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Ovata Wellness & Massage offers a unique blend of services
In Crawford County
Ahmae in her massage room
AHMAE VARNES is seen in her massage studio in rural Crawford County. Varnes offers both tradi-tional and Maya abdominal massage, along with other wellness services.

CRAWFORD COUNTY - Sometimes, it seems, calling and passions seem to run in the family. That’s definitely the case with Ahmae Varnes and her new Crawford County business, ‘Ovata Massage & Wellness.’ Varnes is the daughter of well-known local healthcare provider and women’s health practitioner Lisa Varnes-Epstein.

Ovata Massage & Wellness is a holistic health service that combines massage therapy and pelvic hydrotherapy to create the optimal service tailored to a client’s specific needs.

“Abdominal health is important because it helps keep your body stable and balanced. Not just on a muscular level, but also for the circulatory system,” Varnes explained. “This means allowing for proper circulation of blood and lymph throughout and restoring homeostasis or, ‘balance’ to the body.”

The name of the business, ‘Ovata,’ comes from a Latin word meaning ‘egg’ or ‘ovaries.’ The name pays homage to one of Varnes’ key missions in her work of supporting women’s optimal reproductive health.

“My mentor, Dr. Rosita Arvigo, says that massage therapists are nature’s handmaidens,” Varnes explained. “What we do is to help the body do what nature intended it to do. For instance, back pain and cramps during menstruation are not normal, but most women assume it’s something they have to live with.”

Varnes’ services are available, by appointment, via the Ovata Wellness & Massage Facebook page at

Fees for her services include:

• Therapeutic Massage, 60 minutes, $75

• Maya Abdominal Therapy, 90 minutes, $100

• Yoni Steam, 40 minutes, $40

• Castor Oil Pack, 20 minutes, $15

Prices for services are offered on a sliding-scale, because as Varnes says, “I believe everyone should be able to access affordable health care services!”

“My practice offers traditional massage, with its well-understood benefits,” Varnes said. “But, beyond that, I also offer massage modalities that go beyond the traditional “relief of pain” to “promotion of wellness” services.”

Ovata services

The benefits of traditional massage therapy require little explanation. Varnes has worked since accreditation in ski resorts in Colorado and West Virginia, providing relief to athletes and vacationers.

“My massage therapy work provided relief to athletes who had injuries and were sore, and relaxation and aromatherapy to vacationers that were looking to relax and feel good,” Varnes explained. “But, my practice goes beyond athletic stress or vacationers that want to relax, and covers patients that are looking to go beyond relief and into the realm of wellness.”

The castor oil pack service Varnes provides is intended to help with restoration of normal blood circulation in areas of the body that have been damaged through scarring or where adhesion has damaged blood flow. Examples where this therapy has been shown to help include scars from C-Section birth, uterine fibroids, polyps and cysts, and even injuries to the spine.

“The Yoni Steam that I offer is a very simple, comforting and reassuring procedure,” Varnes said. “It is designed to cleanse and flush the entire pelvic bowl, and takes about 20 minutes.” 

According to Varnes, the ‘Yoni Steam’ or vaginal steam bath is a non-invasive procedure, and involves merely sitting on a chair over a bowl of steaming herbs. The steam bath introduces healing heat to the uterus and is an effective treatment for many female complaints as well as good preventative care.

“It takes about three sessions for the benefits of the massage and other treatments to be seen,” Varnes said. “But the best part is that as part of treatment, I actually train people to be able to treat themselves.”

Maya abdominal massage

In an article written for the publication Huffpost, author Monique Minahan described the theory underlying the ‘Maya abdominal massage’ approach, and writes:

“The Mayans believe that many human emotions are stored in the abdomen. They aren't alone in that belief, as many cultures focus on the abdomen as a source of healing and power. Thai massage and Chinese medicine have specific treatments for the abdomen. The abdomen is also home to three of the six main chakras in Kundalini Yoga; Mooladhara, Swadhisthana, and Manipura.”

Varnes said that the kind of massage work she offers for the abdomen can help relieve back pain and cramps during menstruation and hormonal imbalances during menopause. Abdominal massage can also help women recover from issues with conception, a C-Section birth, as well as fibroids, polyps and cysts.

