I first heard of this type of massage therapy while desperately searching for ways to holistically help my body heal during postpartum after having my first baby. I was intrigued that this technique acknowledged all the shifting of a woman's internal organs, skeletal and muscular structures — and also was a gentle way of moving things back to where they belonged.
I was grateful to find a practitioner close, and jumped at the chance. The intake session was very thorough, which I appreciated and respected. Sarah Wilkinson of Take Time for Yourself Massage truly explores what's happening with the body — and its history — in order to provide the best treatment.
I've received many massages, but this was a unique experience. It was even more calming then other ones I've had, and my body felt extra taken care of. Wilkinson did a Castor Oil treatment on my stomach that was nothing short of amazing. She also let me know what she was doing and why when I peppered her with questions during the technique.
I left feeling lighter, taller, rejuvenated, and like I'd just given myself the best treat available.
What It Is
According to the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® site, this technique is "founded on the ancient Mayan technique of abdominal massage which is an external non-invasive manipulation that repositions internal organs that have shifted, thereby restricting the flow of blood, lymph, nerve and chi."
Dr. Rosita Arvigo developed these techniques to combine massage, herbology, nutrition, anatomy, physiology, emotional and spiritual healing out of her "over thirty years of training and experience in massage, naprapathy, herbology, and spiritual healing."
She learned these techniques from her mentor, Don Elijio Panti, the great Maya Shaman of Belize, Central America whom believed that a "woman's center is her uterus."
Interview With Sarah Wilkinson from Take Time for Yourself Massage
Dabble | How would you describe what Maya Abdominal Massage/Therapy is?
Sarah Wilkinson | I typically explain the Arvigo Technique of Maya Abdominal Therapy (ATMAT) as massage to the abdominal area from the pubic bone up to the sternum. It helps shift the organs and gets the body back into homeostasis (body balance) and hemodynamics (blood flow). I also work on the backside of the body from the neck down to the sacrum and coccyx (tailbone). This is important because the uterus has ligaments that connect to the sacrum, so it helps when everything is aligned.
D | What age group is appropriate for this type of therapy?
SW | I have had a wide range of clients from teenagers dealing with painful menstruation to women in their 70's dealing with prolapse issues or digestive issues. I think it is a GREAT therapy for any woman, as long as they don't have an IUD. For men, it is the same. I have seen men in their 20's up to their 80's.
D | What are the benefits for a menstruating woman?
SW | Women who have painful menses really benefit from this therapy. When organs are aligned, the uterus can fully empty the lining in a complete, painless manner. A normal period is supposed to last 3 to 5 days with bright red blood and no clots. There may be cramps that last about a half hour the first day. Although that is a 'normal' menses, that is always not common. When the uterus is tilted, prolapsed, or fallen this can cause a lot of pain, varicose veins, incontinence, ovulation issues, low back pain, spotting, chronic miscarriages, irregular periods, PMS, and many other symptoms.
D | What are the benefits for women dealing with infertility?
SW | The benefits are great for women dealing with infertility. A lot of women may be given the diagnosis of unexplained infertility. This can be extremely frustrating because they don't know why they are not conceiving. This therapy gives the organs space and gets them back to where they are supposed to be, helps get the body into homeostasis (body balance) and hemodynamics (blood flow). For some women, this may be all they need. Some women may be doing IUI or IVF and this is extremely complementary to these treatments. When organs are where they are supposed to be and they have good blood flow, the body can work how it is supposed to in regard to hormones and ovulation.
D | What are the benefits for a postpartum woman?
SW | After giving birth, a woman's organs may have shifted either from the birth or the positioning of the baby. ATMAT helps shift/reposition the organs, thus helping with hemodynamics (blood flow) and helps get the body back into homeostasis. When a woman has a cesarean section it really helps with the scar tissue and helps so that it doesn't cause adhesions. I have seen women several years after childbirth and they can feel the shift. A woman has a lot of intuition and can tell when things are back to where they are supposed to be.
D | What are the benefits for a menopausal woman?
