Safer sex and sex toys

Most sex ed lessons cover the topic of safer sex.  As teenagers a lot of us learned how to prevent pregnancy and avoid STI’s.  However, it’s rare that sex toys get a look-in during the safer sex talk.  This is a real worry, because many STIs can be passed along this way if you don’t take proper precautions.

Sex toys often get overlooked when we talk about safer sex because they’re not attached to our bodies.  They don’t excrete fluids and we don’t really think about their potential to pass along infections and diseases.  But the truth is that if you use sex toys with your partners you need to make sure that you’re using them safely, and taking the following things into consideration.

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Choose non-porous materials

Many materials used to make sex toys are porous, which means that they have tiny pores in the surface of the product.  Bodily fluids, bacteria and lube can live in these pores and breed.  Each time you play, you’re re-introducing that bacteria into your body.  And if you use the toy with a partner, you’re spreading that bacteria to them.  If you have multiple partners as you can easily spread an infection among all of your partners with one porous sex toy.  If one of your partners has an STI, then this could potentially pass the infection on to other people you’re sleeping with.  Even if everyone is healthy, then a porous toy can still harbour and spread bacteria which can cause yeast infections and irritation.

That’s why it’s so important to choose toys that are made of non-porous materials.  Silicone, glass and stainless steel are the gold star materials to look for.  Avoid toys made from jelly-plastic, cyberskin, PVC or rubber.  Be wary of toys that are made from wood or stone, as these may be porous unless they are sealed with a non-porous coating.

 

Clean your toys thoroughly after each use

Non porous toys can never be thoroughly cleaned, because those tiny pores can easily trap bacteria.  But if you’ve selected a toy in a non-porous material then you can get it truly clean. And you should take the time to clean it completely each time you use it.

For dildos, butt plugs and other non-vibrating toys, wash them in the sink in hot water and a specialised toy cleaner.  To sterilize these toys, you can boil them in a pot on the stove for several minutes or even put them on the top shelf of your dishwasher.  If you share toys, or use toys for butt play, I definitely recommend sterilizing them after use.

If your toy has a motor then cleaning it can be a little bit more finicky.  Wash your toy in the sink with warm water, toy cleaner or a mild bleach solution. Wipe off any residue from cleaning products which may cause skin irritation.  Remember to dry your toy completely before storing it.

 

Wrap it up

Making sex toys safe is easy when you employ one of the oldest safer sex tools on the market: the condom.  Putting a condom over a porous toy will prevent fluids or bacteria coming into contact with the toy’s surface.  If you are sharing a toy with multiple partners, butting a fresh condom on your toy between partners will keep everyone’s fluids separate and avoid cross-contamination.

It’s also a great idea to slide a condom onto your toy if you’re planning to do a combination of anal and vaginal play in one session.  It’s vitally important to keep anything that has been in or on an anus far away from a vagina. Contamination between butt and vagina is one of the most common causes of UTI’s.  To stay safe, slip a condom onto your toy, do your butt play, then whip it off and dispose of it before you go anywhere near the front door.

 

Keep them separated

It can be nice to have separate toys for solo use, and toys that you use with your partner.  If you play with more than one person, ask each person to bring their own toys to the bedroom.  This may not always be feasible, particularly if you use toys during casual encounters or don’t have a lot of cash to splash on separate toys for everyone.  But if it works for your personal situation, having separate toy collections can help keep sex safer.

 

Don’t neglect your safer sex practices when using sex toys.  Toys often get overlooked when we discuss disease prevention and STI’s, but they can absolutely pose a threat if proper precautions aren’t taken.  Make sure that you choose toys carefully and clean them carefully after use.  And if in doubt, use a condom to keep yourself and all your partners safe from STI’s.

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My IUD is gone

You might remember that a few months ago I wrote about my experience having my IUD inserted.  Well, I now have another chapter to add to that story, to close the book on my experience with the Mirena IUD.

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I had the Mirena inserted in September, 2017.  I had very few side effects and was extremely pleased with it.  I felt very safe in the knowledge that it was in my uterus, just hanging out and zapping any sperm that swam into the vicinity.  Well OK, the IUD doesn’t literally “zap” sperm.  It just disorients them and thins the uterine lining so that if one of those little buggers does manage to fertilize my egg, the egg can’t implant into the uterine wall and turn into a baby.  At any rate, things were going well and I felt very confident that the IUD was working as it should be.

