Season 1, Episode 23

Stress, Trauma, and Reproductive Health with Karine Kedar

This week on the conscious fertility podcast, Lorne sits down with Karine Kedar, a renowned women’s health practitioner and expert on stress and the vagus nerve.

Karine, who has over 20 years of experience as an acupuncturist, herbalist, and educator, shares her knowledge on how memories and trauma can become stuck in the body and how to release them. 

She also provides easy tools to elicit a relaxation response and activate the vagus nerve, which is crucial for reproductive health. Additionally, Karine offers her perspective on society’s view of sex and explains how masturbation can have positive effects on overall well-being. 

Join us as we explore the connection between stress, the vagus nerve, and reproductive health and learn how to redefine your idea of safety.

 

Key Topics/Takeaways:

  • An overview of the vagus nerve. [5:53]
  • How the vagus nerve affects reproductive health. [10:40]
  • The gut fertility connection and stress. [19:32]
  • How trauma affects the vagus nerve. [25:37]
  • The impacts of society’s view of sex. [30:56]
  • Benefits of masturbation. [36:15]
  • Oxytocin. [46:33]
  • What to do when you get judgemental towards yourself. [53:13]
  • Easy ways to activate the vagus nerve. [54:59]

Watch the Episode

Read This Episode Transcript

Lorne Brown:

By listening to the Conscious Fertility Podcast, you agree to not use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others. Consult your own physician or healthcare provider for any medical issues that you may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guest or contributors to the podcast.

Welcome to Conscious Fertility, the show that listens to all of your fertility questions, so that you can move from fear and suffering to peace of mind and joy. My name is Lorne Brown. I’m a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, and a clinical hypnotherapist. I’m on a mission to explore all the paths to peak fertility and joyful living. It’s time to learn how to be and receive, so that you can create life on purpose.

Today on our episode of the Conscious Fertility Podcast, I’m talking with Karine Kedar. And I am looking forward to talking to her about stress and the vagus nerve, and how it can impact fertility and what you can do. And I want to give an introduction to Karine, but before I do, I just want to give a disclaimer, or a trauma alert. I don’t know how to describe this, but we’re going to talk about sexuality. We’re going to talk about masturbation, as well. And if things about sexuality and masturbation are triggers for you, then I just want to let you know we’re going to talk about that. So you have the choice whether you want to listen to this or not. And I’m sure Karine will have something to say about that, as well, as we begin. But I just wanted to let you know that this podcast is for 18 and older, and we will be talking about sexuality and masturbation.

So Karine has been practicing holistic women’s health for over 20 years now. She’s an acupuncturist and herbalist, but most of all, I see her as an educator and advocate for women’s health. She’s actually spoken at the Integrative Fertility Symposium. That’s the Integrative Fertility Symposium that I chaired for many years, and it was such a treat to have her talk about stress and pregnancy when she came to Vancouver, Canada to teach. And she’s been practicing Chinese medicine privately, at the Women’s Place Clinic in Israel, and also in a hospital setting, where she explores the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs for aiding IVF cycles and IUI cycles, which is why I was so excited to talk to Karine today about stress and the vagus nerve around fertility, because of her experience in the hospital setting.

And a few years ago, with a group of other outstanding women, Karine founded the Keren Briah. It’s an Israeli nonprofit organization for voicing women’s needs regarding their health. And this is where I had this incredible connection with Karine, because many of you know, for the Conscious Fertility Podcast my agenda has been to help us heal the world, we heal our hearts and minds. And there’s this idea that we come here with conscious fertility. And through our conscious work, we have conscious conception, conscious pregnancy, and then conscious parenting. And these children get their attachment needs met, hopefully, during their childhood, and grow up to be great citizens of the world.

And talking with Karine, she has this passion and this organization to help young women through all stages of life. So prepubescent, through puberty, through the reproductive years, into menopause, and even into end of life care. And so I really wanted her to share about what her organization’s doing for women at all phases of their life.

And so she has shared with me that she really loves accompanying women in their feminine transitions. And she says from budding womanhood to becoming a fertile young woman, from the working woman having a career and trying to balance it all, to the journey of conception, pregnancy, motherhood, right into that perimenopausal shift, and then becoming a mature woman. And she really shares how lucky she feels to be able to spend time with women as a facilitator, as a caretaker, right into their last days on this planet Earth. And she has been, recently, with a group of dreamers on a mission to establish education, health, and care services for young women in the US. Her goal is to create a wraparound hybrid wellbeing centers for young women, to learn about health and receive multidisciplinary, comprehensive care, when they are challenged physically and emotionally. And so that’s kind of Karine’s bio.

And I have to share with our audience how we also met when I came to lecture, myself, in Tel Aviv, Israel. What a host, and a beautiful soul Karine is. She got our group together. She chose some incredible restaurants for us to eat at, at different nights. And just the foodie that she is … The food that we ate was amazing, and how she brought people together, and we shared, we laughed. It was really an incredible experience for me.

But I always share, when Karine and I get together, that my highlight was after dinner … She was my transportation. And we had parked, and when we went to the car, it was boxed in. It was ridiculous. And so I suggested that we go back and meet up with some of the people that stuck around and have some more drinks, because we’re not going anywhere. And she looked at me like, “What are you talking about? I can get out of this.” And I was like, “You’re not getting out of this, but let’s try it.” And we went into her vehicle, and I don’t know how she did it. It defies the laws of physics, but she was able to forward, backward, forward, backward, side, left, right, whatever, and get us out of that parking lot. And so that’s the highlight … Not the highlight, but that’s the thing, Karine, that I’ll always remember you for, is how you got us out of that parking lot. So welcome to the Conscious Fertility Podcast.

Karine Kedar:

Thank you so much for introducing me, and for inviting me. I really like myself through your eyes. I was listening to you, and I said, “Oh, she sounds like a cool woman.”

