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Holistic bodyworker Marybeth Wolf, left, recently joined doula, massage therapist and trauma healer Amy Chavez at Bhakti House on East Herman Street. In addition to continuing their separate practices, they will co-run workshops for women on herbalism, bodywork and birth care. (Photo by Megan Bachman)

Holistic bodyworker Marybeth Wolf, left, recently joined doula, massage therapist and trauma healer Amy Chavez at Bhakti House on East Herman Street. In addition to continuing their separate practices, they will co-run workshops for women on herbalism, bodywork and birth care. (Photo by Megan Bachman)

A place for wellness, connections among women

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Marybeth Wolf has spent 20 years doing holistic bodywork, while Amy Chavez has done massage and and attended more than 100 births as a doula, providing emotional support during labor. Now they will jointly run Bhakti House on East Herman Street, and focus on bodywork, botanicals and birth care.

“What excites me is creating these spaces for women to learn about self-care and natural ways to take care of their bodies,” Wolf said.

Wolf and Chavez have studied a variety of wellness methods, from Wolf’s Mayan abdominal massage and herbalism to Chavez’s somatic trauma resolution and cranio-sacral massage. The two met over four years ago at the Union Street School House, from where they ran their individual practices, and discovered a shared passion for women’s health.

At a series of workshops on herbs, prenatal prep, belly dancing and spa self-care this winter and spring, the duo will introduce the community to their unique brand of holistic therapy. In the first workshop on Jan. 15, about winter health, participants will create teas and syrups to strengthen their immune and respiratory systems, encourage lymph drainage and partake in herbal steams and foot baths.

Also planned are a monthly prenatal couple immersion workshop, sacred belly-dance tea houses, an intensive weekend retreat for birth care professionals and a spa trade in March during the Wellness Weekend, when herbal facial steams, foot soaks and massages will be offered among participants.

While the offerings are diverse, the philosophy of Bhakti House is simple.

“It’s listening to the body’s wisdom,” Chavez said.

Chavez created Bhakti House in January 2009. According to Chavez, “Bhakti” comes from a Sanskrit word often translated as “surrender with devotion,” while the root word “bhaj” literally means to participate.

“It’s the path of the heart and it means that surrendering is not a passive act,” Chavez said. “We’re actively going into the shadows of the mind, body and emotions to see what’s there. My job as a therapist, doula or group facilitator is to offer a flashlight — and support.”

Chavez was introduced to midwifery and doula care during homebirth training experiences in Washington state and New Mexico, where certified professional midwives, or CPMs, are licensed to practice homebirth in collaboration with the medical community. When she returned home to Ohio, where CPMs are not yet legalized or recognized as a part of the traditional health care system, she built a supportive birth-care practice as a doula and has been helping pregnant women in local hospitals and birth centers for nearly a decade.

“Birth is a hormonal orchestration,” Chavez said. “It is all about creating an environment of support and meeting each woman’s individualized needs for safety.”

Chavez is trained as a licensed massage therapist, somatic trauma resolution therapy practitioner, whole-birth prenatal yoga facilitator, certified childbirth educator, birth doula and lactation specialist, all informing her approach to birth care. She is in the process of completing a bachelors degree in Health Arts and Sciences at Goddard College in Vermont and is currently apprenticing with a homebirth midwife who serves the Amish community in Indiana.

As part of her undergraduate thesis, Chavez is offering a retreat for birth-care professionals, and others interested in birth, that will focus on the neurobiology of trauma and safety as it pertains to laboring women and birth professionals, which will be held on the weekend of Feb. 4–5 at the Casa de Paz retreat space on Corry Street.

In addition to supporting women and couples through the pregnancy and birth, Chavez offers cranio-sacral therapy for newborns and adults and also takes appointments with men and women interested in massage and trauma healing.

“It was a natural experience for me and one of growing,” said Don Wallis of a recent visit to Chavez. “It was full of understanding and positive support,” he said, adding that her unique combination of therapy and massage was recommended as a spirit-based intervention.

Chavez said she is excited to expand Bhakti House to include the healing modalities offered by Wolf and a focus on herbs for healing. Both women have studied extensively the use of herbs for natural health and have used them daily for their own and their families’ health. They each studied with well-known herbalists, such as Rosemary Gladstar and Susan Weed, and have been part of a weekly herbal study group for the last two years.

“We want to demystify herbalism and help bring it back to the common folk,” said Wolf, who uses a daily tea tonic with nettle, alfalfa, oat tops and horsetail to provide her with calcium, vitamins and minerals. At monthly workshops beginning in January, participants can learn about various herbs and prepare their own special tea blends, herbal tinctures and syrups for anxiety and stress relief, menopause support, immune support, children and more.

Wolf, who became interested in alternative healing while the director of the Wellness Program and resident assistant of the experimental wellness dorm at Miami University, has accumulated 18,000 hours of full-time holistic bodywork over the last 15 years. At Bhakti House she will continue to offer sessions in holistic massage, cranio-sacral, lymph drainage, myofasical and Arvigo Maya Abdominal Therapy, a practice that aims to balance a woman’s womb and belly by increasing circulation. In addition to healing painful menstruation, the technique can also increase fertility. Once three local women in one week became pregnant after the therapy, which Wolf learned in Belize and has been practicing for the last five years.

Wolf and Chavez previously collaborated on the Yellow Springs Red Tent, which they co-founded with several other local women three years ago as a monthly women’s circle and space for women to relax, reflect and sing together. Through the Red Tent, both women have learned how to create sacred space for women.

“Creating sacred space means to me creating a safe space where women can connect on a deeper level other than the usual society, everyday life,” Wolf said.

For both Wolf and Chavez, Bhakti House is about providing women with resources for self-care. “We rely so much on professionals when people can take care of themselves simply,” Wolf said. “[At Bhakti House] we can offer the tools, knowledge and support so they can take care of themselves and their loved ones.”

Chavez shares the idea that healing is a personal endeavor.

“True healing occurs when we feel safe and seen, held and heard,” she said. “It’s about meeting people where they are and offering the power of presence and compassionate companioning.”

For more information on upcoming workshops or to make an appointment, call Chavez at 937-478-2110 or Wolf at 937-767-5077.

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