What Is Yoni? | Symbolic, Conceptual, and Practical Meanings

Published | Updated May 14, 2020

The Yoni Explained | Symbolic, Conceptual, and Actual Meanings
Today, the word Yoni is often used as a synonym for the vagina but that’s rather limited, to say the least. Yoni is a very broad topic, and we’ll try to enlighten you a bit about it by explaining the wider context and meaning of the Indic Yoni concept.

Mind that this post is not so much about the anatomical parts of the Yoni (although we will talk a bit about those), but about the origins of the concept of Yoni, which has its beginnings in India. The Yoni in India has cosmological, spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical connotations and up to today it has an important role both in the Hindu religion and in Ayurveda traditional medicine.

The Spiritual and Cosmological Level

Yoni is a Sanskrit word (Sanskrit is the ancient Indian language) that appears in several texts in the Vedas, the latter being a large (and the oldest) collection of sacred religious texts originating in ancient India.

The Yoni symbol is usually represented in the form of a horizontally positioned square or round base with an edge and an opening in the center (see the lead picture of this post). Typically you will see a cylindrical Lingam (or Linga, which is the Yoni’s masculine counterpart) placed in the center. You may encounter Yoni icons in Indic literature, in many Indic art forms, and in temples.

The idea, scope and meaning of the word Yoni is broad — it’s used in the sense of source, origin, nest, place of birth, the womb, abode, incubator, creator, fertility, family, race, caste, grain, seed, among other less frequent synonyms.

In ancient Indian cosmological theories and conceptions, the Yoni is referred to as the material cause of the universe, that is, the mother source of the universe. In fact, the Yoni is usually represented as the female principle in all known life forms including its seasonal, regenerative, and vegetative cycles.

In many Indian religious traditions, the Yoni is of key importance, notably in Shaktism, Shaivism as well as in Kaula and Tantra lineages. The Yoni, together with the Lingam symbolizes the cyclic creation and dissolution of the universe and of all individual life forms.

The Yoni is also seen as an aniconic symbol of Shakti which is interpreted as the supreme elemental dynamic cosmic energy representing power, ability, strength, force, effort, energy, and capability.

Shakti then, in Hinduism, is both a conceptualization and personification of sacred feminine creative power, referred to as Amma, Devi, “The Mother,” or “The Great Divine Mother.” This power manifests itself through females, active creativity and fertility, although it’s also present in males in its latent form.

It’s believed that Shakti energy is responsible for creation and change. It’s here where the notion of the Goddess arises, Shakti being incarnated and embodied in various female Hindu Goddesses or Devis.

Finally, we need to realize that the Yoni has been a sacred, divine symbol in ancient times across many civilizations globally. Called Yoni in India, it appeared under other names and representations in various early cultures and societies. In Southeast Asia, for instance, the Yoni icons with the Linga placed into it are encountered in ancient stone temples, in reliefs and murals in Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The Physical Level

In a more restricted physical sense Yoni is used as a referral to the feminine regenerative and reproductive organs. It then includes the vagina, uterus, cervix, ovaries, vulva, endometrium, and Fallopian tubes.

In Indic Ayurvedic traditional medicine we find many treatment modalities addressing the Yoni, such as for instance, Yoni Prakshalanam, Yoni Pichu, Avagaha Sveda Yoni Sitz Bath, Uttara Basti (Uttara Vasti), among others.

The various Ayurveda Yoni treatments that cover Yoni Roga, or gynecological disorders, are therapies to cure certain diseases, discomforts or illnesses such as Yoni Daha / Yonidaha (burning sensation in the vagina or vulva), Yoni Srava / Yonisrava (excessive vaginal discharge), Yoni Kandu / Yonikandu (an itching vulva), Yoni Viyapada / Yoniviyapada (candidiasis), just to name some examples.

Many of the Yoni treatments that exist in Ayurvedic medicine can be found in other parts of the world or in other traditional healing systems. Treatments like vaginal steaming, vaginal sitz baths, and vaginal douching are universal treatment modalities with, of course, local adaptions.

Yoni Massage however, today very trending around the globe, is virtually absent in Ayurvedic medicine and basically found its way through what is called the Neo-Tantra movement. It’s why you will encounter Yoni Massage treatment offerings under names like Yoni Tantric Massage or Tantric Vaginal Massage, etc.

The Emotional and Psychological Level

The Yoni as a reference to the womb, fertility, procreation, and “the mother” has, over time, created many difficulties for women, not only in India, but around the world.

The problem is the conception that a woman, as a personification of Shakti, is fully woman only if she is able to create, procreate, that is, have babies, and moreover, is a caring, loving, self-sacrificing mother. This has basically robbed women of their personal dignity and of their own intrinsic value.

It, for instance, means that a woman should not pursue, have or experience (sexual) pleasure for herself (but only sacrifice her life as a mother or a “good” housewife) and that she’s unworthy, named and shamed if she does otherwise or cannot “produce babies.” Another important “shaming” aspect directly connected to the physical Yoni is the woman’s menstrual cycle, childbirth, and postnatal period which, traditionally in many societies and cultures, has been seen as “bloody and dirty,” something that needs to be “cleansed.”

Without going into an analysis of works like the Indian Kama Sutra or spiritual lineages such as Tantra, we can easily conclude that the Neo-Tantra movement, surfacing in the 1960s in the West, has increasingly promoted the liberation of women when it comes to experiencing pleasure and emotional fulfillment, both on a sexual, non-sexual and spiritual level.

What is there today as Tantric Sex, Tantric Massage, Lingam Massage, or Yoni Massage, and the like, all found their way through the Neo-Tantra movement, yet it’s highly debatable if any of this was present in the original Indic religious and spiritual Tantra lineages and philosophies.

However, what’s without any doubt, is that there’s ongoing work to do. For women to liberate themselves from sexual suppression, from women-unfriendly patterns and practices in society, and from the mental, psychological and physical blockages and traumas because of those. This is not only something that concerns the West, but also other civilizations, may they be South American, African, or Asian.

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Article Categories: Indian Ayurveda, Spirituality, Enlightenment, and Self-Realization, Tantric Massage and Genital Treatments
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