Lorne Brown:

You definitely are a cool woman. And I wanted to jump in, and talk about the vagus nerve. And so can you give us an overview of stress and fertility, and what is this vagus nerve that we’re talking about? And why do you think it’s so important, and why you want to talk about this?

Karine Kedar:

We have the autonomic nervous system. And until quite recently, it was divided into two sections. The sympathetic, which is the fight or flight, or reaction, and the parasympathetic, which is rest and digest, or relaxation, or anything that is not react-ful. But our life is not that simple. It’s not either we react or we don’t react, and it’s not either we fight or we relax. The complexity of life. And that’s actually a beautiful thing, the fact that we’re so complex. The way we can react to situations is very complex.

The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system. And again, when we say autonomic, it’s really, really important to remember that autonomic means that it’s not something that we can really change, unless we try and try again to rewire this connection between our brains and our body. So autonomic means that it’s subconscious. It’s not something we choose. It’s something that happens to us.

So parasympathetic part has a part in it, which … Let’s say the dominant nerve of the parasympathetic is the vagus nerve. And it’s actually a nerve from the head. It’s a cranial nerve. It’s not a nerve from our spine. So it’s really, really important to remember that it starts in the back of our head, and it goes into the organs, through the neck, into the heart, into our breathing, into the gut, stomach, our intestines, and it actually ends in our pelvic floor. Okay. So first of all, anatomy. It starts in the back of our head, and it ends in the pelvic floor, at our genitals. So that’s very, very important, first of all, to remember anatomy.

Lorne Brown:

And I think that’s why they call it the wandering nerve, right? Because it goes from head down to the lower part of our body.

Karine Kedar:

It has so many beautiful names. Some call it the vagabond. Others say it’s the nomad. Some will say the wandering nerve. It has so many beautiful names. Actually, some people would say it’s the Kundalini energy, the Kundalini snake, serpent. Some would say that they’re the same, that actually the whole chakras and the serpent of the Kundalini, that’s the vagus nerve itself.

So the vagus has something that is extremely important. It has a way to look in the outside world and our inside world, and to decide whether we are safe or in danger. And not only whether we are safe, whether we are safe and enjoy pleasure, or we are in danger, and knows whether it’s real danger, something that we are under a life threat, or in danger that we have the capacity to react. So we can look at the spectrum, right?

Lorne Brown:

So you’re saying it allows us to perceive our environment, and whether we’re safe or not so safe?

Karine Kedar:

Exactly. It has a way to do what we call neuroception. It’s to detect through the nervous system, with the aid of our sensory organs. Mainly the eyes and the ears, but also the skin and other sensory capacities of our body to understand, first of all, the outside world. Whether what I see and what I hear is safe for me. And if safe for me, do I enjoy it? And if it isn’t safe for me, am I in danger? And if I am in danger, what kind of danger?

But not only does it use our senses to look at the outside world, it has a beautiful capacity to look at the inside landscape of our body. It can detect our heart rate. It can detect our larynx, whether we can swallow properly, whether we can sound ourself, voice ourself. It has the capacity to observe our breathing patterns. So it actually sends information to our brain, telling us about what’s going on in the inside and the outside of our landscape.

Lorne Brown:

How does this impact reproductive health, if it’s perceiving danger? And I know in our past conversations, this is perception. You’re not necessarily in danger all the time, but you’re perceiving danger. So how does this affect reproductive health, and this balance … Or homeostasis, balance that we’re looking for in our body?

Karine Kedar:

First of all, our body doesn’t have the capacity to understand whether what we perceive as a life threat is indeed a life threat. So our body, when it perceives something that is threatening … And again, if we were traumatized, it may have a library of many, many things. That objectivity. We can say objectively, they’re not dangerous. But since we had stuff happening to us in our lives, whether it is in our past, and some may even say in the life we lived in our mother’s womb, and some may even say that it’s past memories, past memories that passed from generation to generation … It has a library in which it looks at and says, “Oh, that’s danger.”

And when my body perceives danger, danger is danger. If it thinks I’m in danger … And let’s say my body thinks it saw a tiger, and my body reacts to a tiger. For my body, this is a real tiger. After some time, my body is supposed to understand that this is not a real tiger, but it’s just a perceived tiger … To relax myself and to get me back on track to be relaxed and happy.

But if my nervous system is unable to tap back into feeling safe, it may feel in danger all the time. And we can think about it in a simple, biological way. Are we supposed to have babies when someone is chasing us? Absolutely not. Am I able to have sex when someone is trying to kill me? Absolutely not. So our body is hardwired for connection and safety, but is less hardwired to be connected when we feel a life threat.

But by the way, if we feel that we’re in a threat, someone else can help us. Then we can actually use this stress to call for help. So it’s really important to understand that stress is not a bad thing. We all like to bad mouth about stress. Stress is really important for our lives, as it helps us change. It helps us explore other options. It helps us rewire neural connections. It helps us react. And it also helps us physically. Again, if I am threatened by something, my body is able to give me energy to run away or to fight, right? That’s good stuff. It’s not a bad thing. But fertility-wise, or sexually-wise, when I’m under a lot of stress, these are not as important as survival. And survival always comes first.

Lorne Brown:

Right. So you’re saying if you’re constantly in this chronic stress, or your body is perceiving stress, then it can take a priority of survival over reproduction, because that’s the hierarchy.

Karine Kedar:

Absolutely. We can look at it through the lens of neurology, through the lens of neurons and nerves. But we can also look at it through the lens of hormones, when we have a lot of sex hormones but our body is mainly working on the HPA axis, and the axis of the adrenals.

Lorne Brown:

Can we define the HPA axis? So the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, you’re saying.

Karine Kedar:

We can just call it brain adrenal connection. The adrenals are those that are in charge of giving us hormones, that we will be able to use stress in a good way. Let’s say when I am excited, I have high adrenaline. Adrenaline is very short. I also have many, many other hormones and neural transmitters. But the most important thing to understand … That this is the line of connection between my body and my brain. Connectivity regarding stress, but also regarding testosterone. It has a connection to the adrenals. So it’s not, again, only stress in a bad way. It’s also to be able to hunt, to be able to pursue something. But these are hormones of reaction to the outside.