 

Then in January this year I saw my doctor because I was having some abdominal pains.  My doctor sent me for a bunch of tests, which included an ultrasound and a pregnancy test.  The pregnancy test came back negative, which was a massive relief.  Even when I know that I’ve been practising safer sex, there is still a feeling of monumental reassurance when I see that single blue line show up on a pregnancy test.  My ultrasound was a little bit more alarming.

 

As the technician was preparing me for my pelvic ultrasound, she asked me a bunch of questions about my sexual history and what contraceptives I was using.  I told her that I had the Mirena IUD and that I was having regular sex with a monogamous partner.  She then did two ultrasounds- one externally over my abdomen and back (to check my kidneys) and another trans-vaginal ultrasound which is internal.  After she was finished, the technician instructed me to clean off the ultrasound goo, get dressed and then wait for her to return so she could talk to me.  I was a bit nervous because I’ve never been asked to stay behind after an ultrasound and I was worried that some very bad news was in the offing.

 

The technician was quick to tell me that she hadn’t seen anything abnormal, and although my doctor would give me my full results, she hadn’t seen anything to indicate that there was anything wrong.  Everything was where it should be….except one thing.  “I can’t locate your IUD anywhere on the scans” the tech told me.  I was taken aback and asked her if she was sure.  She replied that she’d done a really extensive scan of my entire pelvis, and that the IUD was nowhere to be seen.  So it was likely that the IUD had been expelled from my body.  She warned me that I needed to use barrier contraceptives until I’d sorted out other birth control and then showed me to the door.

 

I spent the entire walk home feeling disoriented and puzzled.  How could the IUD be gone? I knew that there was a possibility that IUDs could be expelled but this didn’t make sense to me.  It took so long and hurt a lot to get it in my uterus in the first place, how could it possibly have dropped out of there without me knowing? Surely, expelling an IUD would hurt, at least a little, right?  And even if it didn’t hurt, if it did come out of my body, surely it would have turned up in my underwear or something.   I was completely baffled.

 

After denial over losing the IUD came anger.  I was furious.  I’d spent a fair chunk of money on doctors appointments and the unit itself, I’d gone through the pain of having it inserted and the stupid thing hadn’t even had the decency to stick around and do it’s job?  I was mad at the doctor who had put the IUD in, worried that maybe she didn’t do it properly, and frustrated with my own body for rejecting it.

 

And then an icy wall of realisation slapped me across the face.  If I didn’t know when the IUD was expelled….it might have been missing for months.  Which means that I’d been having unprotected sex for months.  I knew I wasn’t pregnant because I’d just taken a pregnancy test, but holy crap, I’d been playing Russian Roulette with my uterus.  That thought was the thing that frightened me most of all.  I don’t want kids.  Ever.  And the idea that I was unknowingly at risk of becoming pregnant was enough to nearly make me lose my lunch.  I felt like I’d dodged a bullet, because it really was only by sheer dumb luck that I hadn’t fallen pregnant.

 

I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor to discuss the results of the ultrasound. She confirmed that there was no trace of the Mirena anywhere in my body.  It’s gone.  She believes that the abdominal pain I experienced was related to my uterus expelling the IUD.  As to where the actual unit has gone, it’s possible that it was flushed down the toilet or washed down the drain in the shower without me knowing.  Either way, it’s not in my body anymore.

 

It turns out that expulsion is actually not that uncommon with IUD’s.  Around 5% of people who have a Mirena implanted will expel the device.  Expulsion usually happens in the first three months of having an IUD, but it can happen later on.  Expulsion can be painless, and it’s possible for it to happen without you knowing.  And that’s pretty scary, because it means that you might think you’re protected from unwanted pregnancy, when actually you’re still fertile.

 

I’m not telling you this to frighten you, or to put you off getting an IUD.  IUDs are a very effective form of birth control and work for lots of people.  But they do come with risks and they can fail.  That’s why it’s incredibly important to consider all the different contraceptive options available and also to listen to the messages your body is sending you.  If I hadn’t had that abdominal pain, I might not have had the ultrasound and wouldn’t have known that my IUD wasn’t in position.  I am glad that I listened to my body telling me that something wasn’t right, and got it checked out.

