Arvigo Therapy: an interview with Montreal Practitioner Courtney Eileen
By Maya Khamala
M: What exactly are the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage®?
C: It is a technique that fuses traditional Mayan healing techniques–abdominal massage, herbs, and supportive modalities like castor oil packs–with practices introduced by Armenian American Naprapath and herbalist Rosita Arvigo. For those that haven't heard of Naprapathy, it can be likened to gentle chiropractic work.. The technique is used to align the organs in the abdominal cavity, including the uterus or prostate, and encourage optimal movement of our five flows: arterial, veins, nerve, lymph, and energy–or chi.
One unique aspect of the practice is that it puts healing back in the hands of the person receiving the work. This is quite different from conventional western medicine, where the general model is a doctor prescribing pills or performing surgery. With Arvigo® Therapy, you are taught to perform 10-15 minute daily abdominal massages on yourself. You get to learn about your body while bringing yourself into alignment. This tuning in helps all of us awaken our inner healer. The philosophy at Tiger Lotus is that our body for the most part knows how to heal itself, and often all it needs is safe, gentle guidance to bring equilibrium back.
M: Where does this therapy originate?
C: The technique has many origins. Many aspects come from traditional Mayan healing, and we can only imagine how old that lineage is. The name Arvigo differentiates it from Mayan Abdominal Massage which can be practiced in many ways. But the Arvigo techniques are very specific (all practitioners follow strict guidelines, which exist in part for safety) so you know what you are getting.
Rosita spent many decades studying with these healers and as a self acclaimed anatomy nerd, she dug into the books to demystify the moves. When she would ask her mentors, “why this?” or “why that?” She would often get the reply: “Because it feels good,” or “Because it works.” Her work has helped the more western, analytical mind to understand what the technique is doing from an anatomical and physiological perspective.
Her mentors were Don Elijio, a traditional Mayan H’man, and Hortense, a local midwife who had practiced since the age of 13. Rosita wrote a book called “Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer” which gives a beautiful recounting of her encounter with Don Elijio, her journey to be his apprentice, and their work together. I highly recommend it to anyone wishing to truly understand the origin story of Arvigo Therapy.
M: What motivated you to start to learn and practice Arvigo Therapy? Why is it important to you personally?
C: A few years ago, if you would have told me I would be doing this, I wouldn’t have believed you. I studied math and economics, then spent many years as an elite athlete with the aim of going to the Olympics. I spent over half a decade as a community journalist and was a mental health support worker for three years.
It was as at the mental health community centre where I started leading a yoga and exercise class. I realized that the care available to people was covering all bases (ie. talk therapy, housing, social integration, etc.) with the exception of loving touch. I noticed how people had a common thread: lacking self confidence when up against the stigma of mental health, and the combined negative effects of psychiatric medication. I wanted to get trained to do Thai Yoga massage in order to be able to offer adjustments during class that would provide loving compassionate touch–thus enhancing the care that was being provided.
After taking one course, I realized I had stumbled upon what I was meant to do. I liked the Thai Yoga massage approach in comparison to other techniques I was aware of because it integrated Metta (loving kindness) meditation, and offered stretching and acupressure alongside massage to provide more therapeutic benefits.
In class, I met Amanda and together we came up with the idea for Tiger Lotus. We decided we wanted to work together as a coop and be able to offer treatments to people who faced social and economic barriers. We also wanted to work with individuals who have or have had uteruses because we were seeing and experiencing a real health care crisis when it came to fertility, difficult menstruation, chronic UTIs, yeast infections, perimenopause, and other problems. We began learning what we could offer through Thai Yoga massage and brainstormed complementary practitioners we could work with. We started to build a partnership with Amadea Kezar, for example: a pelvic floor Physiotherapist who has been doing incredible work for patients with vaginitis or vulvodynia among other things, and who also offers education alongside. But at the same time, we didn’t see anyone covering the full spectrum of issues we were witnessing.