The other axis is the axis between our brain and our ovaries. The axis of the adrenals will always win, because that’s the axis of survival. The axis of the ovary, that’s for reproduction. And we need to be in some kind of a minimum capacity of relaxing in order for this axis to work, as well. Was that understood?

Lorne Brown:

Yeah. So we’re having this HPA axis, HPO axis. So you have the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, and you have the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis. So the hypothalamus-pituitary part are together, and you have the adrenals and the ovaries competing. We’re saying this generally, but competing for attention. And so if you’re in that survival mode all the time, you’re consuming or using resources for survival that are now not as available for reproduction.

Karine Kedar:

Exactly. But also, we need to remember another thing, that there is the component of sexuality here. Most people make their babies by intercourse. Others make them by other ways, whether it’s from their choice or whether it isn’t from their choice. But most people, when they try to conceive, if they’re heterosexual, will do it by having sexual intercourse. And again, in order to be able to have sexual intercourse, you need to be in a parasympathetic activation, because if not, you will not be able to relax into the situation of having sex. And if we think about those, that’s kind of easy to understand.

But now, let’s think of those who need the aid of technology. HRT, IUIs, anything. IVFs. I mean, all kinds of technology. Even just adding some medicine, some hormones, that’s also very taxing to the body. Not only it is taxing physically, it’s very taxing emotionally. Every month, you are feeling like you are under a magnifying glass. You are being tested. You have a feeling that you might fail. And failure is very, very stressful. So let’s say you do it once. That’s kind of stressing, but not terribly.

But think about the couples or the single people who try to conceive, and time and time again, they don’t get it. And they feel more and more like failures, and they go and try and see another doctor. And they try something else. And it’s always them who feel like failing. That’s also very, very stress-making. And that actually makes you less available for pregnancy, and not more available. So it’s this see-saw that is so hard to explain to people why relaxing into the process, believing and trusting the process, is a really important part of trying to conceive.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah. And I want to add to this, because this is what the Conscious Fertility Podcast is about, is … First, as you shared, acknowledging that this journey is stressful. They didn’t choose this journey. They wanted, hoping to start their families easily. And so acknowledging that for many people, this is a really challenging process. And although there’s no survival benefit … It’s not like there’s a tiger going to eat you. The body doesn’t know the difference, and all these stress hormones for survival are being released.

And then just for our listeners, because you’re like, “Yeah, now I feel more stressed, because stress is bad for my fertility,” that you are going to share later in our podcast tools on what they can do to teach the body, to elicit their relaxation response, and to support the vagus nerve. We’ll call it, for now, that way. How to support that process while you’re on this journey. With the vagus nerve, starting, like you said, from the brain coming down the neck, through the heart and lungs, and into the gut … Can you share a little bit about this gut fertility connection, and how you see the vagus nerve’s process in this? How it’s impacting the gut health in a positive or a not so positive way?

Karine Kedar:

Absolutely. First of all, we’ll talk about stress hormones a bit again. Stress hormones do affect the way you digest things. It’s not only physical digestion. I eat food, I break it down, I use some of it, and then I secrete what I don’t need. But it’s also the emotional and spiritual digesting. I hear stuff. I see stuff. So when I talked about the way the vagus nerve is relating to our outside and inside world, that’s digestion. Okay? Some of the digestion will be through our eyes and our ears, and that’s the stuff we hear and the stuff we see. And some of it will be the digestion of the food we eat, but not only that. How we ate it, with whom did we eat it, did we like it?

Lorne Brown:

That reminds me of our meal in Israel where-

Karine Kedar:

Exactly.

Lorne Brown:

… I mean, just the way you’re describing this. Our vagus nervous system, in a very positive way, was activated because we felt safe. We had community. The food was delicious. It was just like that. How we ate it, not just what we ate. So thank you. That’s what just went off-

Karine Kedar:

And that’s really, really important. At least in my point of view, when we speak to others about food, nutrition, it’s not only the what. The how, the when, the whom with, the environment, the kind of criticism I have towards myself when I eat, whether I indulge myself into pleasure, or indulgement means guilt, whether I eat and I count every bite, whether I’m afraid someone will see me eating, that’s also … So again, when we say digestion through the lens of the vagus nerve, that’s the digestion of life, but also our internal life. The memories of how my mother used to look at me when I ate. The things my dad used to say, “Aren’t you full? Maybe it’s time to stop eating, Karine.” My father never said that, but some people get that from their parents. Criticism towards eating, towards weight. So that’s vagus itself.

But then if we want to look at the component of fertility, we need to add the microbiome, the germs that are inside our gut. Inside, by the way, our brain, our mouth, our ears, our vaginas. We have about a kilogram to two kilograms of germs inside the body. And every time I think about it, I mean, in quantity, it really gets me like crazy. I’m like, “Oh my god. That’s two kilos of so much information. So much in intelligence.” And a lot of research now is done on depression, anxiety, heart failure, of course gut health, but also fertility health in our microbiome.

And again, the microbiome is made of two components. The food we eat and how it breaks down, but also the environment in which it broke down. So if we talk about it in … Food-wise, we call the prebiotics and probiotics. We can add good germs to our body. But if the soil of our body, the soil of our soul, is not reluctant to host good environment, then we will host bad environment. And bad environment is, again, through the vagal nerve, telling our brains that fertility is not a very good idea, that releasing into pleasure, into sexuality is actually very, very dangerous.

There is the gut-brain intelligence. There is the vagina-brain intelligence. And if we look at them as one line, we can see that from the brain, through the heart, the breathing, the gut, we get to our uterus and our vagina. And they’re all connected, right? They’re all connected. And we can use many, many ideas of what connects them. It’s like this very 3D, multidimensional model. Hormones and the microbiome and nerves, and of course, emotional and spiritual aspects. And these are all part of this.

