I’ve always tried to celebrate the sacredness of my menstruation, even when it left me crying on the bathroom floor thinking I might die. Or at least that something could be seriously wrong. Something must be seriously wrong. Something this powerful deserves respect – and not only respect for the pain, but if my uterus is this upset, what am I doing to upset her so much? How could I be eating a healthy diet, regularly cleansing, doing appropriate yoga, and practicing decent dinacharya (daily routines), and still have debilitating pain most months?//
I managed this monthly storm by taking an over-the-counter painkiller, and usually one dose did the trick. You might be thinking. “Well, what are you complaining about? That seems so easy.” And in a way it is – but I’m not one for masking my symptoms. There are times when I simply had to work, so I’d take a painkiller to get through. Most times I’d try to wait it out – the intense pain and or nausea and loose bowel movements would last between 4-6 hours as the bleeding began – feeling like if I stayed present with the pain, it might pass. Never really happened. At the same time of feeling this pain, the wave of energy taking over my body was incredible to experience: even during the pain, I could feel the energy shifting in my body to dramatically point downwards, my legs would shudder, my inner thighs tingle, and my head very cloudy because apana vayu (the downward moving air) was struggling to happily move downwards, it’s vector, it’s natural direction of flow. One positive was that I could only be very present when in that pain, if I did not take a painkiller, I could not ignore my cycle. And truthfully, I did not want to, I just wanted to figure out the imbalance, and heal.
There is a happy ending to this story, as I lay out the horrors – I did just finish my second near painless period, and I feel light, bright, clear and inspired. I can attribute this to Kayla Becker, and Maya Abdominal Therapy, also know as Arvigo Abdominal Therapy, a therapy which focuses on uterine massage. Literally moving or repositioning a woman’s uterus. It is an external therapy, using specific techniques to reposition the organ inside the abdominal cavity. Intense, right? But pretty darn amazing.
For starters, I have always been very active. I did gymnastics from 5-9, I rode horses from 9 -17. Cross Country in Junior High, and played Lacrosse and Soccer throughout high school. In college started snowboarding, and now continue to do so, as well as have a regular yoga practice. Lots of jumping, running, falling, sliding. Things you uterus is not always happy with – and yes, we do not live our lives only for our uterus’s sake, but any action is going to create an equal and opposite reaction…
Let me paint a picture of the history of my symptoms. For most of my menstruating life, I remember having cramps. They were never that bad in high school…and I think then I was less afraid of just popping a Tylenol to get through the day (probably eager to hide the fact I had my period as much as possible as most young women are, sadly) but I do remember having some cramping. In college I remember skipping class because my periods were painful – and then I went on birth control. I gained 10-15 pounds on birth control, but I was a freshman in college, and everyone was gaining 10 pounds. Gaining 10 pounds made it so I finally had breasts (Finally womanly! Haha.), so I was not too worried about that. I remember my cramps changing a bit, not being so bad, my period was lighter, and super easy to predict, so that was great. Otherwise I never had any bad side effects from my birth control that I remember, and I stayed on either Ortho-tricyclen-lo, or Nuva Ring for 6 years.
As the years went on, I found my periods were getting lighter and lighter, and shorter, and I felt that that wasn’t right. I read more and more about birth control, and realized that I was not having a real period. This bleeding was fake. I was not letting my body go through it’s natural cycles, I was not really ovulating, and the pill was making my body think it was pregnant. I was encouraged often by the gynecologists to skip my periods, them being fake, it was just an illusion of a natural cycle anyway, so why bother with the inconvenience? I really did (and do) not like this perspective. Something so closely tied to nature, something so powerful should not be within our control – I still believe we should learn to ride the wave, surfing the power gracefully and respectfully, not trying to level out our ocean.
So back to birth control – I knew it was not in nature’s plan for me to be ‘pregnant’ for 6 years straight. I wanted to have children one day – not then – but I knew that I was done messing with that chance. I wanted to feel more natural. I had been practicing yoga for about 2 years at that point, and felt more and more like I was coming into my own. This was when I was about 25.
Going off Birth Control
I lost those 15 pounds that I had been hanging on for all those 6 years, pretty immediately. This means my weight went back to what it was in high school, about 110. My yoga practice was vigorous, so I felt pretty light. I did a cleanse that was too lightening for me. This was right before I started Ayurveda school, so I did not yet know much about Vata….but I was aggravating her a bit. And as you practitioners out there may have guessed, I have quite a bit of Vata in my constitution already. Again luckily enough, my periods stayed relatively regular – they never stopped for months at a time during this transition – but they were coming late, at between 33-40 days, were not a bright red color (more brown, indicative of stagnation) and there was some cramping coming on stronger again.
