INTERVIEW: Lisa Levine, Arvigo® certified practitioner, healer and global yogi

Lisa Levine in Phuket, Thailand
Lisa Levine in Phuket, Thailand

I met Lisa because she was a participant in our second Your Fab Yoga Life e-course. She wanted to get clarity on her path as an independent massage therapist and also as a traveller, and someone who at the moment has three home bases (Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand). I wanted to find out more about her story as a long term ‘global citizen’ and world traveller and as a massage therapist and yogi as well as an English teacher to Vietnamese kids (yes, she is a busy lady!). I also wanted to discover more about these fascinating and somewhat mysterious (to me, at least) Arvigo® Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Therapy.

Firstly can you tell me a bit about yourself – where you are from originally and where you are living currently and the work that you do?

I am originally from the U.S. I moved to Mexico about twenty five years ago and spent five years near the Playa Del Carmen on the East Coast and then another five years on the west coast near Puerto Vallarta before moving to Australia for ten years.

Then three years ago, I went to Vietnam with a friend and started to teach English to children in An Bang village, near Hoi An. I wanted to stay in Asia to be close to the kids, so I now work as a visiting practitioner in Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand; spreading the word about The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® around South East Asia.

Now I specialise almost exclusively in the “Maya work” but still practice acupuncture and teach yoga sometimes.

I know you learned of this technique while living in Mexico. What are its origins? Can you tell me a bit about the beliefs and values behind the Mayan healing therapies?

Many cultures incorporate abdominal massage into their medicine, such as the Maya, who have been practicing these techniques for thousands of years. The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® are based on the teachings of Rosita Arvigo. Rosa apprenticed for thirteen years with Don Elijio Panti, one of the last Mayan shamans of Belize.

Abdominal massage helps to balance the life energy or ‘qi’ (chu’lel in Mayan language) according to Mayan beliefs. The Maya and other traditional cultures see the uterus as the center of the being and believe that if it is out of balance, everything else is out of balance (physically, emotionally and spiritually) for a woman. Don Elijio used to say this often.

The uterus is also seen as the seat of creation, whether you are creating a baby a book or a work of art.

The more in touch we are with our creative center the more we can manifest our dreams.

Also, the more in touch we are with our intuition (our gut instinct), the more we are able to manifest from our center.

We have these ideas in our language but because there is such a disconnect between our heads and our belly/womb – and because we have learned to distrust our feelings – often we are not really as in touch with our intuition as we could be.

What I find the most interesting about this work is seeing the profound life changes experienced by women and men when they learn to do the self-care and literally take their health into their own hands.

Rosita saw the power and benefits of Don Eliijo’s treatments and incorporated her own training as a Naprapath (an off-shoot of chiropractic) to create the method that bears her name. Their story can be read in her biography, ‘Sastun, My apprentice with a Maya Healer’. It’s a great book, I highly recommend reading it.

Arvigo® Therapy

Can you tell me a bit how you came across Arvigo® Therapy?

Lisa in Xuantanuch, Mexico
Lisa in Xuantanuch, Mexico

I was first introduced to Maya Abdominal Massage when I worked in a yoga retreat in Mexico that is now called Maya Tulum.

It was there that I had my first abdominal massage from a little Mayan gardener who worked there, and was well known for his treatments. When I was younger I had extreme sensitivity to touch around my navel and after that one treatment it completely disappeared. I also used to go and visit Rosita Arvigo in Belize as I suffered terribly with painful periods. So I was very familiar with her work then, but completely forgot about it until years later when a friend in Australia gave me an article and asked if I had heard of the “Maya work”.

I know that you work a lot with women wanting to conceive using this technique – is it equally applicable for anyone who is on the path of self-healing?

This work is applicable for everyone; men, women and children.

It is beneficial for improving overall health or even enhancing your yoga practice! But, primarily, people come to this work with reproductive or digestive concerns, such as, painful periods, PMS, fibroids, cysts, fertility challenges, constipation, IBS, prostate issues, etc.

Arvigo Therapy, BalanceThe Arvigo® Techniques work in partnership with the healing power of nature. They encourage inherent wisdom of the body in restoring Homeostasis (balance within) and Hemodynamics (blood flow within the body). The human body is designed to be self-healing, self-regulating and self-repairing but we tend to forget that.

Abdominal massage improves the flow of qi to our vital energy center and the whole body. Energy coming from healthy organs and a vitalised navel center balances any problems in the body.

I have heard that the health of the stomach and abdominal organs is a very good indicator of overall health. Are you an advocate for regular fasting for cleansing of the stomach and digestive organs?

Yes, I agree that the health of the stomach and abdominal organs is a very good indicator of overall health. Although I am not usually an advocate for fasting and cleansing, it depends on the circumstances.

I also think that most of the time, we are overlooking the fact that we store a lot of our emotions in the belly.