 

So this has been a very frightening and confusing experience.  I’m still feeling upset but relieved that things weren’t as bad as they could be.  I’m back to square one with contraception, and I’ll be getting an Implanon rod inserted soon.  If you’re interested, I’ll chronicle my experience with the Implanon, and also answer any questions you might have about it and the Mirena IUD.  Fingers crossed I have more success this time.

Product review: OVO L1 Loveballs

I’d been on the hunt for a set of kegel balls when I spotted the OVO Loveballs.  I’d previously tried a set of basic Doc Johnson Ben Wah Balls which I wasn’t taken with.  Then I got a set of duoballs as part of a “free gift with purchase”.  I liked them a lot but they were average quality and I resolved to upgrade to something a bit sturdier.  That’s when I found the OVO Loveballs at the Passionate Jade stall at Kinkfest.   They were only $30, which seemed like the perfect price for an experiment.  So I  snapped up a set and took them home to play with.

Firstly, let’s quickly talk about the difference between ben wah balls and duoballs.  Both are inserted into the vagina with the purpose of strengthing the kegels to provide stronger orgasms, a tighter vaginal canal and even assist with incontinence.  Ben wah balls are a pair of solid balls that are inserted and held in place by the vaginal walls.  Duoballs on the other hand feature a free moving ball encased in an outer shell.   They usually come in pairs and are inserted into the vaginal canal.  While the wearer has to focus on contracting the kegel muscles to keep a set of ben wah balls in place, wearing a set of duoballs is a more passive experience.  The inner balls move slightly during normal activity and this movement is felt by the kegel muscles.  The muscles will contract involuntarily in response to this movement.  So when you wear a set of duoballs, you don’t have to concentrate on actively working the kegel muscles, the muscles basically do the work for you.

The OVO Loveballs come packaged in a dainty little box.  The box contains two sets of duoballs- a lightweight coloured set and a heavier silver set.   The balls come in three different colours: light blue, violet and lilac.  I got the lilac set.  The kit also contains a silicone casing which holds two balls at a time.  There is also a warranty card (the OVO products all come with a 15 year warranty) and an instruction manual (which seems excessively thick for a booklet that could just read “stick these up your vagina, go about your business, remove, wash, repeat”).

The OVO Loveballs won an honourable mention in the 2013 Red Dot Design awards.  The clever design makes these duoballs really versatile and suitable for a range of bodies.  To begin with, the outer casing is a soft, pliable silicone which is non-porous and body safe.  The balls themselves are made of ABS plastic, which is body safe but can be porous.  Which means that they are safe to use, but not safe to share.

The intended way to use the duoballs is to select the two that you wish to use, slip them into the silicone casing and then insert them into your vagina.  The casing is really soft and it’s easy to slip the balls in and out as needed.  The casing also has a nifty retrieval cord which makes it extremely easy to remove the toy from your body.  However, I noticed that using the Loveballs in this way doesn’t work for my body all the time.  The reason for this is that I have a fairly low cervix, which means that my vaginal canal is relatively shallow.  Like most women, the depth of my vagina changes throughout the month, as the cervix moves up and down during my monthly cycle.  So early in my cycle, wearing the balls in the casing was perfectly comfortable.  Later in my cycle, I found that my vagina was too shallow to insert the balls far enough to be comfortable when they were in the casing.

The OVO Loveballs cleverly get around this issue though, because you can just as easily insert the balls without the casing.  So on days when my cervix is riding a little lower, I can just use one ball instead of two and it’s much more comfortable.  You could also take this approach if you’re finding that two balls is too heavy to begin with, starting with just one of the lighter balls and then working your way up.

Being able to remove the balls from the case also means that you can mix and match weights, starting with the two light balls, then one of each, then the two heavy balls.  I personally love this feature because it recognises that no two vaginas are the same, and every vagina changes a bit depending on a range of hormonal and physical factors.  I am impressed with this toy’s ability to accommodate a range of physical differences and allows you to customise how you use them.

