The Sacred and the Mundane of the Womb Heart Connection
The connection between the heart and the womb is both mysterious and practical when it comes to whole woman care, fertility cycles, sexuality, birthing and beyond.
Beyond learning through my own felt experience, I solidified my understanding around this connection during my formal Chinese medicine education. For that reason, this post will include a good amount of Chinese medicine terminology and explanations of the body from that lens.
Chinese medicine is an ancient healing system that is based on observation of nature and of humans as nature. It is both complex and intricate, as well as simple and profound. I will aim to provide you with just the right dose of information to understand the Womb-Heart, metabolize the information and not get lost in the process. My hope is that this information can deepen your felt experience of the womb-heart and inspire your own inner inquiry of the connection.
Reader’s note: You’ll notice that I capitalize the names of organs, this is to clarify that I’m referring to the Chinese medicine understanding of that organ system, not the biomedical one. While there are many similarities in understanding, there are also differences. Vital substances like Blood are also capitalized for this reason.
You may need to read this piece a few times or return to it in a few days.
Let’s dive in…
Understanding some basics
The Uterus // Womb
In Chinese medicine theory, the Uterus is considered an “extraordinary” organ because it is designed to be both full and empty. It functions on a full spectrum of Yin and Yang, Yin being substance, containment and Blood and Yang being space, movement and Qi. The Uterus cycles through many different phases and states of being, unlike other organs that tend to be either empty and hollow (Yang) or full and dense (Yin)
It is also connected to many other organs through Blood, Essence (Jing) and Qi. The Spleen, Liver and Heart play a big role in the Blood relationship. The Kidneys hold down the Essence aspect and the Lungs connect to the womb through Qi. The other key organ relationship to the Uterus is the Heart.
The Heart relates to the womb in a few essential ways, one being the Uterus vessel, which we’ll get to shortly. The other is their mutual relationship to Blood. The Heart governs the Blood and the Uterus relies on Blood for its function.
The Heart also houses the mind or spirit, Shen. Shen is both spirit and what we now know as brain and nervous system function. The Heart plays a key role in controlling all other organs and for this reason it was often referred to as the Emperor in ancient texts. This is important to note to understand the role the Heart-Uterus axis can play in processing trauma and also envision how this parallels with the modern understanding of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis.
The Uterus vesel // Bao Mai
The Uterus vessel connects the Heart directly to the Uterus, crossing the Stomach according to some texts. From there, the Uterus channel (Bao Luo) connects the Uterus to the Kidneys. From this, you can begin to understand why Chinese medicine emphasizes the Heart, Uterus and Kidney relationship for menstruation, birth, hormonal health, emotional regulation and pelvic health.
Putting it together
With this basic understanding of how the relationship is established energetically, I want to provide you with a few examples of how this works in your physiology.
The “opening” and “closing” of the Uterus for birth, ovulation, conception and menstruation are regulated by the Heart and Kidneys via the Uterus vessel and channel. The Heart is responsible for the opening and the Kidneys for the closing.
During ovulation, menstruation and birth, the Heart opens the Uterus. This allows the release of the egg or the shedding of the lining or the birth of a baby. Through this you can see that the Heart is connected closely to the cervix. It affects cervical fluid, the openness or softness of the cervix which allows sperm to enter and blood or baby to leave. For these processes to function optimally the Heart and Shen need to be nourished and strong.
Emotional stress, undigested experiences and a restless mind can affect reproductive health through the Womb-Heart relationship. This is something that western medicine, especially through the lens of functional medicine, is also clarifying for women’s health. Even though it's already been clearly defined in this ancient healing system.
In my work with women, I often return to acupuncture protocols and herbs that directly address the Heart, as a way to create the possibility for lasting changes hormonally, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Protecting the Heart
The intimate Womb-Heart connection is what allows unprocessed experiences to be somaticized and held in the Uterus, far away from the Emperor, the Heart. There are other mechanisms in place to protect the Heart but this connection is one of them and it’s important to be aware of how this may be affecting your ability to relate to your womb, fertility and sexuality.
As humans, we are all at some point subject to experiences that are too much to digest in the moment and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the Shen and Heart, the residue is stored as far from the Heart as possible for processing at a later, more resourced time. The Uterus is a very accessible storage place that is also intimately connected to Blood, which holds emotions.
This isn’t all doom and gloom, instead this is an intelligent system in place to protect your body and lifeforce as a whole. Understanding this can help release shame and guilt associated with health challenges (physical, mental, emotional or spiritual) that may be related to undigested material.
Tending to the Womb-Heart, whether it is via Chinese medicine or another modality, can help process the residue and free up resources that were in place to hold this residue away from the Heart. It can, in turn, also help resolve common gynecological issues, like fibroids, endometriosis, cysts, painful menstruation, irregular periods, trouble accessing pleasure, and more.
Leaving space for the mystery
While it’s essential to understand how this is affecting physiology day to day, there is also a layer of mystery around this sacred interplay. This is present in Chinese medicine but also extends into other traditions.
The womb is a place of energetic transformation, a place for bringing spirit into form and a fertile void for the dreams and stirrings of the heart. This is true regardless if your physical womb is present or not or if you’re still menstruating or have long passed menopause.
The mystery is living in each of us and we have a certain ability to alchemize and re-create the future that we long for. Whether that means growing a child, building a business, creating beauty, cultivating land or many other possible dreams and seeds that need the fertile landscape of the womb to reach maturation.
The first step to tending to this sacred connection is diving within your own felt experience of it, holding the possibility that much will be revealed if you are willing to listen. If that feels challenging or you’re not sure what exactly I’m speaking to, check out the workshop Harmonizing the Womb Heart for more.
The Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine by Jane Lyttleton
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