What is fertility, if not the ability and possibility of not only hosting someone inside of me that is only half me … So I need to host someone who’s half a foreigner to my body, half a foreigner to my immune system. I need to allow it to take away energy, to take away matter from my body, to grow inside of me, to change my brain, to change my body. That’s a lot of stuff that I need to allow myself to happen in me, right? That’s very taxing. If you think of it in the aspect of spiritual and emotional fertility, that’s scary.

The amount of women that I see in the clinic, that … Even talking about pregnancy or the changing body, their whole body reacts as stress. Talking about motherhood, especially to those who had bad childhood experiences. And when I say bad childhood experiences, I’m not talking, Lorne, just about traumatic or objectifying … What is trauma. We all have our own stories, and these are our stories. Some stories may seem like it’s nothing. Someone forgot to take me from the kindergarten. My dad used to come home, and he would be really quiet in the first hour he came home. My parents didn’t communicate well. That’s not … We don’t say, “Oh, that’s very …” No, it is very traumatizing. When a child learns about the outside world, he or she learns about it from their parents. And this is part of the library, this vagus nerve built in our brain.

Lorne Brown:

And as you shared at the very beginning, we get imprinted, and there is research showing transgenerational … So based on your ancestors, in utero, and then intentionally, unintentionally how your parents raised you. And this is imprinting on our vagus nervous system. And I want to highlight that you shared that it’s not so much the event, whether you got picked up late from kindergarten or whether there was something very physically, or emotionally traumatic event. It’s how the individual internalizes and processes the event that determines the trauma in the body, in the vagus nerve.

Karine Kedar:

Exactly. So this internalization and processing is based, exactly as you said, on factors that are imprinted in us. You can call it genetics. You can call it epigenetics. You can call it transgenerational information passaging. There are many names to call it. Yeah. But we’re not alone in this world. We came with a heritage and with a baggage, to conception, to pregnancy, to when we were in our mother’s womb. So when we were born, our first day on earth, we already had a library in our brain, telling us what is safe and what isn’t safe.

I can give you a really simple, stupid example. But I like this example. Do you know how, in our culture, women are trying not to gain too much weight during their pregnancies? And some take it overly serious, and try not to gain weight. So they eat very, very strictly during their pregnancies. They don’t get enough calories. And they end the pregnancy with being extremely lean. And unfortunately, in our culture, they get praise. It’s amazing you didn’t gain any weight. So from the culture eyes, it is amazing she didn’t. Her body didn’t change. She got back into her figure really quickly.

But if you look at it from the eyes of the baby, in utero, this baby doesn’t know that the outside world has abundance of options, of possibilities of food. It only got what its mother gave him or her during gestational months. So the baby’s genes are then programmed to be able to survive in a world that has sparse food. So this baby, when … It will come out to the world, and will find out that, actually, what his mother told him about the world wasn’t true, will be more prone to be overweight, to have diabetes type two, when she or he will be very young. So their body is programmed exactly to what his or her mother programmed them, during pregnancy. And we can talk about many, many examples of taste, sound, emotions.

Lorne Brown:

I just want to point out, though, is that so many people have, myself included … We got stories, imprinting, agendas said to us, program, as I call … The subconscious programs that don’t serve us today. We didn’t choose them. And the good news is there’s so much being written about this. There’s so many authors. There’s research, experts. We’re having this conversation today with Karine. That there are some tools available to help you change that story, to help you change that relationship with the vagus nerve, with the external, internal environment. So your body behaves differently.

So I just wanted to share that, Karine, because I think it’s important to let people know that there are things that we know today that people are using to impact their mental health. And I wanted to talk about some of these tools, as well, at some point. Before we wrap up … We still have time here to chat about this. I just want to share that just this vagus nerve, this wandering nerve, because there was something that you had shared with me off camera that I thought was quite interesting as well, because I remember my reading, my training, that the vagus nerve … From the brain down to the gut area. And you had shared with me that now, they understand that the vagus nerve goes all the way to the uterus and vagina.

Karine Kedar:

Yeah, for sure. It does.

Lorne Brown:

And so many of the women that I see, voluntarily or in our consult, share that they have had some sexual abuse in their life. It’s very unfortunate, but it seems like a large number in my population, in my practice, that I hear about this. And I’m wondering if you can speak on that, on how this could impact the vagus nerve and reproduction. And then, talk about what you’re seeing, and why you wanted to talk about masturbation, because I think you said this is one of the things to help support and heal. So I’d love you to talk about that, if you’re open to that.

Karine Kedar:

For sure. So we have two things to talk about. First of all, is how to reactivate the vagus nerve in a healing way. And the other subject we are going to talk about, is the connection to the vulva and the vagina and the uterus. So we’ll actually do them together. We know today that the vagus nerve actually ends in the pelvic floor, in the vagina, in the cervix, and in the uterus. And that’s new science, so not everyone knows it. But it becomes just basic anatomy. And you were talking about a lot of women sharing with you that they’ve been hurt.

I want to say something, and I may sound quite radical, but I will say that every woman in the western world was not given … I’m trying to not be overly dramatic … Was not given the opportunity to enjoy being a sexual, sensual woman in a broad, generous way. We live in society that doesn’t allow women to be sexual, healthy, well-being creatures. And we are so easily judged whenever we explore our sexuality, whenever we enjoy our sexuality. We’re called horrible names if we allow ourself to be sexual in this world.

But we also are demanded by society to be excellent lovers, to serve our partners in the best sexual way, to have multiple orgasms, to squirt, and to do whatever men and women see in pornography, or here. Internet or other … So being a woman in the sexual realm is very confusing. What am I supposed to be? And confusion, and not knowing what are you supposed to be, and what will be okay, and what will … That’s real stress. And that’s very stressful.