All throughout that year I started keeping track of my period (using the free iPeriod app) and I noticed that my cycles were long, though regular, between 35 and 40 days. During the winter my cycle stretched out even longer. My cramps came back and sometimes were pretty bad. Again, I either had to manage with Tylenol, or get in a hot bath and nap for a couple of hours if I could, truly feeling like I was going through a min-birth each cycle. The cramps were always at the beginning of my period, coming usually between 4 and 6 am, and lasting all morning. Again, Vata signs.
Another symptom I began having right away, that I feel is important to share, is that I began to have acne, and acne on my back. This lasted for about two years. I had never had bad acne before, even as a teenager. As I cleaned up my diet, and the excess hormones worked their way out of my body, it slowly went away…but it did take quite some time.
As learned more and more about Ayurveda, I realized mine were Vata symptoms. I made changes in my diet to make it more Vata balancing, I tried Vata herbs (and actually aloe, particularly kumari asava works well for me, Vata and Pitta balancing) but nothing really solved the problem. My cycles became shorter, around 33 days, though the pain was not going away, in fact, it was becoming worse some months, going back to the symptoms above. It was frustrating to say the least.
I tried castor oil packs, but they were too intense for me. I have tried vaginal steams (which are very nice) to open the channels, I have tried taking ginger pills before the onset of my period. I have tried valerian, nutmeg, turmeric, ashwagandha etc. Not that these did not help, but it turns out I had a severe Vata imbalance – more than simple tightening and prana stagnation, but also a structural problem.
A Misplaced Uterus
At the gynecologist, they had told me before that I had a titled uterus. I asked what that means, and just got the ‘nothing, it’s normal’ answer. I remembered that my mother had a tipped uterus, but it was comforting also to remember that she had two children, no real problem. The more I read, the more I realized that tipped or tilted uterus’s can sometimes be a huge problem – causing pain, back pain, fertility issues, and even incontinence. At this point, too, I was getting quite frustrated, feeling that I could not heal myself.
I started taking some course through the Sacred Window School with Ysha Oakes. My first course, “Enhancing Fertility, Pregnancy and Birth with Ayurveda” was taught by a lovely lady named Terra Rafael. (She has written a book called “Ayurveda for the Childbearing Years.”) Terra mentioned, quite often throughout the course, her experiences with Maya Abdominal Therapy. It was not specific to the Ayurvedic traditions, though seemed so important to her class. I asked her to tell me a bit more, and she shared that its origins are in Belize, in Central America. I knew I needed to try this for my own curiosity, as well as perhaps for my own healing.
I did a web search and found out about a few women in Vermont who do this – and chose a woman named Kayla Becker who has a practice in Montpelier. I emailed her, mostly because I was interested in a self-care class she was teaching that had already passed. I wanted to learn how to do this for myself. She mentioned that she would teach me when we met for a session, and her prices were a bit less than the other woman, to be honest, so I made the appointment with her.
She taught me that my uterus changes it’s size, position and weight throughout my cycle. She felt my lower belly and told me, yes, she could feel ‘she’ was tilted to the right. She asked me if I had any trauma in the past. Honestly, I have been so lucky and I have not had any sexual abuse history. (Often when sexual organs are not functioning properly in one way or another, there is abuse or trauma in the past.)
The more I read and learned about this therapy, the more I wanted to learn how to do it – and I hadn’t reaped any physical benefit yet! I tend to be like that…any way, on back to the story….
So, my first massage with Kayla was in June of 2013. Our initial meeting was about 2 hours long. The massage was 90 minutes – she worked my sacrum, tailbone, marma points very close to my anus, and found the vertebrae that’s a bit out of line in my back. It was deeper work than I was used to – I felt floaty afterward – but I often choose gentle bodywork such as Abhyanga, so this was a nice balance. The marma points she works with bring blood flow to the pelvic region, and were quite intense. She then turned me on my back for the uterine work.
She performed the routine strokes that she had already shown me for self care, which get energy, blood and lymph flowing in the abdominal regions. Then she went lower into my pelvis, and with expert fingertips, felt for my uterus, who was off to the right, towards and lower than my hip bone. She explained that this could most certainly cause cramping and pain, as well as hormonal imbalance. That the signals were not easily flowing from gland to gland, and that my uterus was having a hard time draining, hence the brown blood and all the cramping.
The massage did not hurt, but it was deep. I could sense my internal organs in a way I had never felt. I could feel how everything is connected in there – and so soft and vulnerable. Her pressure was not super deep, really, but the work is deep in the sense that you’re allowing another person to touch – and actually shift – an organ in your body, and gave another sense that this was not just a physical container, but something much more…sacred.
