Ellen Heed is Goddess of the Week!
“The more I study it the more I am aware of the breadth and depth and significance of scar tissue as an inhibitor to pleasure in the body. It actually creates physical barriers to nerve transmission and blood flow, and you can’t get a good feeling anywhere."
-- Ellen Heed, Somatic Educator, Sexological Bodyworker & Healer
Ellen Heed is revolutionizing women's health and sexual empowerment with her attention to postpartum sexuality. She has spent over 10,000 hours as a bodyworker, is a certified Shiatsu Specialist, a Craniosacral Therapist, an international teacher of human anatomy, a yoga teacher, and more recently has become a certified Sexological Bodyworker.In 2006, she launched the Women's Sacred Anatomy Project, with the intention of teaching women detailed sexual female anatomy and educating women about the full extent of their erotic possibilities. Ellen is dedicated to helping women experience full sexual empowerment and their ecstatic potential. Wow! What a Goddess!TB: I know you are a great advocate for the importance of women's pleasure. Tell me more about this.EH: Sexual pleasure is a basic human right that has gotten a bad rap in our sex-negative culture. The right to full personal hegemony through permission to know ourselves sexually has been categorically denied to us by many of our most cherished institutions. First, our schools, which don’t teach us accurately or adequately about our sexual anatomy. Second, our churches, who seek to mediate our relationship to the Divine by disempowering the immediacy of felt experience and physical joy, and who also seek to define procreation as the only legitimate form of sexual expression. Lastly, psychology ... Freud stated that a clitoral orgasm is an “immature” sexual response compared to a vaginal orgasm.TB: One of your many professional hats is being a Sexological Bodyworker. What is this exactly?EH: Sexological Bodywork is a new certified profession created by Joseph Kramer in the state of California and also practiced internationally in Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, South America, and Australia. Sexological Bodyworkers are committed to educating people about how to bring more joy, wholeness and aliveness into their sexual expression. They educate couples about what is erotically possible, and coach individuals about the physical and psychological benefits of pursuing sexual empowerment through solo sex practices. We have found that through the use of new techniques for sexual mindfulness practices, individuals change their relationship to sexual habits and resolve personal issues around sexual shame. As a result, self-image, self-esteem, and body image can greatly improve.Sexological Bodyworkers adhere to a strict code of ethical conduct that includes clothes on at all times for the practitioner, one-way touch, and the same limits for client/practitioner relationships and confidentiality that are required and respected in the both medical and mental health professions.TB: What inspires you to do this work?EH: My particular passion is to satisfy the great need of women in the postpartum period and beyond to resolve scar tissue as a result of childbirth. I am troubled by the alarming increase in elective C-sections and the lack of information that women have regarding the long-term effects of abdominal scar tissue on sexual wellness and postural and abdominal function. Anecdotally, I understand that women’s greatest fear about childbirth is the fear of vaginal tearing. That drives many women to seek C-section delivery, which can interrupt the crucial bonding window that exists in the brief hour immediately following birth.
Sexological Bodywork has returned full erotic pleasure and function to many women who have suffered the effects of scar tissue from both vaginal tearing and C-section deliveries. The mythology is that a C-section delivery will “save” a woman from the discomfort of a vaginal tear, and the fear of loosing pelvic muscle tone due to getting “loose down there.”
I have seen adhesions and scars that have grown into cervical and vaginal tissue of women who have had C-sections, and used my skills to restore them to healthy, pleasurable sexual function. I have facilitated complete resolution of visibly raised, tight painful scars in the pelvic floors of women who have had severe tears during natural childbirth. I have also seen vast improvement in the sexual comfort as well as urinary and colon function of women who have had episiotomies, by using Sexological Bodywork techniques to return their scar tissue to a more resilient state.TB: How do you actually do this?EH: Through hands-on work. I apply castor oil to the scar and move the tissue and find where the tight places are, and physically manipulate those tight places until they begin to let go. It’s not rocket science, but it requires an extremely perceptive hand in order to feel the distinctions between muscular tightness and scar tissue tightness. Often one leads to the other, so you have to know what it is you are touching and how to coax it into letting go. Also, the castor oil seems to be good at dissolving adhesions which is gluing that keeps blood out of healthy tissue. Once that gluing is unglued, then I can literally feel the blood returning into the tissue. Then the tissue regains more resiliency and elasticity.TB: How did you go from being a bodyworker to doing this kind of work?EH: I had a bodywork mentor who kept saying, “There is a problem with scar tissue on the pelvic floor ... There is a problem with scar tissue on the pelvic floor ... And somebody should do something about it." So he started referring clients to me because as a woman, there was more sympathetic connection and more trust with me touching more vulnerable places in the genitals. And also because I knew my anatomy. My mentor said, “Get in there. Massage in castor oil. See what you can do. See what happens.” And it started to work. It ended up producing phenomenal results.TB: Are there misperceptions about the work you do?EH: Sexological Bodywork seems to be too new for there to be many misperceptions yet. The work I do is virtually unknown to both the general public and the medical profession at this point. However, Sexological Bodywork is known to be an effective adjunct educational tool for psychologists working with issues of sexual shame and dysfunction. As clients learn more about their patterns and habits sexually with the help of Sexological Bodywork, psychotherapists can help them to identify areas of dysfunction and break through patterns of sexual shame.TB: This is pretty intense work. Have you had to conquer any doubts and insecurities in doing this work?EH: Every day [laugh]. Every time I sit down to work with somebody I have to look in the mirror and say, “Okay, is this really real for me? Am I speaking as an idealogue or am I speaking from the felt reality of my own experience?” If I stick with what I know is physically possible, I seem to be able to communicate effectively with my clients.