So a woman doesn’t have to have a history of sexual assault, but I will say that her sexual organs, and her sexual pelvis, and the pelvis itself is free and happy. Very few women have beautiful, happy pelvises, that they will say, “Oh, I love my pelvis. It brings me so much joy, so much pleasure.” Even this, I didn’t say anything about sex. This may perceive a little bit drastically, if one would say it in a … I don’t know, a dinner. Some would say, “I have a really good back. I have a strong back. I can lift weights.” And no one will raise an eyebrow. But if a woman will say, “I have such a happy pelvis. My pelvis can have wonderful sex. I enjoy the sensuality of my body. I like moving my thighs,” then she will be called something not very nice. And that’s very, very stressful.

So first of all, being a woman in the western world, that’s stress. But if we understand that this stress is something we hold in our body, and every time our body is sexually activated, it sends signals to our brain of danger, then we connect sexuality and danger very, very easily, even if we don’t want to. So that’s the first thing.

The second thing is that in order to become pregnant, hold a healthy pregnancy, give birth, return our bodies to a whole, healthy, adjusted pelvis, then to reengage into sex, and to enjoy sex, and again, and again, and again … This requires flexibility. It’s an emotional, neurological flexibility that, again, we are so easily judged. We are told all the time how we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to do, and that’s not good for our nervous system, and for our bodies.

So why do I connect masturbation to that? First of all, because I like to … It’s a defiance, kind of a way. People don’t like to talk about masturbation, and people hate talking about women’s masturbation. That’s like a big no-no in our society. So first of all, I like the big no-nos. Second, I think the best way to charge your pelvis with a happy, joyful, pleasurable experience in the safest way … And that’s touching yourself. So if we talked about reorganizing the library of experiences of our sexual realm, the best way to start is to start loading more happy situations regarding your pelvis.

And it’s much easier to take care of the environment, put candles, find something that smells beautiful, put some beautiful music. And when I say masturbation, Lorne, I’m not talking about going into a crazy orgasm, and using toys. That’s beautiful, and that’s fun too. But what I am talking about is about neutralizing and normalizing our pelvises as places of joy, of pleasure, and not instinctively marking them as threatening or dangerous areas.

Lorne Brown:

You know, you said something about masturbation and sexuality, because some of the women have shared that there’s guilt when they’re having sex with their married partners, because of how it’s been ingrained when they were younger, about … Sex was dirty or sex was bad, or how hard they tried not to get pregnant their whole life, and now they’re trying to get pregnant. But when they really start to get in touch with themselves, and do this conscious work, they start to realize they have a sense of shame or guilt around their sexuality.

And so I think what you’re sharing about masturbation, and how you’re saying this can impact the vagus nerve in a positive way … What about the women that have this issue, where they feel it’s wrong or dirty? Do you just say, “You just start?” How do you go from this is bad, whether it’s your religion or what you were brought up with, to incorporating this into changing the story of your body? And I always love the science-y part of it, as well. You talked before with me about the oxytocin, and just what are the benefits from the science … For the people that love the science, how this is going to benefit their health and their reproductive health, as well?

Karine Kedar:

So first of all, we can take the word masturbation and put it aside and say, “Tap into pleasure.” That is a lot less explosive. When I speak to patients who have a religious background, I will not use the word masturbation, as it is very, very scary. But tapping into pleasure or learning how to enjoy … That’s okay, usually. And sexuality is not about genitals. It’s about enjoyment. It’s about sensuality. It’s about play. It’s to find playfulness in your body, in connection.

So it is the connection between oneself, the connection between the child in me that was brought up to believe that this body is dirty, that sex is not to be enjoyed, and to meet my adult self who wants to rethink this, whether it is true for me or not. And I can keep this girl inside of me safe, and still find pleasure, as a woman, by telling this girl inside of me, “I know this is what we were told, but let’s try something else. Let’s see together how it will feel.” There are no big exclamation marks here.

I always say that the most beautiful thing about a question mark … That it’s an exclamation mark that was just hugged a bit. So it has this bounciness, of the question mark. So that’s the first of all. Instead of, “Huh,” It’s like “Huh, hmm.” So it’s different soundings, the way I talk to myself. It’s the way I bathe myself in the shower. I will tell my patients, “When you wash yourself, do it gently and with love.” And the same way you touch your face when you wash your face, touch your vagina, touch your vulva in a way that is soft, that is loving, that is not … Clean, clean, clean, as if it’s a dirty place. It isn’t. And then just we can start by caressing our hands, and our shoulders, and our neck.

It doesn’t matter where we touch ourself, as long as we touch ourselves with curiosity. Our vagus nerve really likes curiosity, because then it goes around and saying, “Hmm. Mm. Mm.” And when it has time to think, then it knows it’s not danger. One of the things that we always know … When it’s real danger, we didn’t ask ourselves, “Am I in danger? I knew I was in danger.” But then, after our body understood that this danger is just a perceived danger, I can breathe. I can exhale longer, because that activates our parasympathetic. So I will inhale four, and exhale eight. I can slowly touch myself, instead of hastingly touching myself. I can dim the lights. I can close a window to have less noise in. These are all ways to comfort the vagus nerve, by tapping into pleasure and enjoyment. And that is masturbation. That’s self-love. And then, when I meet with my partner, I can invite her or him to come inside me.

I hate the word penetrational sex, because penetration has this pushing in. It’s not an invitation. I want to invite my partner to enter my body. So I use the word entrance, or entering, instead of penetrating. My vagina prefers that word. When I want my partner, my husband, to enter me, it’s not penetrating me. I want my body to hug the body of my partner. And he has a beautiful penis that I can hug with my body. And that’s a very, very different way to speak about sex than penis, vagina, penetration. That’s very hostile. It’s a language of hostility.

Lorne Brown:

What a powerful perceptional shift from penetration, hostile, to invitation, welcoming, entering. Thank you for sharing that. That’s a powerful perception shift.