After the massage, as I mentioned, I felt a little floaty, and even a little teary eyed – but I felt like I had really begin a deep level of self study. I booked my next appointment, for a month later.
I continued the self massage she taught me daily, and went back the next month. My cycle had not changed much, in fact, the next one was a tough one. I was trying not to get discouraged, and just hoped that she (my uterus) was clearing out the old stuff that’s why it was so intense. My next treatment was a bit shorter, but much the same. I was almost afraid to sleep on my right side afterward, wanting my uterus to stay closer to the middle!
I sometimes have sore breasts that go away once my blood flows, and the next month the soreness did NOT go away. I felt sort of crappy the whole month, and though I knew I wasn’t pregnant, I could tell my hormones were out of whack. As soon as I had my next period, though, I felt AMAZING, and I went back for my third massage. I told Kayla what had happened (I had not been doing my self massage so well that month) and she told me she could feel things were shifting, too. My uterus was still to the right, and she recommended using some castor oil in my daily massage, but not full on heat packs. She thinks it had been stuck to the right there for a long, long time, and recommended I keep coming because it would change. I trusted her, and set up another appointment.
During the interim, I decided to take a self-care course with Kayla, so I could possibly go study at the Professional Training in the Spring of 2014. During this weekend long course we learn the essence of self-care practice, as well as the history of this technique. I also learned that often, a sign of your uterus being tipped includes poor circulation in one leg, or pain in the leg or calves, as well as vericose veins. I had poor circulation in my right leg – it was the one going numb in meditation – as well a vericose vein forming in my right calf. Very interesting.
This weekend got me right back on the train with daily self care. During the weekend, I got another short private session with Kayla, and she told me about another, deeper technique we could try to move ‘her.’
This time we set up the appointment for me to come when my uterus was heavy, rather than empty – closer to your period. She was going to try another technique she had learned. It involved me lying on my side, as Kayla allowed my weight to press into her fingers, and she could actually press and lift my uterus back to the center, and give a good press to those stuck ligaments. It was intense, again, not really painful as all, but deep. I had started my period that day, I took a tylenol beforehand because I had felt intense cramps coming on and new I was getting that area touched – already an intensely emotional time to get a massage. Kayla was super gentle and respectful and loving, and she really felt a big shift during this treatment. I felt a shift as well. At home I continued with my self massage. I had noticed that my breast tenderness before my period was lessened this time, as the self care includes moving lymph in the upper abdomen as well.
One evening as I was doing my self care, I felt it was appropriate go a little deeper. I could really feel where the fundus of my uterus was, and I could feel where I wanted it to be as an empty space right above my bladder. I focus on the right to center stroke, and I swore I felt a shift. I mentioned this to Kayla, who affirmed that my uterus was almost in the center the next time she saw me. We did the side treatment again, and I booked yet another treatment. I think at this point I had had about 5 treatments, and it was November of 2013.
My December cycle came on a morning I was working at the Ayurvedic Center. It started slowly in the morning, and I could tell it was going to come full force. I could only hope I would get through my work – I had my massage after with Kayla, actually. I felt the downward shift, the cloudy head and some dull cramps coming on right as I started the shirodhara treatment I was performing. I had a tylenol in my pocket in case. Though the cramps came, they were bearable. They only lasted about an hour, maybe two. As I finished my treatment, they left, and I got in the car to go to Kayla, really excited that I was not knocked out by my period’s arrival. She confirmed that my uterus was pretty much centered. We did the side-lying treatment again, and I booked another appointment, and this time I could come back when my uterus was light again. And that’s what I am looking forward to tomorrow.
I just finished my period. It almost snuck up on me this time. My last 2 cycles have all been at exactly 28 days. There was some brown blood at the beginning, but otherwise more bright, flowing freely for 5 days. There are still some things I will continue to work with through herbs and diet – for a lifetime of balance – but I feel like now I am seeing my period for real, not masked behind this extreme Vata derangement. I can not tell you how successful I feel, though I was not the one who did all the work! It has been about 6 months of treatment, and I feel as though we have corrected, or started to correct, a life-long imbalance. I can not wait to see Kayla tomorrow, and thank her. She probably has many many stories like this…
And so yes, in May I am going to get trained and certified to perform this work. I can not wait to share this secret with my clients, friends, all the women I can. I am truly starting to understand all that hippie talk about the uterus being the seat of our creativity, our shakti, our power…I feel more creative than ever, more powerful, and more connected to my rhythms. The next practice is to switch my cycle to the new moon – uttar basti here we come!
I know there are so many women out there with similar stories or pain, so in this post I simply share the details of my healing journey through this technique in hope it can help or inspire them. Feel free to email me with questions at adena [at] adenaroseayurveda.com
Do you need this therapy? Help me go and study by pre-booking a session.