I personally love the affects of massage for relaxation, but was surprised to learn how beneficial abdominal massage is for women and men struggling to conceive.
The treatment also includes an optional vaginal steam bath that you can enjoy at home. This became a hot topic lately when Gwyneth Paltrow talked about the benefits of vaginal steaming for balancing hormones and cleaning out the uterus. Vaginal steam bath’s seemed even a little radical to this spa junkie, but turns out (this facial for your vagina) can help to prepare your uterus for a baby.
Since I am all about holistic health and an integrated approach to fertility I reached out to a local expert to learn more. Tina Torii is a registered massage therapist and Arvigo Abdominal Massage practitioner in Toronto.
If you are wondering what Arvigo Massage is, here is the official description:
“The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® are 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.
Based on over thirty years of training and experience in massage, naturopathy, herbology, and spiritual healing, Dr. Rosita Arvigo developed these techniques which now bear her name. This modality incorporates a holistic approach to health care which includes massage, anatomy and physiology, herbology, nutrition, and emotional and spiritual healing. Dr. Arvigo believes that with any natural healing technique, these areas must be simultaneously addressed to promote optimal health”. (For more information please visit www.arvigotherapy.com)
Enjoy my interview!
Can you share a little bit about yourself and your background?
I am a graduate of Sutherland-chan and have been practicing registered massage therapist for 17 years. I practice at Alive Holistic Health Clinic located at Yonge and Carlton. I work with 4 acupuncturists and a hypnotherapist the main focus in this clinic is on fertility. I use general Swedish techniques and often incorporate more indirect techniques that much more energetic, specifically integrative manual therapy. Due to the fact that I work in a clinic that treats many women who are having fertility challenges, it is a huge part of my practice. I love the fact that I can see them from preconception all the way through their pregnancy and post partum. My Arvigo training has now changed the way I do prenatal massage.
When did you first decide to become an Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal practitioner?
As I was seeing more and more people having fertility challenges I decided to look into Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage (ATMAT) and there just happened to be the first class – the self care class, here in Toronto a few years ago so took it and have never looked back.
Describe Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal massage.
The initial appointment is usually about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. The best time to come in is once the period is finished and up until ovulation for fertility enhancement. The first visit is the longest as I sit down with the client and discuss their health history and what they are doing for fertility – which clinic, what they have done, what they’re planning, their menstrual cycle etc.
I see quite a few people who are on the assisted reproductive therapy plan so they have done either IUI or IVF or planning on it, so the initial appointment is fairly long.
Once we begin the session, I usually first work on the abdomen from the pubic bone up to the ribs with light to moderate pressure. I find that everyone is different so there is always discussion on pressure and what feels comfortable. There is also a fair bit of work on the back.
The low back is an essential part of the work, since all the nerves that innervate the entire body comes out of the spine. I also find that there are many women that have low back issues along with painful periods, all are part and parcel to the possible issues that may be affecting their fertility.
0nce I have finished the protocol that has been taught to me, I then show the clients how to perform the self-care massage themselves.
The Arvigo Techniques are essentially for healing the reproductive and digestive systems in an external noninvasive manipulation using only hands to reposition reproductive organs and improve blood flow. The inherent ability to be self-regulating, self-healing and self-regenerating is known as homeostasis or to balance within. The work assists the vital flow of fluids and energy to nourish and repair the organs and systems naturally.
ATMAT is also healing and normalizing to all digestive organs and helps improve digestion, assimilation and elimination
Which types of infertility will benefit the most from Maya Abdominal massage? Is this technique helpful for men too?
I would say all can benefit from ATMAT. The idea that you help can change the blood flow to the pelvic bowl, which includes the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes.
I see many people with premature ovarian failure, PCOS, unexplained fertility, endometriosis and recurrent miscarriages.
And yes it can be great for men as well. It increases circulation to the prostate so men would benefit as well.
How does it help with recurrent miscarriage?
Typically I do see women with recurrent miscarriage, but I often use it in conjunction with acupuncture.
There are many factors that can cause miscarriages, such as uterine lining issues, egg quality issues, autoimmune and a few others.
If it is more a uterine lining issue where there is more scar tissue or misshaped or thinner lining then I would definitely say that the ATMAT can help as I said earlier that the massage helps with the blood flow to pelvic bowl and since blood flow carries oxygen, nutrients, hormones it may also help indirectly with egg quality issues as well.
I would also suggest doing castor oil packs and vaginal steam post miscarriage to help the healing process.
Can you explain how to use a castor oil pack?
Castor oil packs are good for endometriosis, fibroids, PCOS, unexplained infertility, period pain and clotting.
- Use cold pressed castor oil and soak a cotton cloth in the oil
- Use plastic to cover the cloth
- Apply heat source such as hot water bottle
- Apply for 1 hour for at least 3 -5 times per week
Here is a good website to learn more about how to apply a Castor Oil Pack:
How many sessions do you recommend?
Ideally, I would recommend at least 3 sessions, and hopefully before any ART is starting, but again, I see people in various stages so once we discuss what they are doing and timing, it will depend.
If they are going through ART, I would recommend ideally 2 cycles before they start, but depending on how they are reacting to the medication may also be a factor. The massage can also help with the injections to help circulate the hormones to the ovaries and can help minimize the swelling of abdomen, I also recommend just before retrieval and then again just before transfer. Obviously these are guidelines and will depend on timing and scheduling.
