent for 10 days in a row? Welcome to Vipassana meditation. This ancient-Indian practice was reintroduced to the world in its current form via Buddhist Monks in Myanmar, and today there are active centres throughout both countries. While not strictly aimed at females (men can take part too) the meditation sessions are always segregated into gender. The belief behind the silent meditation is ‘anichya’, or ‘all things are temporary’ and, as the CEO of Twitter found out, that means that even if you’re being bitten by mosquitos you must let them do their thing, until they decide to move on. But – we hear you exclaim – no speaking for 10 days? It’s telling that most participants don’t cite this as the hardest part. Instead, as one Vipassana-goer told us, “it’s the resulting action of having to really get to know yourself; the good, the bad, and the ugly”.
If it’s good enough for the Twitter CEO, it might be good enough for you too. But remember that gender-segregation? Don’t expect to meet him there.
Red Tent Gatherings bring women together to explore femininity in all its varied forms; emotional, sexual, psychological, hormonal, and more. Gatherings take place at the time of the new moon, a time at which it is believed women’s menstruation cycles should – in a world undisturbed by modern conveniences and technology – also begin. Originating in Native American culture, the aim is to provide a safe space for women to rest, relax, revive, share stories and empower one another. Today, Red Tent Gatherings have become a global movement and events take place throughout the world. One recent participant admitted that she was comfortable to speak about things she hadn’t even shared with her husband saying, “it was a direct result of women supporting women”.
A truly great way to break down your own barriers, and to bond with fellow females.
Traditionally the penis festival in Japan, officially known as Kanamara Matsuri, was a space to pray for fertility, safe sex and healthy childbirth. In recent years this unique festival has become social media famous and has, in turn, turned into quite the flamboyant spectacle. Pilgrims carry huge models of male genitalia through the streets of Kawasaki while crowds look on dressed in plastic penis or vulva costumes, and street vendors sell penis shaped lollipops, candles, headwear, and more. It’s all taken in good humour however, and the festival raises money towards important research into HIV.
Go expecting to get some fun selfies, not to achieve any sense of spirituality.