Though Dr. Arvigo's techniques have delivered results for a variety of gynecological and gastrointestinal ailments, they are typically to boost fertility. I'm not really looking for a bundle of joy just yet, so I was slightly less than eager to endure a half-hour of stomach-contorting toward such an end. But, as Young explained, women of all ages are thought to benefit from such work. When we experience sudden whiplash, jerking or repeated bouncing (such as from long-distance running), she says, the uterus can swing dramatically and become lodged in a sideways or tilted position. Young says this can lead to reproductive complications including PMS and, yes, infertility. And it never hurts to make sure everything in there is in good working order.
Furthermore, it can also be beneficial for men, because you boys tend to hold tension and stress in your stomachs by tightening the abdomen, which affects digestion by squeezing the esophagus and impeding deep breaths. Convinced, I gave her the go ahead.
You could picture Young reading meditation protocols to puppies: Her voice is soft and soothing, and she looks the perfect picture of someone who has spent her life cultivating a serenity that pervades patient and practitioner. Half-Korean, half-Central America, Loretta has rich, cocoa skin, arabesque eyes and a mane of shiny, black ringlets. Her hands are small and soft but very strong from years of working first as a prenatal masseur, then progressing through craniosacral therapy and into the abdominal work in which she now specializes.
To begin my treatment, Young first spread essential oils over the palms of her hands and had me inhale deeply. She then increased the energy flow within my body simply through light touch on my head and feet before beginning the actual belly massage portion of the treatment. Her technique was soft, firm and fluid. She pulled from one side of my stomach to the other, pressing her fingers deep into the flesh and pulling the underlying ligaments along with her in a gentle motion to coax out any entanglements or imbalances. Then, she massaged in a clockwise circle around my naval to smooth the surface and refresh the kneading-then-smoothing cycle.
It doesn't sound like much, and I'm not doing it justice, but it was one of the most soothing sensations I've ever experienced—and nothing like the cat-pawing I had expected. I quickly found myself melting into the massage table as she lifted pressure away from my diaphragm and esophagus and my breath grew deeper. Then, she flipped me over and did a correlating back massage to complete the realignment. By the time it was over, I was ready for a good nap.
After I pried myself off the table and got dressed, I met Loretta in the spa's softly lit sitting area for tea and a brief chat for her professional perspective on the Arvigo Maya technique. While she's had incredible success with fertility-challenged couples, I asked whether her massage was worthwhile for someone who wasn't looking to get pregnant. Learning to increase awareness of the dynamics in the pelvic region, and becoming increasingly connected with its sensations, stimulations and stasis, she says, can lead to increased sexual satisfaction. Relaxation plus body and sensation awareness equals orgasm—who knew? As with any area of the body, the muscles need to be taught how to respond and relax at the appropriate points. Additionally, abdominal massage helps to loosen and relax the muscles that overlay all the core organs, increasing blood and lymph flow.
In keeping with her teacher's beliefs, Young is a huge proponent of self-care as a way to get to know one's body better and to continue the healing treatment on a more regular basis. I want to learn—and she's promised to teach me—but half the fun is getting someone else to rub your belly for you, right?