TB: I have read that Sexological Bodywork facilitates the release of emotional holding. Can you explain how this works?EH: There are two aspects. One is relating to education. We are grossly inadequately educated about our pelvic floor and the scars therein, and our genital function, especially women. We don’t have a complete education on where our sexy parts are or how they work. So that ignorance leads to an inability to ask for what we want that feels good. So there is a shame, there is embarrassment and there is a lack of pleasure based on not having a complete information set to start with. The educational part of Sexological Bodywork helps people build that data set so people can start to have a choice about how much they can feel, because they know what’s there.Then there is the aspect of being touched without an agenda. Being touched just to provide a safe reference place for feeling what’s true, what’s real, what’s happening in the muscles, the erectile tissue, in the pleasure organs of the pelvic floor. Many women have never touched themselves or been touched without somebody else’s urgent agenda creating anxiety for them.TB: You are embarking on a PhD program that no one has ever done before. Tell me about this.EH: I am pursuing a degree in Somatic Sexology, which is a new discipline. To make a distinction, Sexological Bodywork is just beginning its trajectory of recognition as an effective tool to teach erotic mindfulness practices in order to interrupt dysfunctional habits and patterns in our sexual lives.Somatic Sexology is a whole new field that includes, but is not limited to, hands-on work. The goal of Somatic Sexology is to empower each individual to find his or her own erotic embodiment as a subjectively felt experience. Rather than taking a drug like Viagra to maintain a state of arousal, Somatic Sexology examines the very nature and constituents of arousal and seeks to shed light on how the nervous system functions to allow us to explore new pathways to our greatest pleasure possibilities. There is much new research waiting to be accomplished in this new field and I am very excited to be on the forefront!TB: What have you found are some of the major obstacles to women experiencing their potential for pleasure?EH: There are four factors that act as obstacles to pleasure: Biomechanics, biochemistry, scar tissue and emotional holding. To realize our potential as sexual beings, we need to recognize the interplay between these four crucial factors:1. Biomechanics or limited physical flexibility. Tight muscles and connective tissue can impinge nerves and limit our sensation.2. Biochemistry. Here I am talking about what limits our ability to feel ourselves due to an imbalance in blood chemistry as a result of what we take into our body via foods, drugs, and pollutants.3. Scar Tissue due to physical trauma. Scar tissue can limit the ability to engorge for both genders as well as impinge nerves and limit sensation.4. Emotional Holding in specific highly charged points in the body. This is locked as tension in muscles and connective tissue from our psychological history.Somatic Sexologists examine these four obstacles to erotic embodiment and suggest customized, effective sequencing of sexual education, sexual mindfulness techniques, practices and lifestyle changes that are designed to lead toward a more fulfilling and joyful sexual experience for those who choose to take the journey.TB: If you had a loud speaker that could reach every woman around the world, what message would you want to impart?EH: There is hope after childbirth for restoring full sexual pleasure and function to a woman’s body. I think a lot of women say: “Well things changed after I had my children, and I am just not the same anymore.” They don’t have access to the same level of turn on. They say: “Intercourse causes me pain and I just don’t want to have sex anymore.” The message I want to impart is that all of that is reversible.
To learn more about Ellen and her incredible healing work, visit to www.ellenheed.com.
Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed., is a writer, editor, and reporter dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls. Her work has been featured by The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NPR, and other national media. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post on women’s issues and reports on the inspiring work of women changemakers. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.