Reclaiming vitality and joy – magical discovery of Arvigo Therapy/Mayan abdominal massage

I’m wrapping up my series on my journey to reclaim vitality and joy and what better way to end this than with a discussion of Arvigo Therapy!

If you stumbled upon this page, it’s possible that the secrets of the divine feminine are ready to be whispered from my ear to yours. That is how I first found out about this therapy that opened so many doors to healing for me. I was in an online women’s spirituality group on Facebook and “stumbled” (in quotes because I think I was meant to discover it…) a random thread of women discussing Arvigo® Therapy, also called Mayan Abdominal massage therapy, and I knew deep in my bones I was meant to discover this resource.

I was at a place in my life of desperately trying to heal my womb, a center in my body I knew was wounded and wildly out of balance following the birth of my first daughter and later a miscarriage. In asking the question, how do I heal, the divine mother show me the path to healing that led on a grand adventure within myself and in discovering a range of healing modalities–including Arvigo® therapy.

The women in the random facebook thread were raving about the impact this treatment had on their reproductive health – improved fertility, reduced menopause symptoms, reduced pain due to all sorts of ailments in that area of the body. I googled the term and I discovered that this beautiful, elegant technique has been practiced for many generations in the land of the Maya. The story of how a self-proclaimed “gringa” from Chicago came to be an apprentice of a traditional Mayan healer in Belize is itself a beautiful story! But in a nutshell:

The Arvigo® techniques were developed by Dr. Rosita Arvigo, DN. based on her apprenticeship with the Maya healer Don Elijio Panti and her own education, training, and research as a naprapathic physician. Rosita’s lifework, THE ARVIGO® TECHNIQUES OF MAYA ABDOMINAL THERAPY help to restore the body to its natural balance by correcting the position of organs that have shifted and restrict the flow of blood, lymph, nerve and chi energy. Today the Arvigo® techniques are employed by Arvigo® Practitioners across the globe bringing the benefits of natural healing to their clients.

From https://arvigotherapy.com/

I knew in my heart I needed to receive this therapy–was definitely being led directly to it– and I was relieved to discover a trained practitioner was 1 1/2 away from where I live. For several months I visited the beautiful Five Petal Holistic Healing Center and received a range of care including Arvigo massage.

The massage itself is simple and designed so that the individual can perform their own massage (though it is first taught to you by a trained practitioner.) It involves gently pressing on your stomach/abdomen according to a particular technique and can be done in about 5-10 minutes. This simple practice helps restore vitality to organs, increasing blood flow so that toxins are released and bringing balance/alignment to reproductive organs. For a full list of benefits check out the organization’s website.

I can’t sing the praises of this therapy enough. Within only a few months of practicing the daily massage myself, and receiving a handful of supportive treatments including massage and acupuncture, I saw a dramatic return to balance and health. I went from showing signs of pretty significant imbalance to showing signs of high fertility in a very short window of time. (In fact, my healer told me to use protection lest I get pregnant while undergoing the therapy because she urged me to complete the treatments first! )

What’s so wonderful about this gentle technique is that it helps you to very gently release toxins and trauma that might be held in your womb and helps you connect and nurture a part of your body that it’s so easy to get disconnected from. (Speaking personally here, yes that was the case for sure.) It’s hard to imagine a woman who hasn’t faced some kind of sexual or reproductive trauma in her lifetime. This technique provides such an empowering way to take ownership of your health and heal. Win-win right?!

Are you familiar with Arvigo therapy or are you a practitioner? Or did you get called to read this article for your own healing journey? Share your experience! I’d love to hear.

For more information or to find a practitioner, check out the directory here.

For other posts in my series, check out the full list of posts here.

Just Follow the Joy on Facebook & Instagram for more joy and inspiration!

The (Birth)day Lessons

Today my daughter turns three!  I have to admit, I’ve been a bit nostalgic.

Yesterday I wrote about how pregnancy taught me skills that have served me as a parent. Today I thought I’d write the same about my daughter’s birth.

Not the BIRTH STORY story. That would take a novel. My daughter’s birth was the equivalent of baptism by fire. A big ol’ metaphor for the wild ride to come. At times unexpected and intense, always driven by a curious and determined child, and scattered with tiny miracles.

For now I thought I’d share a few take-aways* that three years later still stand out.

Birth Lesson One: Listen to Your Gut

At 8pm on the night before my daughter was born I could be found dashing around a nearly-empty Target store in Des Moines, Iowa. I was like a mad woman, determined to pick up the final remaining odds and ends on my baby list. Loaded with infant nail trimmers, newborn diapers, a thermometer, and who knows what else, I then headed to the airport to pick up my husband, who was flying back from a job interview.  We went home and headed straight to bed.

At 4am I woke up, waddled to the bathroom and realized water was seeping out of me. But I wasn’t peeing. It was one of those moments when you think, THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING. 

Oh it was happening. My water had most certainly broken, there was no doubt about that.

I was 35 weeks, 6 days pregnant.

The next hour was like something out of a cheesy sitcom: my husband and I were running around the house, throwing things into a duffle bag willy nilly.

I remember early in my pregnancy when I asked my higher self, what will my birth look like? The answer I got was “comical.”

I wasn’t laughing. I was, however, glad that I listened to my gut and made that final run to Target.