There are two slight downsides to using the balls without the casing.  The first is that you won’t have that handy retrieval cord.  That’s not a big deal, because it’s pretty easy to reach the balls if you squat and/ or bear down a little with your pelvic floor.  But if you don’t like fumbling around in your vagina then this might not be for you.  Secondly, each of the balls has a seam where the two halves have been joined together.  You can easily position the casing so that it covers this seam, but without the case the seam is exposed.  The balls are fairly smooth, but you might find that this seam causes discomfort or irritation after a long period of use.  It also makes the balls tricky to clean, because bodily secretions tend to gather in the seam.

I’ve worn my OVO Loveballs a lot and they’re really comfortable.  I started out wearing these around the house, and quickly felt adventurous enough to leave the house with them.  They stay in place perfectly.  I’ve worn them to the supermarket, on the train, out to dinner and to the movies with no dramas.  You can feel the inner balls moving around as you shift your weight but it’s not a strong sensation.

One thing I will note is that the Loveballs are advertised as being “inaudible” and I don’t think they are.  I have noticed that if I make a sharp movement I can hear them rattling even when they’re inside my body.  While they are discreet, they do make a very quiet noise in response to sudden and dramatic motion.  But I mean, I doubt anyone will notice and if they do, it’s unlikely they’d guess that the noise they’re hearing is something rattling inside your vagina.

The Ovo Loveballs probably won’t rock your socks or feel stimulating to wear.  However, they can be excellent for foreplay as they really draw your attention to your genitals, and can make you feel like you’re doing something cheeky and taboo.  They’re also excellent for BDsM play as a Top might order a submissive to wear them in preparation for a meeting, or in public as punishment for a transgression.  Although they don’t produce an orgasm on their own, they can be a great tool for putting you in a sexy mindset or to introduce during power exchange scenes.

For just $30 I think the OVO Loveballs are an excellent addition to your toybox.  They’re admirable quality for the price and they’re so versatile.  They will work for a huge range of bodies and you can easily customise them to suit your needs.  They’re beautifully designed and can open up a range of play options.  If you’re interested in improving your kegel strength or just want something fun to try, I definitely recommend giving these a go.

My IUD experience.

I’ve just gotten back from my appointment with my doctor to check up on my IUD.  Now that I’ve had it for three whole months I thought that it would be a good time to have a chat about my experience with the IUD.

What on earth is an IUD?

IUD stands for intra-uterine device. It is a contraceptive device.  The device is about an inch long and is inserted into the uterus by a doctor.  There are two different types of IUD: the copper IUD and the Mirena IUD.  The copper IUD works essentially as a spermicide, as copper is toxic to sperm.  The Mirena contains a low dose of the same hormones that are contained in the contraceptive pill, and works by thinning the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg cannot implant and grow into a fetus. Both types of IUD are extremely effective, and are the most effective type of long-term, reversible contraceptives.  The copper IUD lasts for three years while the Mirena lasts for five.

Why did you get an IUD?

I started looking into getting an IUD about six months ago.  The main reason was that I suffer from chronic migraines, which tend to get worse just after my period.  I had been on the contraceptive pill since I was seventeen, and for the seven days when I was taking the inactive sugar pills in the pack, I felt wretched.  This got worse as I got older and it was during this seven day window when my migraines occurred most frequently.  I hoped that by getting off the contraceptive pill, I’d ease the severity of my migraines.

 

I had originally wanted to get a copper IUD, because it has no hormones at all and I wanted to get away from hormonal birth control.  But after meeting with my gynaecologist and having a long discussion, she recommended that the Mirena would be a better fit.  The reason being that the copper IUD has a lot more side effects, such as increased period bleeding and cramping.  Also, she hoped that the Mirena, being a much lower dose of hormones than the pill, and also the fact that its’ a steady dose rather than the stop-start nature of the pill’s hormones, would still give me the benefit of easing my migraines.

 

What was the insertion like?  Did it hurt?

The insertion was pretty quick, but it did hurt a lot more than I expected.  Now, I know that some people get IUDs and experience very little pain or discomfort.  But every body is different.

