Jennifer O’Hagan


Jennifer O'Hagan

Clinical Herbalist & Therapeutic Bodywork Specialist Woodland Naturals

Jennifer O'Hagan is the founder of Woodland Naturals and a co-founder of Changewater Wellness Center.

How did you get from the IT field to such a specialized area?

I was in the IT field for 32 years, and the whole time I was in the field, I was taking classes in various holistic health care classes, and had a part-time business on the side offering various forms of massage therapy. Taking David’s class made me realize that although I was good at my IT job, and the money was good, it just was not where my heart was. That starting me thinking about a career change. Then in 2000, I saw Dr. Rosita Arvigo at an herb conference, and the combination of Maya Abdominal Therapy and herbs was such an overpowering combination, that I knew with every fiber of my being that this was what I was supposed to be doing. I felt strongly drawn to the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy (ATMAT ) for it combined all the things I loved doing. Many people think of these techniques as just massage, but combined herbs, diet/nutrition, spiritual healing, a very specialized abdominal and back massage, it is so much more: , When I combined ATMAT with the herbs and nutritional counseling I was already doing, the results that clients were getting seemed almost miraculous. I was hooked! I knew what I was supposed to be doing. It felt like I had come ‘home’.

Since some of your readers might not know about The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy, I’d like to explain why I think this is such an important component of my practice. Just like we have a heart, respiratory, and cranio-sacral rhythm, we also have a separate and distinct visceral rhythm. Every organ moves in its own rhythm several times a minute. If an organ is restricted, its rhythm is impaired and it can’t function optimally. Just like your spine, misalignment leads to impaired function. I like to give the analogy if you dislocate your shoulder, I can give you herbs for the inflammation and pain, but function will be impaired until the shoulder is back where nature intended. The exact same thing is true of our internal organs. If they are out of position, or if their movement and rhythm is impaired, their function is also impaired. A woman’s uterus is a perfect example of this. If a woman’s uterus is tipped, or displaced, I believe that is the leading cause of MANY women’s issues. Herbs and nutrition can help with the symptoms a woman might be having, but if her uterus is tipped, they aren’t addressing the root cause, which is the restriction and congestion caused by the misaligned uterus.

To summarize, how I got from the IT world to such a specialized area was a series of trainings and events that made my path very clear, and it wasn’t in IT! So, in 2006 I finally left the IT world and started Woodland Naturals. In addition to The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy, herb consultations and formulations, I also offer a wide variety of bodywork and somatic healing (Maya Spiritual Bathing, Reiki, Oncology and Mastectomy massage, healthy breast massage, Reflexology, Visceral Manipulation, Swedish, Sports, Deep Tissue, Pre and Post Natal, Maya Abdominal Therapy to support the pregnant woman, hypnosis/guided imagery, Cranio Sacral, and Shiatsu). I am also a Loomis Digestive Health Specialist and I teach belly dancing classes! I teach classes internationally for the Arvigo Institute, and also provide classes and lectures at Sussex County Community College, Breathing Room Center, Terra Sky, and Changewater Wellness Center. I have four locations In New Jersey where I provide my services - Blairstown, Budd Lake (handicapped accessible), Changewater, and Summit.

Your resume lists an astonishing array of bodywork classes and certifications. Why did you decide to add herbal programs to the mix?

Anyone who has taken David’s program knows that it is a phenomenal program. David and his instructors offer a wealth and breadth of information and clinical experience that is second to none.

To tell you the truth, when I signed up for David’s program, I had no idea the impact that it would have on me and my life. Some of the most impactful decisions in my life weren’t really decisions, but just ‘happened’. That was the case with David’s class. A good friend of mine had taken the class, and she called me and told me that with my long standing interest in holistic healing I would LOVE this class. So, I applied, and thankfully was accepted. David’s class was really my first introduction to herbs, and what a phenomenal way to get introduced. I was fascinated from day one!

The more I learned, the more I realized the value of the information. In addition to being drawn to this traditional wisdom for its own sake, holistic healing has also become somewhat of a political calling. Just as David’s class empowered me with knowledge, I want to pass that information along to educate and empower others to take care of their own health.

Your herbal education looks to be primarily from David Winston. Why David? Can you describe how this training program impacted your career path?

When I took David’s class in ’94 – ’96, there wasn’t any long distance training, and the internet was not what it is today, so I had to find a school that offered classes at night that I could drive while still working a full-time job in the IT field. David’s school is only 30 minutes away from where I live so I was very fortunate to have someone of David’s caliber so close by.

What David’s class did for me was to empower me. It gave me the tools, knowledge, and courage to look to holistic choices for health care rather than relying on our current medical model. For that I am truly grateful. After David’s class, the urge to leave the IT field continue to grow until it would NOT be ignored, so in 2006, I left the computer field and started my own business. Without the herbal component, I don’t feel I could offer the broad spectrum of help that I offer my clients today.

After David’s class, I have continued my herbal education through symposiums, books, working with other herbalists and holistic-minded educators, listening to tapes/CD’s, being a member of Herbal Exchange and the Changewater Wellness Clinic, and learning from my clients.

Talk about the ‘Herbal Exchange’ program. How does it work and why are you involved in it?

The Herbal Exchange program meets on the third Wednesday of every month at Herbally Yours in Changewater, NJ. It is open to all graduates of David’s classes, or someone with similar herbal training. It is a fabulous way to connect with other herbalists. We often talk about cases, and ask others for recommendations, which is a great way to see someone else’s approach to clients, and also confirm or change your suggestions for clients. We also will pick a topic of interest, everyone will do some research, and then we will discuss various approaches to addressing that topic/illness. Even though I graduated from David’s school over 14 years ago, I still consider myself a ‘fledgling herbalist’, and love to get feedback from the other folks there on various approaches to dealing with issues. Also, what’s nice, we all seem to come from slightly different ‘walks of life’ so it adds to the diversity of the suggestions.

How do you use herbs in your practice?

I use herbs in many different ways in my practice – from spiritual ceremonies and protection to topical applications and internal use.

I love doing Spiritual Baths, and plants are a big part of my spiritual bathing practice. I also have plants that I have harvested and prayed over in my massage room. So, whether a client needs support through an emotional release, or I need protection for myself, I find the plants very helpful. I couldn’t do what I do without them!

Topical uses vary from vaginal steams, poultices, rubs, liniments, massage oils, salves, ointments, and suppositories.

When a client comes to me for a consultation, my first area of focus is improving their diet, digestion, absorption, and elimination. If I can help them address whatever issues they are facing nutritionally, that’s where I always try to go first. However, often that either isn’t enough, or the person is unwilling or unable to make the changes necessary, so other things are needed to support them. This is where herbs excel! My focus is to restore and support homeostasis and hemodynamics, for if we remove obstructions to healing, our bodies have amazing recuperative powers.

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