Dr. Rosita Arvigo and Ahmae Varnes
AHMAE VARNES, owner of the Ovata Massage & Wellness business, is seen working with her mentor Dr. Rosita Arvigo. The two are seen in a clinic in San Ignacio in rural Belize, where Varnes was training in the Maya abdominal massage technique.

Women’s health issues

Varnes travelled to Belize to study with Dr. Rosita Arvigo at a farm in San Ignacio, a remote rural village. Arvigo’s classes for Maya massage therapy are held all over the world by the Abdominal Therapy Collective (ATC), which she founded. Rosita and Eva Sengfelder taught the class that was held in Belize on Eva’s farm that produces rainforest herbal remedies.

Among other sources of training, Arvigo apprenticed with Don Elijo Panti, a traditional Mayan herbalist and healer, for over 10 years. Don Elijo taught the abdominal massage, a healing tradition that is 1,000’s of years old, to Rosita Arvigo, who in turn teaches the technique to her students. 

Varnes says that she brings this unique approach into the mix in her massage therapy work.

“It was just an honor to work under her,” Varnes said. “I was able to acces her training, held for practitioners with existing massage therapy licenses, and it was transforming.”

Varnes explained that while she studied abdominal massage with Arvigo, at the most basic level, she is not a practitioner of Arvigo’s herbal therapies. Varnes’ mother Lisa has received training in the tradition up to being certified to provide therapy to women who are pregnant.

Benefits of therapy

 In her Huffpost article, Monique Minahan described some of the benefits of ‘Maya abdominal massage’ as explained in Arvigo’s book, ‘Rainforest Home Remedies: The Maya Way to Heal Your Body & Replenish Your Soul.’

“A little-known benefit of Maya abdominal massage is its ability to enhance fertility, and correct a prolapsed or tipped uterus. Even if you're not trying to conceive or don't have a problem with fertility, you quite possibly could be among the 75 percent of women who have a prolapsed uterus.”

“The uterus is held in position by muscles and ligaments that connect it to the pelvis. These uterine ligaments are designed to stretch as a baby begins to grow or as our bladders/bowels become full. When these ligaments and muscles become weak and loose, they can no longer hold up the uterus correctly. The result is a prolapsed or tipped uterus. The uterus can fall into any number of incorrect positions.”

“Many women are told that a tipped or prolapsed uterus is no big deal. In fact, it is a big deal. When the uterus is incorrectly aligned, the normal flow of blood and lymph are constricted and can disrupt nerve connection. The circulation of blood to the uterus, ovaries, bladder, and bowel is blocked.”

Inspiration and training

Varnes was mentored and inspired by her mother, and is the reason she has been moved to enter into a healthcare career. Currently an undergraduate in the UW-System, Varnes’ intention is to become a medical doctor. Her goal is to combine the best of modern, western, medical knowledge with the alternative therapies it has become her life’s path to master.

“My mother has been a huge inspiration to me to choose the career path I have,” Varnes explained. “She’s done so many amazing things, from her work in midwifery, to her massage therapy work, to her work in the mainstream healthcare industry, and I’ve seen how many people she has been able to help.”

Varnes said that over the years, she has had many in-depth discussions with her mother about the range of healing therapies. She said she had always known that she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, but was moved to study massage while recovering from a back injury.

“A few years ago, my back was injured in a boating accident, and I spent about nine months dealing with chronic pain, and undergoing various treatments and almost having surgery to correct the problem,” Varnes said. “Once I began to use massage to heal, I realized that I would have healed faster if I’d started massage right away because massage really helps the body to heal itself.”

Varnes is a licensed massage therapist and Maya abdominal therapist. She pursued her training in massage therapy with a year-long course of study at The Giving Touch Massage School in Grand Junction, Colorado. She took the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, which allows her to be licensed in 44 states, including Wisconsin.

Varnes  grew up in rural Crawford County, where she lived with her parents and two siblings. Home schooled until high school, Varnes attended North Crawford, and graduated from the Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua.