One Midwife’s Journey to Arvigo Therapy

Ix ChelAbout a year after opening up Taproot Midwifery, I noticed I was carrying around a lot of heartache. My clients were complaining about aches and pains in pregnancy that I couldn’t fix. How could I believe that having babies was the most natural, normal thing someone could do – something our bodies were literally made to do – but just accept that it should be painful? And then there were the folks struggling to conceive or experiencing multiple miscarriages. So many of my clients had digestive complaints or food allergies that I lost count. It tore at my heart every time I had a client with these issues affecting their lives and I couldn’t help them. “You know, you could always go see a chiropractor,” I would offer weakly. All the while, my clients kept struggling on.

There’s got to be something else, I said to myself. I am, at my very core, a healer. I want to help people feel better and live well in their bodies. We don’t just have to resign ourselves to pain or discomfort or outright heartbreak. What did midwives used to do for this sort of thing? Once upon a time you couldn’t just send someone to the friendly neighborhood chiropractor or naturopath or reproductive endocrinologist. So I started to do some research.

Soon, I came across the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® (ATMAT). When I was a student, one of my midwifery preceptors used this technique very minimally with her clients. I remember being intrigued at the time, and the more I learned, the more I felt like it would be helpful to my clients. I enrolled in the Self Care Training right then and there and shortly after found myself searching my calendar for the next time my call schedule would line up with a Professional Care Training so I could start offering this therapy to clients.

When I began midwifery school, I was prepared to be blown away by palpating a pregnant uterus. I was. It is amazing. Every. Single. Time. It is deeply moving to be able to feel a growing baby and connect with them prenatally. When I began my Arvigo Professional Care Training, I was absolutely not prepared to be blown away by palpating a regular old abdomen. But I was. Completely and utterly. How awesome to locate and move a non-pregnant uterus. What an honor to place my hands on an abdomen post-hysterectomy and feel scar tissue and adhesions melt away at my touch. To feel the energy of this unique person with their unique body, to help move organs and bones and ligaments and lymph into better alignment, to effect change and healing is pure joy.

Learning Arvigo Therapy feels to me like stumbling upon a path I was always meant to walk but didn’t know was there. It was like I tried to take a forge a new path through the forest and instead of getting lost, accidentally found my way. Modern midwifery in the US often feels to me as if it is missing some puzzle pieces that have gotten lost throughout time and circumstance. My own ancestors come from lands that were conquered and colonized so long ago that much of the indigenous and ancestral knowledge has been long lost, forgotten, or suppressed, especially when it comes to “women’s work” like midwifery. Arvigo Therapy feels like I have been given this completely unexpected gift of my history back, even if the ancestral knowledge comes through a different avenue. My hands once again know how to ease and comfort digestive organs, reposition and correct the pelvis and reproductive organs, and teach and empower people to take their health literally into their own hands.

Providing Arvigo Therapy is an act of social justice and is a fundamental part of well-person care throughout the whole lifecycle. I believe in non-interventive care. I trust the inherent wisdom of the body. I know that sometimes all that’s needed for the body to heal itself is a little bit of help and support. That’s exactly what Arvigo Therapy is. In this culture, we are made uncomfortable by women’s bodies and trans bodies. We are deeply embarrassed by them. When something goes wrong with these types of bodies, we try to “fix” it with medication, surgery, and other highly interventive strategies. You have heavy periods with lots of cramping and clotting? Here, take this birth control pill. You have fibroids? Surely surgery is your only answer. You’re experiencing stress incontinence after giving birth? That’s just your lot in life. You better start wearing adult diapers. Or you could try surgery, but it probably won’t work for long. Arvigo Therapy treats all of these conditions with a simple hands-on techniques that are holistic, highly effective, and life-affirming.

Don Elijio Panti and Rosita Arvigo

Don Elijio Panti and Rosita Arvigo

Arvigo Therapy is mindful cross-cultural work. It is a combination of methods and techniques across borders nationalities, eras, and spiritual understandings. It is a masterful compilation of the teachings of Don Elijio Panti, the renowned Maya shaman and Dr. Rosita Arvigo’s teacher, Arvigo’s own naprapathic work, and techniques and knowledge from local skilled midwives such as Miss Hortence Robinson (who by all accounts was quite the spitfire). You can read more about her seven-year apprenticeship with Don Elijio Panti in her book Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer.

I have been continually impressed by Rosita Arvigo’s efforts to maintain and protect the cultural heritage of the Belizean people. It’s one of the main reasons I decided to pursue this work. First, she approached her apprenticeship with Panti with respect and humility. Not only did she complete a traditional apprenticeship and promise to carry on and share this sacred work as Panti asked, but she has set up several systems to protect Belizeans culturally and financially. The Don Elijio Panti Medicinal Trail is a nature trail that all Belizean school children visit to learn to identify and use medicinal rainforest plants. She holds summer camps to teach Belizean children traditional healing modalities. She has established the Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation which helps Belizean traditional healers to harvest and transplant medicinal plants (and get paid for their work) prior to clear cutting rainforest so at least some good comes out of a terrible situation. The foundation also researches plants found in the rainforest and if any portion of these plants winds up as a pharmaceutical drug (i.e. for cancer or HIV), the Belizean people will receive a portion of the profits.

Miss Hortence Robinson

Miss Hortence Robinson

I feel proud and honored to call myself an Arvigo Practitioner. At the end of the day, I know I have learned from one very special lineage of Maya Abdominal Therapy. And I have been seeing great results – my Arvigo clients report reduced hip and back pain, better digestion and elimination, successful pregnancies after trying to concieve for a long period of time, and more normal and consistent periods with less pain and unpleasant accompanying symptoms. I very much look forward to continuing my learning and hope to delve more deeply into Arvigo Therapy as I grow and improve as a practitioner.

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