Birth Lesson Two: Trust Thyself

I come from a long line of women who have a high tolerance for pain. (Is that a good trait? I don’t know.) My mother would famously tell the story about how when she was in labor with me, she asked for an epidural and the nurse turned to her and said, “Honey, it’s too late! You are about to push out this baby!”

Like mother, like daughter, it turns out.

About seven hours into my labor I was DONE. I could not stand one more minute of it. I cornered my midwife and pleaded with her, please, just look and see how far dilated I am.  Because if I have a long road ahead of me I NEED AN EPIDURAL.

This entire time nobody had examined me to see how far dilated I was. The midwife didn’t want to risk infection since I hadn’t yet been screened for Group B strep (and they had to proceed on the assumption that I had it). Since I was a first time mom, and since apparently anyone who isn’t wailing and gnashing teeth is assumed to only be dilated to 3cm, the scene was very laid bad. Everyone was all, “Well, let’s wait on the tub, you don’t need it just yet!” and “Hey can I put an IV in your arm while you are in the middle of a contraction?”

When the midwife finally examined me, the look on her face said it all.

I was 9 cm. I was almost ready to push.

Turns out this rookie mom wasn’t taking her sweet ol’ time. Funny thing was, I knew my body and I suspected that I was progressing faster than expected. I had a feeling that everyone—the nurse, my midwife, even my doula— were all misreading my cues. Birth may have been new for me, but my body wasn’t.

Trust thyself.

*To be continued – I will follow my own advice and trust myself to know that I need to sleep off a particularly nasty cold I caught from said three-year-old. More to come once I’m feeling better!

One Year After My Mom’s Passing: Overthinking the Deathversary

I’m just going to throw it out there: deathversaries are hard. There is no avoiding the grief that bubbles up. I knew that marking the first year without my mom would be difficult, so I planned a day with nothing to do other than take care of me. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I planned a Day, with a capital “D”.  A magical day of spiritual and emotional significance, that would allow me transcend space and time.  (Or something.)  For this first deathversary I planned to walk to beaches of Sanibel island, collect shells that would forever symbolize this day of hope, healing and renewal, and ponder the meaning of existence.

In retrospect, I should have settled for date with Netflix, some chocolate, and a trashy magazine. But that would have been too simple.

The day started promisingly enough. I woke to rain that stopped in the early morning. This made me giddy, since I’d heard that shelling conditions are ideal after a storm.

Now, never having shelled after a storm I have no idea if what I encountered that day was typical. If it was typical, God bless the hardcore shellers because they have earned every last stinking shell they find.

Let me emphasize the word stinking.

I arrived to my secret shelling spot that day, visions of whole conch shells dancing in my head. Instead, I found piles and piles of knobby, gnarly mussels. Tangled in seaweed. With the occasional piece of trash. I should clarify: these were piles of knotty, gnarly, rotting mussels. As far as the eye could see.

A wiser person might have shrugged it off, headed straight back to the car, and driven home. Not I. I carried on like a soldier. Somewhere, buried in the depth of rotting mussel flesh I was determined find my pearl.

Now, you might be thinking, Ok, the stink smell doesn’t sound ideal. But the shells! Glory be, I bet you found some great shells!

You would be sorely mistaken. I spent an hour walking the beach and found nothing more than some cats paws and a lot of jingle shells. These are rinky, dinky little shells. Child’s play.

I was disheartened, to say the least. The magical day was escaping me but it only made me even more upset. I didn’t feel peaceful, serene or contemplative. Hell, I wasn’t even feeling grief. I simply felt cranky and was being bitten alive by the bugs there were attracted to the stinking pile of mussels.

I found myself alone on a stretch of beach. I hadn’t really felt a connection to my mom all morning. I sat down and I said, mom, I want you to be with me.

She said, I am, I’m always with you.

(What likely remained unsaid by her was “…but why on earth did you pick a smelly beach as the place for us to hang out?!”)

Anyway, I frowned at the stinky piles of shells.

Stop looking for a special shell, she told me. You don’t need it to remember this day. Do you know how much you are loved?

At this point, I played along: How much am I loved, mom?

I absentmindedly picked up a huge pen shell that had hundreds of little gnarly barnacles on it.

You see all those barnacles – that is how many people love you – and even MORE. So many people love you, you can’t even begin to imagine. We are all rooting you on.

I felt the wave of love and I felt the urgency in my mom’s voice.

An hour after walking the stinky beach, and hour after being bitten by bugs, I finally felt anger. Anger at the injustice of it all. How it wasn’t fair that I didn’t have my mom to help me become a mom, and that my daughter didn’t have my mother to become her grandmother.

She said, I know, honey. It isn’t fair. You have had your share of injustices.

But. Yes, there was a but.

“But you know what you need to do.”

She was practically yelling now. I mean, it was like I was getting a stern lecture from across the deep abyss.

Sarah, you get your butt down and write. Write like your life depended on it.

I took the pen shell, walked back to the car, and later that night created this blog.* I went to the beach that day looking for a pity party. I looked for answers or deep meaning. But really, I knew in my heart that moving forward I had to write. The time of quiet, introverted grieving was over.

It has been a difficult year. I survived tough storms and I came out a little rough for the wear. It wasn’t the year of the shiny conch. It was the year of the gnarled, weathered pen shell–and let’s be honest, smelly shell– that washed ashore after the storm, holding reminders of love from many. A little rough for the wear but fully intact.

*(Ok, by create I mean “start drafting blog posts that will sit on my computer, unpublished for a year.” See this.)