by Chelsea Epperson
I am flat on my stomach in only my underwear while Jen Poll vigorously shakes my right leg through the air. I feel like an animal who escaped a predator in the wild: to overcome my trauma, I must shake it away before I can leave the cave and return home alive.
Jen Poll is a licensed massage therapist trained in The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy. She works at Thank You Mama, a wellness center in St. Petersburg, FL. The waiting room bursts with natural supplements and herbs, belly balms and brochures on all things natural. The clients across from me are all significantly older and look so comfortable, I fear they can smell how un-zen I feel.
The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy are non-invasive and external. They guide our internal organs back into proper position and relieve congestion in the lymphatic and nervous systems. There is a focus on the flow of chi. In the end, organ function and mood are improved because of the physical and emotional release of tension in the abdomen. The uterus shares space with the bladder, bowel, pelvic bones and abdominal organs. The ligaments can easily become stressed or strained and the uterus can slip out of place (1).
Although when we talk about abdominal massage, we generally speak about phenotypically female bodies, it is my (completely non-medical) opinion that the technique would be useful to anyone regardless of gender identity or whether a uterus is present. Gentle massage under proper training can break up scar tissue, relieve constipation and other digestive issues, and promote relaxation and sleep (2). Attention and care to our bodies is critical for anyone and so is the knowledge gained when a therapist points out all the parts of your anatomy you walk around with and use daily. Body awareness is slowly regaining pieces of your autonomy and should be accessible.
I booked an appointment, two months in advance, to have my uterus massaged. I have painful periods, with dark brown blood and migraines. During menses, I feel a pressure so intense I have to sit as much as possible. I nickname it phantom-crowning. The sensation is the same as the last few minutes before my firstborn was out in the world—when she was low enough in the birth canal that all I felt was her head pressed hard against me. Weeks afterward, I stood in the shower pushing my palms against the feeling until it passed. Eventually it did…until I started to bleed again.
More symptoms of a mal-positioned uterus: painful intercourse, PMS, lower back pain, bloating, lack of ovulation, incontinence, chronic UTIs and/or vaginitis, recurrent miscarriages, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, breakthrough or heavy and abnormal uterine bleeding (2).
In my purse is an intake form, seven pages long with questions ranging from medical to personal. What is my family history? (Lots to list medically.) Average breakfast? (Only coffee and a lot.) What are my hobbies and how satisfied do I feel on a daily basis? (Writing like, once a month, and woah, do I have anxiety. On paper, it is so easy to be honest with anyone.) Has there ever been any trauma? (Yes.) I spend the night before my appointment trying to search for testimonials on the process. Because Maya Massage has shown success in allowing clients to achieve fertility, any blog posts I find are on whether or not conception was achieved. I go to bed anxious which means I go to bed around 4 a.m. and wake up at 7.
The first thing Jen does is go through my paperwork. She is shocked to hear my bedtime and requests I scale back on caffeine and pick up B-complex vitamins for my adrenals instead then asks about my trauma. When I explain the way it recently resurfaced I cannot finish and try instead to talk about my back pain. She hands me a tissue and says, yes, she can see my scoliosis but as humans, we also slouch and hide our most important parts, our “guts”, as a defense mechanism. This is why there are so many people with digestive issues, particularly women. This is what, she says, separates us from animals: we squish our most vulnerable parts together, hiding our abdomen while animals are always exposed. In the wild there is no time to suppress trauma, to walk around ignoring pain because there are more important events to attend. To address the pain is the most important way to survive.
I undress and she covers my lower half with a sheet, presses a single finger against my spine and hips gently, identifies the tight side. I feel so much pain. I start to think Jen is actually magical, by releasing all that muscle tension with a flick of her wrist. She asks more questions, checks the color of my tongue, determine my heart chakra is blocked and I need more time to write and take care of myself. She points out my intestines, my uterus. It is not tilted or in a malposition but sits a little low. My abdomen is slightly separated from two births. For this, she writes down an app to look up in order to strengthen my pelvic floor. We go over the way I should self-massage at home and she gives me paperwork and wonderful smelling herbs for a yoni steam. I was to schedule a follow-up in a few months.*
Jen warned me of the emotional and physical detox I would feel but I didn’t know it would be so immediate. I floated out of her office, a cup of water and paperwork in hand, so relaxed I was probably driving much too slow. By the time I arrived home, all I felt was anger, sadness, another migraine. I bled again. Inspired by the day’s events, I decided this time to sit with it all.
1: “What are the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy?” https://arvigotherapy.com/
2: “How Do I Know I Have a Matriz Caida (Fallen Womb)?”, “Do You Also Work With Men and Children?” http://indigemama.com/faq/
*If you are seeking a Maya Abdominal Massage for fertility issues, you will need to more strict with your follow-up appointments.
**Thank You Mama’s website: thankyou-mama.com
Chelsea Epperson is a writer living in Tampa, FL. She also works with the Red Tent Women's Collective in St. Pete. Contact Chelsea at email@example.com or through Instagram @chelseaepperson.