Abdominal massage is a good place to start as it will help facilitate better digestion of food, and also our emotions. We are not used to thinking of emotions as something we digest but we do and when we are not digesting/transforming/processing them well, we tend to manifest them physically in a myriad of ways.

Massage will also, help stimulate and speed up peristalsis (the wavelike action of the intestines) and will help cleanse the digestive organs. I have had many clients with digestive issues benefit from treatments and being consistent with their self-care massage.

Are you regularly practicing self-massage using the Arvigo® techniques? Can you tell us a bit about your regular self-care practices?

Yes, I regularly practice the Self-Care massage that I teach in my treatments and in the Arvigo® Self-Care workshop. I also incorporate castor oil packs and steaming which are adjunct modalities that we teach too.

Besides that I practice yoga, walk, get regular acupuncture and massage treatments. For me that is one of the perks about being in Asia, being able to experience many types of massage techniques at an affordable price.

I know you are also an advocate for natural childbirth. How do the Arvigo® techniques help women have a natural childbirth without drugs and all that is generally associated with medicalised childbirth? 

I think I am more of an advocate for informed decisions around birth. Before I worked in Singapore with a clientele that is particularly interested in Arvigo® Therapy for conception, I really had no idea about birth.

But after befriending an influential midwife and some amazing doulas, I have become an advocate for as much education in this area as possible prior to conception.

Ideally, it should start when we are teenagers and the negativity and shame that our culture places on women and their bodies begins. I tell my clients a lot of the problem is that we are taught how not to get pregnant but not how to get pregnant! This is something we should have been taught as young adults.

Since so much of Arvigo® Therapy is about education, I am passionate about educating and empowering women, girls and men. It has been a privilege that many woman and men who come to see me, then bring their daughters, sisters, friends, etc.

English Teaching in Vietnam

You also work with kids where you live in Vietnam. Can you tell me about how this happened?

Three years ago I went to An Bang, Vietnam, with a friend. We stayed in a homestay that had just opened.

The original plan was to stay for five days but, the first trip, we ended up staying for three months!

He suggested to the owner one day that I would teach English. I was a bit taken aback and said, “I will” and he said, “yeah, why not?”

The first class started with twenty kids. There are now four classes on the weekends and one hundred and fifty kids from ages 5-15. When I left the first time I wrote on Tripadvisor that if anyone came to the homestay and wanted to help the owner teach English class, they could join in, and it has grown organically from there to what it is today.

Lisa Levine with English language students in An Bang, Vietnam
Lisa Levine with her very happy English language students in An Bang, Vietnam

What has evolved has been more that the owner and I could have ever imagined.

It has been a great opportunity for everyone! The kids get to practice their English with people from everywhere, understand many different accents and they now have friends all over the world.

Lisa Levine with Vy in Singapore
Lisa Levine with her student Little Vy on Vy’s first trip to Singapore

We are currently preparing some of the kids for the IELTS exam to study overseas and I just returned from taking one of the girls on a trip to Singapore.

I plan on doing some fundraising and writing a little book about our trip, so that I can take some other kids to Singapore and also travelling within Vietnam. I feel it is important they see some of their own country too.

As a long-term traveller and ‘expat’ for want of a better word, what is your concept of ‘home’ now?

I struggle with this one.

Frankly, I find the idea of living in the same place for years romantic but the reality is, I am restless after a month in one place. I lived in a camper trailer for three years in Australia, so I am used to moving around now. For me An Bang, Phuket and Singapore all feel like home now. Each time I step off the plane and into another reality.

I keep telling myself I need to pick one but then I remember what another Arvigo® practitioner told me at the convention a few years ago, “why live somewhere when you can live everywhere.”

So many people don’t have the opportunity to travel or don’t want to, so I feel very lucky that I have been able to have so many amazing experiences and meet so many interesting people from around the world.

As a graduate of our Your Fab Yoga Life course 2015 how was your experience being a part of this course and what did you get out of it?

I can’t recall how I heard about the course now but it seemed to fit my circumstances; I was looking for some support and feedback about my ideas with like-minded people. It helped give me some questions, answers and direction which helped me clarify where I wanted to go.

I also, got to connect with you, Kim and the others.

How do people get in contact with you if they are interested in a treatment or one of your courses? 

The best way to contact me is by e-mail, my website is www.essentialself-care.com and e-mail info @ essentialself-care (dot) com. For more information about The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® and practitioners and workshops worldwide, www.arvigotherapy.com

If you are interested in going and teaching English to the lovely kids of Ao Bang village in Vietnam, have a look at the website of the homestay, Ah Bang Seaside Villagewww.anbangseasidevillage.com.

Are you familiar withArvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy®? Are you also a world traveller, global yogi and / or massage therapist? Feel free to leave a comment or a question for Lisa below. We would love to hear from you.

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