Karine Kedar:

And I have something very secretive to share with you and our listeners. When women take time, and their partners take time, and they play together … And again, I don’t use the word foreplay, because foreplay means that there will be a main dish. And the entrance of the penis, the finger, the toy, into the vagina, that’s not a main course. That’s part of the game. That’s part of this entertainment park that we play together. So the part before the entrance, when we give enough time for it, when we caress the whole parts of the clitoris …

We talked about it in one of our conversations how most women, and especially most men, don’t even know that the clitoris is such a beautiful, big organ. It’s not this small, small knob that we were taught. The clitoris has four fingers, cruras, and they hug the entrance of the vagina. And once we get aroused, it enlarges. It has the capacity to be filled with blood. And then it has the capacity to help our bodies secrete sexual juices.

And then our vagina actually starts opening up by herself. And if you look at the vagina of your lover, when she’s ready, the mouth of the vagina will open. And it will actually be like a mouth opening, telling you, “I’m ready to be entered.” And when people start negotiating sex, they talk. They use words. I am able to tell my lover, “I think I’m ready. I feel my vagina opening to you. Come in me.” And this is very much an invitation, and not I’m dreading the moment he will come in. We are waiting together until we see that my vagina has her own mind again, through the vagal nerve telling me and my lover, “Oh, I’m ready for this. Come, I want to hug you.”

And I think the more we learn how to converse about sex in a loving way, in a playful way, the more women and men will be able to heal their bodies. And again, that’s the beautiful thing of the vagus nerve. It wants to relearn all the time. It wants to keep us safe. But more of that, it wants us to be happy and in pleasure. And that, you remember, we talked about sex hormones … We need to add pleasure hormones, or joyful hormones, or serenity hormones. And they’re, of course, all the opioids and endorphins. But the queen of them is the oxytocin.

And most men and women secrete oxytocin. And we don’t secrete oxytocin just when we give birth, as it was thought. We secrete oxytocin all the time. We secrete oxytocin when we laugh with a friend. I’m very full of oxytocin now with you. I see both of us being pinkish, and our faces are relaxed, and we can see our eyes open, and our mouths are not clenched. So I can look at your vagus. You can look at my vagus. We have a lot of safe communication here, so I know I feel happy. I feel connected. That’s oxytocin.

And oxytocin gets much higher when we fall in love with someone, or something, by the way. I can fall in love with a shoe, if I see a beautiful shoe. I love shoes. I can get a surge of oxytocin. We see small animals. If you see a kitten, you are full of oxytocin. If you like Seinfeld, that’s good for oxytocin. If you like standup comedies, that’s excellent oxytocin secretion. But of course, being touched, caressed, and hugged in a safe way, that’s the best way to have huge amounts of oxytocin.

And oxytocin is an anti-inflammatory agent that helps our body to change and shift. This is why we use oxytocin to give birth. We use oxytocin to have an orgasm, because what oxytocin does to our mind is it tells us that you can forget yourself for a bit, for a moment. You don’t have to think about survival now. You are so safe that you can let go. So orgasm, which is, by the way, just a release of sexual energy … That’s all that it is. A release of sexual energy is mediated by the ability to let go of everything for a moment or two and just be. And that’s amazing moments in our life, of huge shifts. If I allow myself more and more occasions of just being, then this library of danger, safety, and pleasure can be filled up with beautiful, small moments of happiness, joy, pleasure. And the more of that library becoming abundant with this … It’s just, really, small stuff. This kitten you saw. Yeah.

Lorne Brown:

From so many of the experts we’ve had on the podcast, and I often share as well, is that present moment, which you just said just being. They say if you can get into the present moment, then there’s opportunity, and things happen. And you’re sharing this again. Just being, letting go, surrendering, being in that present moment, which you said orgasms are one of those ways. And for those people that want to do it not just sexually, now we’ve learned shoes. So if you love your shoe shopping, you can go and get your oxytocin from buying a nice pair of beautiful shoes.

Karine Kedar:

You don’t even have to buy them, by the way. You can gaze at them. That’s okay. You can try them on. No, I’m really serious. We have this thing that we think that if I can’t buy it, I shouldn’t try it. No, no. Go into the store, ask for your size, try them on, enjoy walking in them, in these very high heels that you’ll never walk in. Play a game with yourself, as if you are the woman who walks in these heels. And then return them to the lady and say, “Thank you very much. They weren’t very comfortable.” And usually, they aren’t.

But you still have, again, in your library, this moment of happiness, of indulgement, of playfulness. And these are really good antidotes for stress, and for feeling like you are in a test all the time. The more we take this thing of being successful or failing, but more … Align yourself, your life, to be this journey of explorations, of mysteries, of play. I am so much into play. Start playing. Have fun.

Lorne Brown:

The playfulness is so important, like our conversation today. Hey, I didn’t know we were going to talk about shoes today. And when you talk about-

Karine Kedar:

Do you like shoes? You’re not a big shoe-

Lorne Brown:

No. They’re not …

Karine Kedar:

No.

Lorne Brown:

That doesn’t give me my oxytocin.

Karine Kedar:

But you see … You’re into books, right? I see that you have such beautiful-

Lorne Brown:

Love books. And I got a whole shelf in front of me, as well. Yeah. When I get-

Karine Kedar:

Then when you hold the book. Let’s say you meet someone, and he just released a book, and you meet him, and he gives you the book. And then-

Lorne Brown:

That’s an oxytocin rush.

Karine Kedar:

… He signs your book. And then you have a signed book. That’s, for you, an oxytocin moment, right?

Lorne Brown:

Yeah, it is. Yes, it is.

Karine Kedar:

You share this.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah.

Karine Kedar:

And that’s really good for your nervous system. And the amount of opportunities we have every single day, every hour, every minute, of adding another marble ball to our big jar of experiences … The more we choose the adding another situation, the bigger the library of safety our nervous system can host.

