February 21, 2014 12:05 pm
Updated: February 20, 2014 4:51 pm

Can Maya abdominal massage aid digestion?


Last week, I told a few people I had an appointment for an abdominal massage. Most of them looked confused or recoiled while grabbing their stomachs. “Why would you want that?” one friend asked, and yes, I could see where she was coming from. Not only is my stomach sensitive, I’m also ticklish – a seemingly bad combination if someone is going to be touching your tummy for an extended period of time. And aren’t massages supposed to be relaxing?

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But I was intrigued. I had read about how Maya abdominal massage could help women with painful periods and infertility by coaxing out-of-place uteruses back into position. This type of massage was also purported to help with digestive problems, including IBS, constipation and gastritis. Like a lot of women, I have a less-than-ideal period. I also tend to clench my stomach when I’m stressed. So I took to Google and found Heather Heaney, one of what appears to be only a handful of registered massage therapists in Toronto who practice Maya abdominal massage.

Maya Abdominal Therapy falls under a training program called the Arvigo Techniques, developed by Rosito Arvigo and rooted in the principles of Mayan medicine. The treatment is meant to re-align internal organs, particularly in the reproductive and digestive systems, and increase blood flow to these areas. Heaney was trained in Arvigo Techniques in 2006, and says that while the abdominal massage is more popular with women because of the fertility angle, it can also benefit anyone with digestion issues.

Pre-massage, I’m required to fill out a detailed intake form outlining my health history and concerns, diet and exercise – it’s similar to what you complete before seeing a naturopath. After Heaney reviews the form with me, it’s time for my abdomen to be prodded. She uses firm pressure to massage the area from my pelvic bone up to my belly button. After focusing on the lower abdominal area, she moves up to my rib cage, massaging between my sternum and belly button and around my ribs. I can feel the area relaxing immediately.

After my abdomen massage, I flip over; the organs need to be worked from the back as well, Heaney notes (which is nice, because like most people, I welcome a knot-busting back massage). I’m then coached on how to massage the upper and lower abdomen on my own. This self-care element is a key component of Maya Abdominal Therapy – you even get printed instructions. My stomach feels tender post-massage, but I don’t experience any pain or cramping (which I read could be a side effect).

I’ve tried to build an extra few minutes into my bedtime routine for ab massaging, and it’s a great forced relaxation practice. Have I noticed any benefits so far? I’d say more regular bowel movements are an immediate benefit, and my previously tight left side is loosening up. Heaney recommended I visit her again in a month, which should keep me on top of my self care. She also recommended I start a journal to note any changes in my health.

In short, I’m happy I took a chance on Maya abdominal massage – and I think my gut will continue to thank me for it.  If you’ve tried it, I’d love to hear your comments!

Always consult your physician before starting a new diet or exercise program.

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