The first part of the process was pretty much the same as a pap smear.  I took off all my clothing below the waist and lay on the examination table with my feet in stirrups.  My doctor inserted a speculum into my vagina and then did a manual examination, using a gloved finger to feel my ovaries and check the position of my cervix.  That bit was uncomfortable, but not at all painful.  Next, the doctor used a clamp to hold onto the lip of my uterus.  This is done to make sure that the uterus stays in place during the insertion (did you know that your uterus can move up and down?  I only learned that when I started using a menstrual cup, because your uterus and cervix are actually much lower at the end of your cycle).  This hurt quite a lot, and felt like a really sharp stinging pain low in my belly.  Luckily, my doctor worked very quickly from this point because she knew how badly that clamp hurts.

 

Next, the doctor does what is called a Uterine Sounding, which is basically using a little rod to measure the length of your uterus.  This is done to make sure that the IUD is put into the correct position.  I didn’t find this painful at all, it just felt like a light menstrual cramp.  Next, the doctor inserted the actual IUD, using the applicator.  The applicator itself looks terrifying because it’s so long, but it helps to remember that most of what you see is just the handle for the doctor to hold onto and guide the device into place.  The actual insertion was pretty painful for me.  Even though I tried to stay relaxed and focus on breathing slowly and deeply, it still hurt.  But it was over very quickly, and once the clamp was released I felt much better.  My doctor gave me a high five and I was allowed to get dressed and leave.

 

That afternoon I felt a bit sick and woozy for about twenty minutes after the procedure.  I had a bit of cramping, which just felt like menstrual cramps but they only lasted a few hours and were perfectly manageable with some Ibuprofen and a heat pack.  I also had a bit of bleeding that afternoon.  The following day I felt absolutely fine and went to work with no issues at all.

 

Did you have any side effects?

I’ve had very few side effects with the Mirena.  The main one is that my periods have been kind of irregular.  This is probably because my body is adjusting to not being on the pill.  It’s a bit of a pain not knowing when I’m going to get my period, particularly as my cycle was like clockwork when I was on the pill.  But my doctor has said that my cycle will settle into a rhythm after a few months.

I’ve also had a tiny bit more cramping on my period than what I’m used to.  But nothing too severe.

About three weeks after the insertion I had horrible sharp pains on one side of my lower stomach.  I realised that these were ovulation pains, which are caused when the ovary releases an egg.  When you are on the pill, you don’t ovulate, so this was my first ovulation in 13 years and I think it was a shock to my body, and that’s why it hurt so much.  In subsequent months I’ve had the tiniest twinge of ovulation pain, but nothing so bad as that first time.

Are you happy with it?

I’m very happy with the Mirena.  I haven’t had a migraine since I got it inserted, which is the longest I’ve gone without a migraine in five years.  I don’t expect my migraines to stop entirely, because i know that I have other triggers besides hormonal fluctuations but this has definitely helped to ease them.  I no longer have to remember to take a pill every morning or worry about picking up my prescription from the chemist.  It’s been really freeing, and so for that short burst of pain it’s been well worth it.

 

I’d definitely encourage people to think about the IUD as a long-term contraceptive option.  It’s a less popular option than the pill because it’s more expensive initially and it has to be inserted, but it’s extremely effective and lasts for years.  I’m really happy with mine and I’m open to answering any questions you might have based on my experience.

 

PS: if you want to find out why I no longer have my IUD, read: My IUD is Gone

Cloth pads vs. Menstrual cups.

Although there is some variety in the kinds of reusable menstrual products available, there are two that stand out as the most common: the cloth pad and the menstrual cup.  While some women who choose reusable products use a combination of these two methods, some are devoted to just one or the other.  I’m often asked by people which of these products I’d recommend, and I would suggest that they are both great.  While they both have some downfalls, each has a distinct set of advantages as well.  There are certain situations where I prefer one over the other.  So today I thought it might be fun to give you a low-down on the pros and cons of my two favourite menstrual products.

Cloth pads

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Pros

– You can make your own if you are handy with a sewing machine, which will really cut costs.

– Last for a long time.  Generally pads will last several years.

– Easy to clean and care for.  Just pop them in the washing machine and air dry.

– Simple to use.  You just clip or slide them into your underpants as you would a disposable pad.

– Comfortable and discreet.