SW | It is really important for a menopausal woman to receive this treatment to help keep everything lifted. When we age, organs become more lax or sag. This can cause all types of problems. This treatment is great for uterine and bladder prolapse. When things are where they are supposed to be, hormones are more regulated, thus there can be a reduction in menopausal symptoms.
D | What are the benefits for males?
SW | For men, this therapy helps with blood flow to the prostate which can prevent inflammation and swelling. It also helps with alleviate varicose veins, premature ejaculation, some impotency problems, and the need to urinate frequently.
D | What has this type of massage therapy taught you?
SW | This type of massage therapy has taught me a lot about women's intuition and men & women trusting their bodies. I love being able to help empower men and women and give them the tools to do a self-care massage at home along with a couple other treatments that they can do for themselves at home.
I have heard time and time again about what a difference this treatment makes and how it changes lives. I have seen women who have been trying to conceive for years, conceive. I have seen women that have had horrible menses, have menses that are pain free or a great improvement of the pain. I love when I hear that women don't have to take any pain medication while menstruating.
I have seen women who suffer from prolapse and have been told they need surgery, not have to get the surgery because their organs are where they are supposed to be with this therapy and the self care.
It has taught me that we all have the power to heal ourselves and I love helping women learn how to do this. I have seen women make huge, hard decisions that it was time to stop trying to have children. It is an extremely hard decision to make and it is a honor to hold space for them. I have seen people cut down on their digestive medications because they are receiving this treatment and doing the self care. I am honored that I get to hear these women and men's stories. It is such a sacred space.
D | How long have people been doing this type of massage?
This type of massage has been going on in the Mayan culture for hundreds of years. Rosita Arvigo apprenticed with Don Elijio Panti, a Mayan Shaman in Belize, and brought this technique out to the rest of the world. There are practitioners all over the world practicing ATMAT now thanks to those two.
D | How many sessions/year would you recommend and why?
SW | What I do is have people come in for a 2 hour initial session. This gives us enough time to go over the rather lengthy intimate intake form. I than do the treatment, teach self care massage and suggest some other helpful self care things they can do at home. I feel like this is really empowering.
The follow up appointments vary depending on what the ultimate goal is. If it is fertility I suggest at least once a month for the next 3 months between the end of menses and before ovulation. The reason being is that it takes a follicle 90 days to come to fruition.
For women with prolapse, I really tell them to go with their intuition. See how they feel after the first treatment and really encourage that they do the self care massage daily to keep things where they are supposed to be.
For men, if they are having issues with their prostate a few follow up appointments are encouraged as well as the self care massage.
For on going digestive issues, it may be a monthly treatment. It all depends on a person by person basis.
D | Where did you learn this technique?
SW | All of my courses were taught through the Arvigo Institute. There are three steps to take to being an Arvigo Practitioner. First you need to be be a massage therapist, nurse, midwife, PT, OT, someone with a license to touch. I took my Self Care Class in Belize. I took my Professional Practitioner course in Loveland, Colorado. You than have to do 25 case studies before you can take your certification. I took my Certification course in Michigan. I took an Advanced Pregnancy course in Racine, Wisconsin. Lastly, I took a Spiritual Healing course in Belize. My Certification, Advanced Pregnancy Course, and Spiritual Healing Course were all taught by Rosita Arvigo.
D | Are there any other techniques you use during an abdominal massage?
SW | Yes, I think that listening is vital and staying tuned in to the client's needs. I do like to do Castor Oil Treatments during the Initial Intake to show how easy they are to do and explain how beneficial they are. The property of castor oil is to help soften and move. So extremely helpful. This again can only be done in certain times of the cycle if you are trying to conceive.
D | Do you also massage other areas of the body and not just the abdominals during a session?
SW | Yes, for me I like to add on working on the neck. Since alignment is so important, I think that it is vital to have the neck worked on, as well as the muscles in the back, all the way to the sacrum and coccyx. I also like to get the psoas in some people as well as work on the colon. It can be a person to person judgement.
D | Thanks so much for chatting with me about this Sarah! If you'd like to make an appointment with Sarah, visit her at http://www.taketimeforyourselfmassage.com. For more information on the Arvigo Technique, visit https://arvigotherapy.com/content/definition-and-history.