One of the most overlooked areas of the body to receive massage is the belly.
I’ve noticed that some of my clients can be hesitant for this area to be worked on but for those that are willing, abdominal massage produces a relaxation response like no other area!
A big reason for this is that belly massage stimulates the vagus nerve and the psoas muscle. The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves in our body likewise so is the psoas a large area muscle. When we stimulate these two power houses, signals are sent to our nervous system to switch off the fight or flight or adrenal response, moving us into rest and digest mode, the para-sympathetic part of our nervous system.
In my 20’s my tummy was cut in an operation, from my belly button all the way down to my pelvic bone. It was a very invasive surgery and I became very protective of that area. Although I didn’t realise it at the time I was holding a lot of trauma and tension in my stomach. I only began to comprehend this after a few sessions with an expert massage therapist who worked on that area for the first time and released so much deeply held tension it brought me to tears. It felt as if I’d been holding on to something for so long and I was finally letting go. I could breath deeper and stand taller. I have been kind to my tummy ever since. It has been so cathartic physically but also emotionally. I use self massage and foam rollers and I also see a massage therapists as often as I can. Even when my boyfriend simply places his hands gently on my tummy I feel a shift in my mind-body connection that is so healing and comforting.
Some wonderful benefits of abdominal massage are that it aides digestion. A sluggish gut slows down the elimination of waste and prevents proper nutrient absorption. Massage can increase metabolic rate and improve the gastro intestinal health of your gut, moving congestion and bloating, easing constipation and aiding in the detoxification process.
For Women who experience PMS symptoms especially painful periods - me included, abdominal massage is so so helpful in alleviating symptoms and the associated pain. I think massage is a much cleaner approach to pain relief than taking a tablet.
The belly is such a powerful part of our body. it holds so much of our tensions, fears and emotions When we release the tension that is held there, often there can also be a release of emotion too. This is a natural phenomenon and like so many of the techniques and practices I have talked about in other blogs, finding ways to move suppressed emotion out of the body is very beneficial for our overall health and well being, boosting the immune system and unblocking energy pathways, which in turn makes us feel more energised and vibrant. As we know from Chinese medicine, the belly, or lower Dantian is a powerful energy centre. Clearing the stuck energy in this area really can be a root to our personal power. It will help us to feel grounded and calm and more trusting of ourselves and the world at large.
The gut is thought to contain as many nerve endings as our actual brain, sending out many impulses and responses and signals to the rest of the body. I think we should honour the our incrediblly clever gut brain and the power it contains by taking good care of it. Diet and exercise are two great ways of being kind to our gut and so is massage.
Massaging the belly is such a nourishing part of a treatment and also a wonderful self care practice
If you want to practice your own self massage you can make a simple tummy oil using a base of good quality olive oil, castor oil, renowned for its stimulating qualities which will boost blood and lymph flow (use around a quarter of the amount of olive oil) and add about 6 drops of lavender oil. Apply to the stomach in clock wises, circular motions for about 5/10 minutes. Breathing slowly from the belly not the chest. Before you sleep is a perfect time as it’s so relaxing and if you can, without spoiling precious bed linen, let the oil infuse into your skin over night.
So, next time you are booked in for a massage treatment don’t forget to ask your therapist to apply some abdominal massage techniques and see for yourself how good it feels for the mind, body and soul.