– Little or no smell.  With cloth pads you don’t get that gross “period” smell that disposable pads produce.  That smell is caused by the blood reacting with the chemicals in the disposable pads as well as sweat that gets trapped by the plastic backing of the pad.

– Completely painless.

-It’s pretty easy to pick the right pad for you.  Although shapes and thickness vary, it’s hard to go wrong when selecting pads for the first time.

Cons

– It can be tricky to guess how many you will need, and you run the risk of running out if your cycle is heavier or longer than expected or you don’t plan ahead with your laundry.

– Not as discreet as a cup.  If you need to change a pad at school or at work, you still have to carry the pad to the bathroom, and then carry the soiled one in your bag.  This can be awkward or embarrassing for some people.

– Can be uncomfortable when worn during sports.

– Needs to be changed several times a day.

– Leaks do happen from time to time, particularly if wearing overnight.

– Can’t be worn to go swimming.

– Can be slightly uncomfortable in hot weather.

Menstrual Cup

Pros

– Very discreet.  It’s small and easy to slip into your handbag.  Plus, it’s safe to wear when you don’t have your period.  So if you know your period is due, you can pop it in before you leave the house for the day and you’ll be covered in case you start bleeding.

– Is washed and used again, so you’ll never run out.

– Very economical.  One cup can last 5 years or longer.

– Very hygienic.  Cups are made from medical grade silicone and can be sterilized. As they don’t absorb and hold the blood against your skin there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome.  You also don’t get any odour using the cup.

– Once you’ve learned to use the cup properly the risk of leaks is extremely low.

– Can be worn for up to 12 hours (depending on your flow), so you can wear it all day without having to empty it at work or school.

– Very easy to clean.

– Is very comfortable and can be worn for high-impact sports and in water.

Cons

– It can be tricky to learn how to use the cup properly.  It usually doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, but the first few times may be awkward and potentially messy.

– Not as readily available as cloth pads.

– More expensive than cloth pads (although in the long run a cup works out cheaper).

– You have to be very hands-on with your body to use a cup.  You will have to put your fingers right into your vagina.  You will see your menstrual blood in the cup.  You may get blood on your hands.

– Although a cup is safe to use if you haven’t had vaginal intercourse, it might be difficult.  I know that a lot of women, myself included, struggled to use internal menstrual protection until after they had sex for the first time.  But this varies from body to body.

– Can be difficult to choose the right cup the first time.  You need to do a bit of research and be very familiar with your body to pick the right cup for you.

– Removing the cup can be a bit painful until you’ve learned how to do it properly.

– Unlike a pad, you can’t see when your cup needs emptying.

Overall, I prefer the cup to pads, but they both have their advantages.  The cup is great if you very active or travelling and it’s definitely the more discreet of the two. However the cloth pads are simpler to use and a better choice if you are squeamish about blood or touching your vagina.

If you have any questions about reusable menstrual products I would be happy to answer them.

Do you use cloth pads or a menstrual cup?  If you do, which do you prefer and why?

Practicing yoga on a budget.

I’ve harped on about my love of yoga often in this space.  It’s my favourite way to move my body and I love encouraging other people to give it a try.  I’ve already written about how yoga has helped me with my depression and how it can be used to encourage body confidence.  Another reason that I adore yoga is that it needn’t be an expensive practice.  You don’t need to shell out loads of cash for equipment or gym memberships to revel in the benefits of a yoga practice.

To begin or grow your yoga practice, there are very few things that you need.  And most of them can be found very cheaply or for free if you know where to look.

 

Yoga mat

Yoga mats have become really popular,  but the truth is that you don’t strictly need one.  I practiced for months before I bought a mat.  The reason I got the mat in the first place is that I wanted to practice outdoors and a mat gave me a clean, stable surface to work on.  If you’re practicing indoors you probably don’t even need a mat.  However, if you find that the floor is too rough, hard or slippery you can use a towel or even a folded blanket to stretch out on.

 

Clothes for yoga

Although a yoga offers a great excuse to stock up on stretchy pants and racer-back tanks, these fancy duds won’t improve your practice.  All you really need are some comfortable clothes that you can move easily in.  I’m sure you’ve got a pair of leggings or shorts and a tee shirt kicking about in your wardrobe that will do the trick.