Lorne Brown:

And that’s what we get to start to do now. That’s what we can start doing, is creating a new library. And the idea of being curious, and setting the intention to keep it playful is so important. And when you talked about self-love … Again, some people … Oh, we’re talking about masturbation again? No. What I heard is self-love is that kindness that you have for yourself, that inner talk where you’re being gentle and playful and curious and kind. You have a kind voice to yourself, the tone change. I thought that was fabulous, as well. So thank you for sharing that.

Karine Kedar:

I have just a small, small thing to add. And people will say, “What about judgment?” That’s usually what I get from people, when I talk to them. What happens when I get judgmental towards myself? Then I say, “You can host that, but just don’t give it coffee and a cake.” You can tell judgment, “Oh, thank you very much for coming. It was a really nice visit. I need to go now,” and then go do something fun.

We cannot undo judgmental shit. We can only host it in a nice way, again. Because what happens … Many times, we get judgmental, and then we get judgmental on being judgmental, and we get judgmental on being judgmental … So it’s okay to be judgmental. That’s normal. And it’s okay to compare one another. That’s normal. That’s how people do. But don’t give it too much energy, and don’t initiate it. It comes by itself. You don’t need to initiate judgemental shit. It just comes, right? And then you say, “Hi, it was nice meeting you. It’s so nice of you to come.” And okay, let’s try something else.

Lorne Brown:

I have a nice tool that I call, “Notice, accept, choose again,” for that judgmental dialogue. Basically, it’s a tool of how to present moment. And there is a nice blog and a video, where I go into detail on this, on the Acubalance site. So if you search how to present moment, the NAC approach, that is a tool to surrender and notice your judgment. And then how do you create a new library shift? And again, the intention here is to take up a new relationship with self, a loving relationship with self, where you have nice thoughts and ideas about yourself. And we can all do this. We can all rewrite, or write a new story.

In wrapping up, I wanted to ask you kind of two things. One is if you could share, are you using acupuncture in your practice for women, to help with this vagal tone? I know you talk about sexuality and diet, so if you can share a little bit, kind of what you’re doing in these hospital IVF clinics, and just what are some of your tools? And then can you share with our audience, if you’re open to it, this new venture that you’re doing, that are working with young women all the way up through the reproductive years? Because I know that’s a big passion of yours, and I think it’s an important thing that you’re doing. So I would love you to share that, as well.

Karine Kedar:

Sure. Acupuncture is actually really easy in that way, since we have … The vagus has efferents in your ear, so you just need to look online, on the efferents of the vagus nerve, and needle them. That’s really, really helpful. Also, all the points in the sides of our neck, like Small Intestine 18, triple warmer, all these points are actually on the vagal nerve. So if you find them to be tight … It depends on what style of acupuncture one uses. So some would use the points on the neck, other will use points that work on the neck. Usually, for those of you who practice Chinese medicine, think about the gallbladder and triple warmer meridians. They’re very, very beneficial. And we will talk about it in the whole … We’ll do a lecture for acupuncturists about it, and we’ll use a lot of that.

We can also teach our patients to massage their ears. Above the lobe of the ear are the efferents of the vagus nerve. So we can just hold our ear, above the lobe, and massage it really, really, really strongly. We can massage the sides of our neck, the sternocleidomastoid muscle. We can massage that.

But the easiest way is to learn how to activate your vagus nerve by breath. And as I mentioned before, elongating your exhale while keeping your inhale natural. So we will do … Which is natural. And then we’ll exhale as long as we can. We’ll give all our emphasis. We’ll focus. It’s also an immense amount of work, in learning how to focus on parts of our lives that we want to focus, and gaze on the parts we want to see less, to learn to be the best … How do you call the man in the theater that does the light? The lighter?

Lorne Brown:

I don’t know.

Karine Kedar:

Okay. So we know that man, the one that keeps the light on the actors. And you know how when you’re in the theater, your eyes are always gazing to where the light goes, right? The better we are in learning how to light our life … So focus on learning how to give good light. It’s not the things that you don’t want to see won’t happen on stage, but you’ll give them much less attention. So its intentionality is very, very important. And breath, again, is so easy. We can do it everywhere. We can sit in the car and feel that we’re stressed. And then for five, six breaths, inhale and then elongate the exhale.

We can sing. Singing activates the vagus nerve. Again the vocal cord, the larynx, are controlled by the vagus, so we can sing lullabies. That’s why lullabies are so effective to babies. We can sing a song, any song that we know, and we can put the radio on, or Spotify and find something … Just activate. We can scream. By the way, screaming also activates the vagus nerve. If we are with people and we can’t sing, we can hum. Humming is very, very beneficial. So you can go “Mm. Mm.” So you can go to the toilet and just inhale, exhale, long exhale, and then hum for a little bit. And your whole body will shift into a much more relaxed way.

And I think the last thing you can do is learn that even opening and closing your mouth will activate. Just opening your mouth as big as you can, and then closing your mouth, as if you’re drinking from a straw. That activates. There’s so many ways we can tap in.

Lorne Brown:

Can you describe that again?

Karine Kedar:

Open your mouth as wide as you can, like a lion. And then close your mouth, the smallest as you can, as if you’re drinking from a straw. Okay? That’s very easy. Lion, straw, lion, straw. That activates, again. And if you’ll do it when you take sounds in and out … In yoga, we have a lot of postures, like the lion, when we do the … That’s humming, and opening your mouth. So that activates. Yoga, by the way, is very, very good for your nervous system, if you like it. If you don’t like it, it’s not that good. So you need to find something you like. But again, that’s learning how to like things. It’s not just to say, “Okay, I can do it.” No. I want, with my patients, to find things they like. And then I want them to find things they love. And then I want to find things that makes them really, really excited. So everything is gradual.

Lorne Brown:

And so we’ll share a few of these ideas. There’s acupuncture. There is acupuncture, or acupressure, in the ear, that you mentioned.