I’ve read that a vaginal steam bath’s are part of the treatment. This seems to be a hot topic right now. Could you describe this treatment?
Yes, this is a very hot topic right now. I think it’s great. I recommend the vaginal steams to most of my clients. It is used to assist in the cleansing of the uterus. Just after menses if you have your period is brown or you spot, if you have more cramps or painful periods then just before you start to bleed. I often recommend doing a steam the morning of retrieval and the morning of the transfer, to aid in allowing the instruments to be accepted into the vagina.
Now, how to describe it? There are a few variations, from boiling herbs in a pot and sitting over it, using a commode type of thing or a chair with opening for the steam to rise.
These are my preferred herbs (dried or fresh herbs) that I recommend to women going through infertility (never use essential oils as they are too concentrated):
- Rose -
The idea behind the steam is to relax the tissues, help open things up.
The other types of herbs to try are:
- St. John’s Wort
The best herbs for dry vagina or menopausal symptoms:
- slippery elm
- marshmallow root
Here are the directions:
- Use a stainless steel bowl (that can sit inside your toilet – it can move and doesn’t have to sit on the lip or anything, just big enough to hold about 5 cups of water), hot boiling water, and herbs.
- Place the herbs (1 cup of dried or up to 3 cups of fresh) in the bowl, add 3 -4 cups of boiled water, then cover the bowl for a few minutes to steep it ( like a tea) then place the bowl inside the toilet and check it to make sure it won’t scald you and
- Grab some socks (to keep your feet warm) and a towel or blanket wrapped around you (so you stay warm) for about 20 minutes. – read a book, listen to music or meditate.
- This should not be done if there’s a chance of pregnancy.
- It is possible that you may see changes in your vaginal discharge and menstruation as this indicates normal cleansing reactions.
For more information check out Barbara Loomis’s website:
How does the massage help someone deal with the emotional roller coaster of infertility?
Massage can help relax the body and mind. It’s also comforting to be touched. I think it helps that I teach them how to do the self-care massage, so it empowers them. They have something they can do for themselves. I think it also helps to see practitioners who have seen many women go through the similar things and have a place where they can ask questions and feel supported in whatever their path is.
There are many women who don’t know about their bodies and even what’s happening. Often they are just told what to do, when to come in and not really given much information so I often help women find their voice and know they aren’t alone.
I also suggest homework, which includes doing things that are fun and enjoyable to them. I often hear how stressed and overwhelmed women get, particularly with having fertility challenges. I feel that sometime having date night with their partners is a great way to reconnect and remember why they’re trying to have a baby. Go out and do something that is just fun laugh and be with their loved one.
I understand that the massage is deeply rooted in self-care. Do you have any tips or body work techniques that can be used at home?
I teach my clients how to do the self-care abdominal massage.
Breathing techniques are very helpful to relax the body.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen
- When you breathe in the hand on your belly should rise higher than your chest (this ensures you are taking a deep breath in)
- After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breaths in through your nose for a count of 7
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8
- Gently contact your abdominal muscles to evacuate all the remaining air
- Repeat cycle for four times (http://www.amsa.org/healingthehealer/breathing.cfm)
Even foot massage, reflexology points on the feet can be accessed all the time, but just getting a foot massage, perhaps even your partner can give you a foot massage, is so good for relaxation.
I would say that the self-care is an important part of this work as it allows the client to do it more, to have more of an effect on abdomen/pelvic bowl and help change the blood flow.
How often do you actually massage anything on your own body or even connect to it? Sometimes it’s about awareness and knowing what’s normal for you. I sometimes have people just put one hand on their stomach/uterus and the other hand on their heart to connect them and breathe.
What are some success stories you can share?
I see a large population of women in there 40’s that are going through IUI, IVF and donor eggs. I have seen women have multiple IVF’s and once they incorporate Arvigo massage they became pregnant.
What books and resources do you recommend on Arvigo massage?
Arvigotherapy.com – has a listing of all the practitioners all over the world and their workshops and you can order products
Satsun, My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer by Dr. Rosita Arvigo – it’s her story on how she started this work. - http://www.amazon.com/Sastun-My-Apprenticeship-Maya-Healer/dp/006250259X
Journeys in Healing –a compilation of case studies of how arvigo has helped their journey in healing - https://arvigotherapy.com/content/journeys-healing
Rainforest Home Remedies – by Dr Rosita Arvigo and Nadine Epstein - this has information on vaginal steams, castor oil packs, and has a description of how to do the self-care in the book. http://www.amazon.com/Rainforest-Home-Remedies-Maya-Replenish/dp/006251637X
Barbara Loomis website - alignmentmonkey.nurturance.net – she’s an Arvigo therapist and has great information on her site.
For more details visit: https://arvigotherapy.com/content/self-care-training-june-
For couples going through infertility many choose only western medicine as a course of treatment. While western medicine is definitely part of the solution, holistic remedy's that serve to relax, nourish and heal the body can be very beneficial. I know that the vaginal steam bath might elicit a giggle from your partner or friends, but what if this were the key to having a baby? It could simply be another option to add to your toolkit. Figure out what works best for you! You are the conductor of your own healing.
Sarah Clark empowers couples to discover how lifestyle and diet can dramatically impact their chances of conceiving. She was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28 and had both her kids with donor eggs. Not until years later did she discover that the root cause of her infertility was a food intolerance. Ready to gaze into your baby's eyes....but struggling. Download 10 step Checklist here