A Massage Therapist’s Journey

Discoveries of Navel Gazing:

I confess.  I have been a navel gazer for a long time.  Think about it: the navel sits right there in the centre of the human body; an area full of vital organs needed to break down our food into vitamins and minerals that will nourish us on all levels.  How amazing! 

Yet hands-on care of the abdominals is almost never considered or requested in a regular massage treatment.  How come?  As it turns out, I went on a journey to find answers.

In 2002, during my three year training for a Registered Massage Therapy Diploma, I remember feeling like there was more to discover about hands-on abdominal care than I was taught.   In our practical courses, we learned only very basic relaxation and breathing techniques; useful, but not quite enough to satisfy my curiosity.   

In the program’s physiology courses we were taught that almost every blood cell, lymph fluid and spinal fluid system runs through the abdominal cavity.  Congestion and tightness in the abdominal area can affect the flow and the ability for all of the internal organs and systems: the pulmonary system (breathing) digestive system (food digestions and elimination), the circulatory system (blood and lymphatics) and the reproductive system (uterus or the prostate). 

When I went into my own practice in 2006, I received visits from plenty of clients with pain in the mid- and lower back muscles.  I knew that treating the abdominals would support the massage I was doing on the back, but I was left looking for more techniques to help.

Then in 2010 I heard about The Arvigo Technique of Maya Abdominal Therapy, taught in a one week intensive training program for Registered Massage Therapists in New Hampshire.   Maybe this treatment to my massage therapy toolkit could address the missing pieces of my belly puzzling.

Founded by Dr. Rosita Arvigo, DN, the Arvigo Institute teaches a series of gentle, non-invasive, visceral massage techniques that focus on the abdominal, back and hip areas of the body, useful for both men and women – finally, belly care for all!  The techniques are based on repetition of light touch, not increasing physical pressure. 

Once certified, I began exploring this new therapy with clients, adapting the techniques to meet the unique needs of each individual. Over time, the more treatment is received, the more their bodies had a chance to release the physical tension in the muscles and tissues surrounding the abdominal cavity and its' internal organs, allowing them to function freely and maintain optimal health from within.

In addition, this training is based on the understanding that each person’s ability to know and lovingly support themselves is the foundation to true health, in mind, body and energy.  My services include supporting clients to sense/feel and understand their own experiences as they undergo treatments – each person becomes their own expert and advocate. 

These co-created sessions in turn allow me to continue to adjust treatments according to in-the-moment needs.  For clients who are interested (the keeners!) I can also offer take home self-care tools that they can use in between treatments – what a positive way to get to know the language of your own body!

Maya Abdominal Therapy also compliments many other forms of alternative health care practices.  I offer clients the option of working in cooperation with a Clinical Herbalist, as well as Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Naturopathic Doctors and/or other health care professionals they are already seeing.  This creates a circle of holistic care on each person’s behalf, including guidance on lifestyle, exercise and diet.

This full circle brings us back to the navel.  At this point, my original curiosity feels satisfied and my belly feels fully nourished, so it can in turn nourish me back.  Professionally, as a Registered Massage Therapist and Maya Abdominal Therapy Practitioner, I feel grateful to pay this nourishment forward as a healer who also continues to learn from my clients.  And I am so fortunate to be a part of my clients’ offering their gifts to the world from a place of better health from within.  

Now, I turn it back over to you.  I invite you to gaze into your own navel and ask your abdominals: What support do you need from me right now?


Diana M Sheldrick, RMT, P-ATMAT, loves her work and is passionate about helping people become the best version of who they are and can be. Diana has been practicing as a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) since 2005, when she graduated from the Massage Therapy program at Algonquin College.

She has had her own business and also has worked in chiropractic, physiotherapy and naturopathic settings. Diana truly believes in the importance of co-operation between all health care professionals to focus on treating each client as a whole person.

In 2011, Diana added Maya Abdominal Therapy to her client services by becoming a Practitioner of the Arvigo Technique of Maya Abdominal Therapy (P-ATMAT). Only chiropractors, physiotherapists, doulas or massage therapists can earn this designation which is given by certified teachers from the Arvigo Institute, originating from Belize in Central America. Diana is honoured to offer these traditional ways as the only Practitioner in the Ottawa area.

With her years of skills and experience, it would be Diana’s pleasure to serve you.