The deeper I dive into this beautiful and powerful work of the belly, the more I realize how much people don't know about the part of our bodies that harbor so much emotion and energy! I personally feel that I learn something new about the core of our being, the abdomen, our 1st thru 3rd chakras, and the home of our digestive and reproductive systems, during each session I give and every time I have received the work myself. I am amazed how many women don't know where their uterus is located, or how many of us don't know whether our liver is on the left, or right side of our bodies. I know because I was one of those people many years ago before I learned anatomy! But, what I find more interesting is how, in our culture and in our massage schools, we have not been taught the importance of the healthy functioning of our gut. And in massage school, we are never taught how to massage the stomach thoroughly. I find this fascinating because almost every other culture in the world has some form of abdominal massage, which believes that dis-ease begins in the abdomen.
According to most other lineages of medicine outside of the West, such as Chinese Medicine & Ayurvedic Healing, the muscles and organs of digestion play an important role in our overall health and well-being. This has recently come to light with a whole slew of newly discovered digestive disorders. Also, in recent discoveries in neuroscience, the role of our gut health in relation to the health of our neurological function. If our digestive system is out of order, our overall health will suffer. It is imperative to have a properly functioning digestive system. And yes, our food supply and what is being done to it, along with the soil, has a huge role to play in all of this. BUT, we are going to focus on the role of massage in this blog.
Abdominal work helps to bring us back to our center and to reconnect with our parasympathetic nervous system, taking us out of fight or flight (the sympathetic nervous system) most of us experience on a day to day basis due to the stressful lives we are living at this time. We are sitting in traffic, working far too much, not making enough money, working more to make money, in debt, are stay at home mom's, are dad's supporting the family, etc. You name, we are living in stress most of our days. Not to mention what we are feeding our bodies as we are stressed. We are a society who lives on stimulants, I love my coffee personally, but it takes a toll on our adrenals which in turn drives our internal stress through the roof. When our bodies are constantly over stimulated and caught in stressful cycles, dis-ease is created and we develop physical issues that manifest in the form of digestive dysfunction, fertility issues, sexual dysfunction, and nervous system disorders. Over time, these symptoms can spiral us further into more severe forms of dis-ease such as cancer, anxiety, depression, etc. (just to name a few and not really go there!)
So where does abdominal massage fit in and how is this different than just a good old massage? Well, first off, we carry a good amount of our central nervous system in our stomach. We also carry a ton of neurotransmitters in our gut, which we are now learning is our first brain (yes, the neurotransmitters in the gut carry information to be processed up to the brain!) Just these two key points are good reasons why we should be rubbing bellies! Just think of a baby crying and how when we rub their bellies, they fall asleep or start to calm down. This is because we are soothing the nervous system and helping to get the little being out of survival mode and into a more relaxed state. This is the same for us adults. We need soothing touch and to know that all is well in our world. I can tell you every time I have worked on someone's stomach for the first time, they are amazed at how good the massage felt and how relaxed they feel after. A lot of people fall asleep actually! It works!
We also carry a lot of inflammation in our abdomen, especially if we have digestive disorders happening. Chron's Disease, SIBO (small bacterial overgrowth), IBS. All are chronic (mostly) inflammatory conditions that are eased with massage by improving blood flow to these areas & clearing the gut of toxins. Massage also increases natural endorphins which in turn helps decrease pain throughout the body. It can be soothing and relaxing and again, once you are out of the fight or flight (sympathetic system) your body can rest and heal itself. Your body can also have easier bowel movements when there is less tension in your belly.
Energetically, we may start to get things stirring up. We carry so much of our ancestral line, our connection to survival, our connection to the world and other beings, our sexuality, our safety, our sense of home and place in our 1st thru 3rd chakras. Emotional releases are a possibility during a session and are very much welcomed. It's greatly important to release emotions and we tend to hold onto them in our core. I can't tell you the number of times of heard clients, and myself, say "I think I carry my emotions in my stomach" followed by "My digestion is always off when I'm stressed, or when I'm upset". Not to mention how vulnerable this part of our bodies can be. Especially those that have experienced any sort of abuse, or trauma to this area, or in life period.
