The Place: Nuuk Cheil Cottages, Cockscomb Basin, Belize
The Space: A freshly laundered, pink-sheeted, sparse bed in one of the property’s concrete guest houses. A few water marks on the ceiling and walls.
The Face: Aurora Garcia-Saqui, Mayan Herbalist and Healer
The Session: Forty-five minutes of having my insides artfully rearranged from the outside and leaving with my uterus tied up … Just read on.
Mayan abdominal and womb massage can sound intimidating and potentially gynecological. This is why more people need to know about it. Because it is everything but that. So, let’s do quick tutorial before the story.
Most of what we know about this work is thanks to Dr. Rosita Arvigo, an American naturopath, who studied under one of the last true Mayan healers, Don Elijio Panti. Dr. Arvigo took his lessons and made it all into a comprehensive program known as the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy. It is an external organ massage, meaning there is a lot being done to the inside from the outside. Just like regular massage, with an additional target tissue.
Like the ancient Chinese, the ancient Maya believed the abdomen and, for women, the womb are the centers of one’s life force. By keeping the organs happy, our physical, mental, and spiritual existences have a better chance at being happy.
The massage is meant to release tension around organs that have become misaligned or compressed by muscular tension, trauma, and stress and bringing them back into a health position, allowing improved blood and lymph flow (again, just like regular massage).
I like the idea of being happy. I also think healthy blood and lymph flow seem like two good ways to stay alive (especially after a long, dehydrating hike at Cockscomb Basin). And Ms. Garcia-Saqui, who happens to be the niece of Don Elijio Panti, Dr. Arvigo’s teacher, seemed like the perfect person to assist my viscera.
She, her husband, and family run a cultural wellness center and lodge at the entrance to the park, where her art and handmade herbal soaps, tinctures and ointments are on display. I immediately bought soap and then asked for a full abdo-womb treatment.
Garcia-Saqui, with her bun and flower-embroidered, traditional dress, has a grandmotherly appeal, minus the wrinkles and approaches the belly as comfortably and quietly as, well, I would a person’s back. She started by twisting her fist directly below my navel with gradual, increasing pressure, sinking her fingers into my flank, starting at my right hip bone and tracing the digestive tract up the right side, across under my ribs, and down the left side. She pushed with her palms and pulled with curled fingers, finding tension even when I was determined not to show it. “You’re holding too much strength in here. You stand up too much,” she said. In the U.S. that would be called a strong core. In the Mayan’s view of feminine energy, that’s an interference, an energetic block the womb, a weakness. The abdominal work helps to shift that weakness into balance.
She then went onto the womb massage, matching the edges her hands with a line of tenderness just inside my right hip crest. As she scooped her cupped hands through the pelvis, she was lifting” the womb to bringing it back into place. The pain on my right side, she said, was because my uterus had tilted and collapsed a little bit. I wouldn’t disagree. Most months it feels like my uterus is in all the wrong places.
She returned to that tender line, still using the sides of her hands, moving against the resistance and then scooping away and up until the discomfort subsided. She then pinned her two fists between my hip bones and asked me to slowly straighten my bent legs. As I did, it felt like the entire front of my body opened up and lengthened. My core and legs felt like your arms do after carrying a too-heavy object around for too long and letting it go – the life comes back to them.
As I was trying to absorb every second of that little rush, Ms. Garcia Saqui told me that in order for my uterus to stay in place, she would have to “tie it up.” This was interesting, momentarily perturbing, and overall intriguing. She left the room and returned with a long white piece of fabric and tied it around my hip bones with tourniquet-like pressure. I was to wear it for one week, only taking it off to shower or sleep. (Later, when I went into the bathroom to shower, my roommate yelled out, “Oh man! Did your uterus just hit the floor?”
The Takeaway: There was an inner softness and relaxation noticeable enough to make me see it was much needed and a decreased level of discomfort and daily tension I hold in that area. My hip pain disappeared for a few days too. Subsequent and regular sessions would, no doubt, be beneficial to us all.* The uterus sash made it 32 hours.