Two years ago, Amanda came across Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage®. I went to the Self Care course a year ago–the first course on the way to become a practitioner. The course had everything I was looking for–a holistic, effective approach to dealing with menstruation, fertility, menopause, digestive issues, and more. And best of all, comprehensive education that promoted an understanding of why we are facing so many difficulties in this area.
M: How would you describe the Arvigo philosophy?
C: The Arvigo® Therapy premise (for individuals with a uterus) is that if the uterus is displaced, then there cannot be equilibrium in the body. Don Elijio Panti, the traditional Mayan healer, was also known to say, "most people think too much. Get them to laugh and half their troubles and sickness will go away and the blessed herbs will do the rest." I believe this speaks strongly to the powerful and negative effect of stress on the body.
M: How is the Arvigo approach to healing different from other approaches, both mainstream and alternative?
C: With Arvigo, I have come to realize that there is serious re-education work to do around healing, and that has begun with myself. We are used to popping a pill and feeling better, learning to suppress pain. Within the school of Arvigo, pain means “pay attention now.” Instead of masking, we want to use that pain as a guide and work slowly around it, saddle up to the threshold of pain, but not surpass it. We understand that causing pain causes constriction and a closing of the body, and we need the body open to receive the work.
M: Who is Arvigo therapy for (age/gender)?
C: Arvigo® Therapy is for everyone. Small babies, the elderly, anyone.
M: What are some of the most common benefits of Arvigo therapy?
C: You have the opportunity to build a profound and intimate relationship with yourself. You can release stress and other residues from traumatic experiences you have been holding in the abdomen. You can reduce the negative impacts from various types of surgeries. And overall, you are bringing your organs and yourself into optimal alignment and improving your four flows - blood, nerve, lymph and energetic - allowing for less discomfort and pain, and healthy cycles.
M: What are the most common reasons people seek out Arvigo therapy?
C: I would say, infertility and miscarriage, difficult symptoms during perimenopause, painful or irregular periods, and digestive troubles.
M: What should one expect in a session?
C: An initial session lasts two hours. We start with a deep dive into your health history. This helps build an image of what is going on inside your body and figuring out what it is asking for. I do a lot of education in these sessions. I have lots of graphics and our trusty pelvic bone that I use to explain everything I am doing and to give you an insight into your abdomen. For many they say that area is a bit of a void. We are demystifying it and becoming very familiar. Then I teach self care. This for me might be the most important aspect. Contrary to the medical system we have where we are prescribed what to take and told what to do, Arvigo Therapy teaches you a 15 minute daily massage to learn about yourself and to do your work to heal your body. Similar to meditation, it is the daily practice that brings results. And finally we do an hour of bodywork on the abdomen and on the back with a focus on the sacrum and hips. And we always drink tea…
M: Why have you said that people who embark on this are courageous?
C: This is something my teacher, Amanda Porter, would tell us. It is because we are going into our depths. Typically our abdomen is our most vulnerable area and it is where we store away difficult emotional experiences and traumas. By doing this work sometimes we have to encounter those demons to be able to release them. I believe anyone who walks the path of healing and knowing the self is courageous, and at the same time I believe it is the only path where we will find peace.
M: What else would you like the world (and would-be clients) to know about Arvigo?
C: I guess I would simply share these following common causes of a displaced uterus:
repeated pregnancies close together, difficult deliveries
pregnancy, birth, and postpartum
carrying heavy burdens just before or during menstruation and postpartum
walking barefoot on cold floors
wearing high heel shoes
running on cement surfaces
injury to the sacrum or tailbone from a fall or severe blow
poor alignment of pelvic bones with spinal column
chronic spasms around lower back and sacrum
carrying young children on the hip for prolonged periods of time
emotional armoring from rape, sexual assault, or incest
the aging process
a career in high-impact dance, aerobics, or sports
a chronic cough
motor vehicle accidents
Curious about Arvigo Therapy? Book a free consult today!