In case you didn't know, I created a little handout a while back on how to explore yourself (click here or continue reading for more info on why!).
After my an amazing weekend away in Melbourne with barracudas and a sexual dysfunction course with THE Talli Rosenbaum, I was inspired to put this out there again but with some background info.
How many of you women know what exactly is between your legs down there? I mean really know what is what where. It's funny and sad but most of us don't actually know what our vagina is and there are also some people who don't realize we don't pee out of our vagina. Thanks to an episode of Orange Is The New Black, that was clarified for us.
Some of you may not care to ever learn expilcit details about what is underneath and inside you but you should know basic names and locations on an anatomy picture as well as on your own body. You should also teach your kids this from a very young age. The more you understand and are aware of your body parts, the greater connection you can create and keep between that part and your brain. There is an actual area in our brain that has maps corresponding to areas of sensation called the "somatosensory homunculus". (Somatosensory Map photo from The Neurocritic)
Each body part is mapped accordingly to the area it is found in the brain and proportional to amount of sensitivity. For example, the lips are a sensitive structure making sure we don't burn ourselves when we drink or eat something so they are seen larger than the elbow for example.
The male genitalia was controversially mapped as early as 1920 (Pfeifer, 1920 found in Michels et al 2010) but the female clitoris (much like the penis and to be discussed in more detail in a not-so-distant-future post) wasn't suggested to even be found mapped in the brain until 1991 (Guerit & Opsomer) and this female genitalia mapping business is ongoing. Recently they mapped the women's clitoris, vagina and cervix! (Komisaruk et al 2011)
The reason I mention all of this is to stress the importance of keeping a good link between your brain and your super important genital area. In men, their brain has a chance to get to really know the meat and potatoes. They touch their penis and look at it everyday. I am not being rude, I am talking about urinating (but I am sure there are a large cohort of males that also touch it for other, very healthy reasons and from a very young age!).
Unfortunately for females, we may never touch, look, feel and get to know our genitals apart from wiping ourselves after going to the toilet. Our brains can have a disconnection from a very important part of our body. A place where we can experience great pleasure and sensations, make babies, bring babies into the world, and empty our bladder and bowels.
This mind-body connection is especially important in the area of persistent pelvic pain. The brain gets very good at protecting you from possible threats or dangers, even when they are no longer present, and this means that those mapped areas in the brain can change. They can become larger so the brain pays more attention to them...too much attention. Or they can become smudged, which means brain areas overlap and you lose some distinction between parts. You might then feel diffuse pain in other areas close by on the map (persistent pain in the genitals can lead to pain sensations in the foot). Imagine this happening in an area you have never looked at or touched. Your brain would have a much harder time changing the map when it's disconnected from the part!
So, to help you and all of your friends get to know your lady parts, I created a nice, simple handout (not graphic) for you (CLICK HERE). Whether you have no pain or dysfunctions down there, it is important to connect your brain, and keep the connection, down there.
Please note: if you do have persistent pain down there (and especially if the thought of looking at yourself creates a pain experience), it is really important to see a women's health/pelvic health physiotherapist with experience in this area to help guide you gradually.
As I said, in future, I will create another handout and blog on further exploration of the clitoris itself :).
Thanks to Tracy Sher, aka Pelvic Guru, as she helped spread the knowledge love by sharing it with her followers on her blog.
Other useful information/references used in this blog
Fuzzy Foot and Genital Brain Territory - NOI jam
Females Reclaim the Homonculus - NOI notes
Why Pelvic Pain Hurts - Adriaan Louw, Sandy Hilton and Carolyn Vandyken
Graded Motor Imagery - NOI group