Karine Kedar:

Absolutely.

Lorne Brown:

I have, on the Acubalance blog, with three mind hacks to elicit the relaxation response. And one of them is about the breath. And I like the in for four, hold for four, out for eight, because as Karine shared, that long, slow exhale … Almost as if you’re breathing through a straw, has been shown to change the vagal tone, to engage the parasympathetic. So it’s a nice way to communicate to your body, “I am safe.” And you can probably Google a whole bunch of things for vagal tone that can help you relax the body.

It’s interesting, because you talk about the points on the neck, or massaging the neck. A lot of the stuff I do in my practice with low level laser therapy … We do a lot of stuff in the lower abdomen, and in the sacrum, but a lot of the points that we use are on the neck, because it increases blood flow. Parasympathetic … Because of the vagus nerve, and the carotid that we’re working close to.

And so I invite people to check out the three mind hacks for eliciting relaxation that I have a blog on. And then Karine, how can people learn more about you? Website? And let us know about this organization that you have started up, with other brilliant women, to work with women from early on in their life to later on in their life.

Karine Kedar:

So I’m a very low tech person, so I don’t have a website. Kind of proud of it, but it will probably change with this new venture. So there is my course in your website, so you can listen to that. And I hope we’ll do one about the polyvagal in the vagus, and acupuncture one day. So that will be available one day. But at the moment, I’m working to establish a chain of clinics for young women. And the first question everyone asks me, “How young?” I would want to meet women as young as possible, so they will be able to learn instead of unlearn.

The thing I saw most in my clinic … And again, I’m so lucky to be working for 20 years, because I have patients that I attended their births, and then I was with them, as their acupuncture doctor, throughout their childhood, with their mothers. And with the first signs of sexual development, I was there. With menarche, I was there.

And I was lucky enough to see … It’s going to sound a little bit arrogant, but I will allow myself, that if individuals get good education from childhood through adolescence, their outlook towards menstrual health, towards sexuality is so very different than one that I have to help my patients and their families to unlearn what society taught them. So the reason why I wish this voice of healthy, of pleasure, of joy, of enjoyment … It’s so wonderful being a woman. I just love it. I have this really strong urge to have more and more women, as young as they can learn how to enjoy being a woman, so society will be able to change. I know it sounds very megalomaniac, but I don’t mind it. I think it’s really important.

So we’re planning to establish clinics. We’re still not sure how and where, as we want them to be not for the rich, but for everyone. So we are working hard on understanding insurance in the United States, and that’s really difficult, and how to do it. But we’ll figure it out, and it will happen. I am a believer in my group. We are called Journeys. I really hope that we will become live. I mean, we will have a site, an Instagram, and all that, when we will feel ready. We’re on our first steps. We’re like babies learning how to learn. But I have a strong belief in us. I think we’ll be able to achieve it. Yeah.

Lorne Brown:

Well, having known you for many years, and your passion, and your determination for good, I am confident you will succeed, as well. And I send you the best wishes on your intentions to launch this, and to help women in all stages of their life. So thank you for being born, and thank you for doing all the work that you do with all the people that you support.

Thank you guys for tuning into the Conscious Fertility Podcast. I will put down in the show notes how to connect with Karine. And in the show notes, we’ll put a link to that blog about how to present moment, the NAC, and also the link to the blog on three mind hacks to help elicit the relaxation response. And then talk to your healthcare providers. There’s so many simple tools that you can do at home, like massaging your ear lobes, or inside your ear, to help support that vagal tone. Karine, thank you very, very much.

Karine Kedar:

Thank you so much. And if someone feels they need to speak with me, it’s okay to write me. Don’t be shy. Don’t feel uncomfortable. I am fully open to it. Just write me an email and I’ll … It might take me time, but I’ll be very happy to connect. And if something was triggering and you want a hand, then my hand is yours. Okay?

Lorne Brown:

Thank you, Karine. And she mentioned some lectures on healthy seminars. Those are for acupuncturists, and so we’ll leave that down in the show notes as well. All right. Thank you guys for listening. And Karine, thank you for making the time today.

Karine Kedar:

Thank you.

Lorne Brown:

Thank you so much for tuning into another episode of Conscious Fertility, the show that helps you receive life on purpose. Please take a moment to subscribe to the show, and join the community of women and men on their path to peak fertility, and choosing to live consciously on purpose. I would love to continue this conversation with you, so please direct message me on Instagram, at Lorne Brown Official. That’s Instagram, Lorne Brown Official. Or you can visit my websites, lornebrown.com and acubalance.ca. Until the next episode, stay curious. And for a few moments, bring your awareness to your heart center, and breathe.

 

Karine Kedar

Karine Kedar

This week on the conscious fertility podcast, Lorne sits down with Karine Kedar, a renowned women’s health practitioner and expert on stress and the vagus nerve.

Karine, who has over 20 years of experience as an acupuncturist, herbalist, and educator, shares her knowledge on how memories and trauma can become stuck in the body and how to release them.

She also provides easy tools to elicit a relaxation response and activate the vagus nerve, which is crucial for reproductive health. Additionally, Karine offers her perspective on society’s view of sex and explains how masturbation can have positive effects on overall well-being.

Join us as we explore the connection between stress, the vagus nerve, and reproductive health and learn how to redefine your idea of safety.

 

Key Topics/Takeaways:

  • An overview of the vagus nerve. [5:53]
  • How the vagus nerve affects reproductive health. [10:40]
  • The gut fertility connection and stress. [19:32]
  • How trauma affects the vagus nerve. [25:37]
  • The impacts of society’s view of sex. [30:56]
  • Benefits of masturbation. [36:15]
  • Oxytocin. [46:33]
  • What to do when you get judgemental towards yourself. [53:13]
  • Easy ways to activate the vagus nerve. [54:59]

Hosts & Guests

Lorne Brown
Karine Kedar

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