On Healing: Dona Leova and the Tough Love

She looks like a kindly Mexican grandmother, how tough can she be, really? Lesson #1 – never underestimate the power of a healer (Yogi Bhajan‘s healer, no less). Her methodology was surprisingly rough and tough, and utterly transformative. I’ve been blessed to have experienced a decent variety of holistic treatment sessions in the last few years, and this was the most effective session I’ve ever had. Certainly the most efficient. She unburdened me of what felt like years of stored trauma and emotional pain in about an hour. How, you ask?

Let me rewind.

Doña Leova is a Traditional Healer from the Nahuatl Indian nation of Puebla, Mexico. Within her community she is renowned as a Medicine Woman. In her tradition, a Limpia (or inner cleansing) is a healing form that utilizes a combination of bodywork, massage, prayer and intention to release and clear the echo of old pains, traumas, fears and tendencies that no longer serve. After her lecture at Body Actualized, and some additional endorsement from fellow Kundalini teacher Mark Hartman, I decided it was time to book a one-on-one session with Doña. She had an available slot the very next day, so i didn’t have too much time to contemplate the decision or imagine the process.

She started with some naval point alignment work. Familiar territory, saw her demo it at the lecture, there’s lots of naval point work in Kundalini, no problem. The navel work then gave way to (my inaugural experience with) rolfing. She’s now digging, kneading, working something out, something deep, something trapped. Her fingers disappeared into my abdomen. I felt my internal organs shift, I feared for their integrity. Still, she went deeper. I focused on breathing, determined to handle it. She eventually reached a particular spot, THAT spot. I still don’t exactly know what she found but when she first hit it, I let out a gutteral yowl, then burst into tears. She didn’t relent, kept working. I had to resist all impulses to contract, tense my muscles, become smaller, curl up and hide. She kept going, I kept breathing, kept crying, kept trying to stop crying. “Soften! Soften! Open! Open!” She commands me in both Spanish and English. I want to beg her to stop, but I know she has to finish her work. She does, then flips me over onto my stomach. I relaxed a little. She did some craniosacral alignment work, cupping, and a whole lot of bone-cracking. More rolfing, then another direct reaction to something she encountered, this time from her. “Did your novio leave you? Why is your heart closed?”. Residual trauma from an experience 2 years in the past? Surely not, though I haven’t once loved like that since…..Oh god, she’s right! No longer! I want it open! Abre! Abre ahora mismo!

By the end of it, I felt like this:

(Artwork by Nathan Sawaya, photo by Erika Ann)

Doña broke it all wide open. I’m still not sure how. I felt sore and strong by the end, and completely transformed. We wound things down with some friendly chatting. She became the gentle abuelita again, asking me about music and sharing some of her favorites. Juan Gabriel was pretty guapo in his younger days, she told me with a girlish giggle.

She gave me a healing herbal bath recipe, a blessing, and a hug, then sent me on my way. I floated into the pedestrian traffic of the Upper East Side inside a protective cocoon, somehow both tenderized and invincible.