 

Blocks

A lot of classes use blocks to help students to ease into different poses.  The blocks are a great way to give you a bit more space and support when learning new poses.  If you can’t quite reach the floor, you just pop a block under your hand to bring the ground up to you.  Blocks can also be used to support knees in lunge poses, to sit on to give your hips more space to open and many other uses.  If you don’t have a block, a couple of thick books will do just as well.  Dictionaries are ideal.

 

Bolsters

Bolsters are used for restorative yoga to offer support and comfort in resting poses.  I made my own bolsters for about $5 using and old pair of pajama pants.  I just cut the legs off the pants, sewed both ends together and stuffed them.  If you aren’t handy with a needle and thread, a folded-up blanket or towel can be used in place of a bolster.

 

Straps

If you’re working on improving your flexibility, a strap can be really helpful.  Just loop it over your feet and hold onto the ends and work your hands slowly down the strap, trying to reach a bit further each day.  Your wardrobe is probably stocked with items that can be used instead of a strap: ties, belts and scarves all work well.  Choose something that doesn’t have a lot of stretch to it and which won’t tear under pressure.

 

Instruction

Joining a gym or attending regular yoga classes can be very pricey.  But you can cultivate a home practice using the awesomeness that is Youtube.  There are literally thousands of free yoga classes on Youtube which you can access in your very own home.  My favourite channels are Yoga with Adriene, Psychetruth and Leigha Butler.  Both Yoga with Adriene and Psychtruth have a range of videos targeted at different levels, whereas Leigha Butler’s channel is a bit more advanced.  But have a browse and experiment with different videos until you’ve found some that you like.

 

So you see, you don’t have to be flush with cash to get into some asanas and pranayama.  Just use what you have and develop a practice that suits your lifestyle.

 

Pssst!  You might also like to read my tips for improving your yoga practice.

 

Sustainable Menstruation Australia

I’m a passionate advocate for positive periods and the use of re-usable menstrual products.  When I began researching reusable menstrual products, specifically menstrual cups, I was dismayed that there are very few places in Australia where these items can be purchased.

 

I’ve learned that in England and the U.S, there are a wide range of menstrual cups available.  Most of these can be purchased online, and some pharmacies and health food stores sell them as well.  However, in Australia it can be tricky to find somewhere to buy a menstrual cup.  I’m yet to find one stocked in a brick-and-mortar shop, despite an extensive search.  You can order them online, but often shipping costs can be expensive.

 

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about Sustainable Menstruation Australia.  This tiny sole-trader business is run by a gorgeous lass named Rosie, who shares my passion for promoting a healthy attitude about periods.  Sustainable Menstruation Australia is your one-stop-shop for menstrual cups in Australia and offers information and support for cup-users.


Sustainable Menstruation Australia currently stocks two varieties of menstrual cup: The Lunette Cup and the Juju Cup.  The Lunette is my cup of choice, and I’ve been using it for several months with excellent results.  The Juju cup is an Australian-made cup.  Although I haven’t used the Juju cup myself, I’ve read some excellent reviews of this product.  Both of these cups are often given as examples of good cups for first-time cup users, because they are easy to fold and tend to open with minimal fuss.  The Juju also has a fairly small rim, which is perfect for women who are just learning to use a cup because it makes insertion and removal a bit easier.  Both cups come with a carry pouch.

 

Another thing that I love about Sustainable Menstruation Australia is that they donate some of the money from each cup sold to developing education programs about menstruation and providing menstrual cups to women in disadvantaged situations.   That means that these women will no longer have to spend money on disposable feminine hygiene products, which frees up funds for other essential items. As the average woman spends about $100 per year on pads and tampons, this is a huge saving.   This is an awesome initiative which I am proud to get behind.

 

Rosie is also in the process of planning some awesome awareness-raising events in the new year, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve.

 

So if you’re an Australian woman who is interested in trying a menstrual cup, I would definitely recommend buying yours from Sustainable Menstruation Australia.  In doing so, you’ll be supporting a budding Aussie business as well as helping women in disadvantaged situations.

 

If you have any questions about menstrual cups that you would like to ask, fire away.  I’m happy to answer them.

 

P.S: This is not a sponsored post.  I just strongly support this business and wanted to tell you all about it.