I bring this up not to scare you, but to make you aware of the importance of the work. This is part of the Maya way of healing as well, which I will talk about in my next blog. Just know, the room is a container, it's a safe and healing space where all is welcome. I've worked with many sexual abuse survivors, multi-miscarriages, and people with eating disorders. I honor all beings without blame, or judgement.
How does this help women get pregnant?
This is such a beautiful question I love getting asked! I will try to rephrase what one client, who was trying to conceive, told me after our third session together. She walked out of the room and said, "OMG! I totally get it! I get why this is going to work! You are helping to guide me to a space where I can reconnect to my body, where I can feel safe, where I can let her know that my body is safe, and where I can center myself enough to know that it's all going to happen. I'm able to relax and not worry about getting pregnant while I'm here and I can take the tools that you give me and use them at home!" She said it perfectly! AND, there is more. Yes, the majority of the work is reconnecting women to their bodies and guiding them back to their center. It's about soothing the parasympathetic system and creating a safe "home" for baby to start entry into the world.
It is also about re-aligning the uterus, the womb. According to the Mayan tradition, women have two hearts. The actual heart beating lively and beautifully in our bodies and our womb. If one, or the other is out of alignment, we are out of alignment with source... the divine, God, Goddess, Allah, etc. (whatever your belief might be). I like to think of it as being out of alignment with our center and our inner wisdom, as my teacher Naomi says. With the Maya work, we are able to feel if the womb is to one side more than the other, sitting low, tilted forward or back. The work we do helps to bring the womb back into proper alignment, making it easier to conceive and helping us to feel empowered. Not only do we work the front of the body, we also work the sacrum and back of the body. We do this because there are ligaments that connect the uterus to the inside of the sacrum. By working the sacrum, we also help relieve PMS symptoms and cramps. This is why it feels good when we have cramps for someone to press down on our sacrum and when a woman is in labor is feels good for her to receive pressure here as well.
We also use the breath, I have you place one hand on your heart and one on your womb and imagine connecting the two. At times, we use plants to brush the body, a way of clearing your energy and the plants do some (most) of the healing work that needs to take place (this is the Maya healing way). Maya healing is beautiful, ceremonial work that I encourage all women to receive regularly. Because our reproductive health is vital to our well-being. By tending to our wombs, we are tending to our hormones and our bodies creating a lifetime of healthy cycles and ease into each stage of life we come to: puberty, our fertile years, peri-menopause, and finally menopause. Sometimes vaginal steams (bajos) are incorporated as a means to cleanse the uterus. (More on vaginal steams later!)
For men, its a bit different but I also believe men have a cycle. As I have mentioned, we externally massage the pelvic bowl to increase circulation to the prostate which in turn can increase virility. This is in no way a sexual massage. I do not massage the sexual organs, but this is a modality that other practitioners are skilled and educated in. My work is geared more towards women's reproductive health and more toward men and women with chronic pelvic pain.
In working with both men and women, we often use the breath as a means of relaxation and reconnection to the body. The breath helps to reconnect us back to the present, clears our bodies of toxins, relaxes the muscles and brings fresh air and blood through the body. Breathing is also a way for the body to release what is no longer needed, a way to let go and "get things out" by clearing energy that we do not need. It's also a beautiful way for myself to connect with a client during the work, as we are able to breath together and let go together.
My work has been transforming into not only working with reproductive issues, but also with more intense complaints such as chronic pelvic pain both in men and women; working with softening severe scar tissue from past surgeries, such as c-section and multiple organ removals which cause disruption in digestive function and working directly with the nervous system after trauma from surgeries and intense life experiences. I tend to combine craniosacral into each session to further enhance the calming effect it has on the nervous system.
I encourage you to click on this link to my page on Maya Abdominal Massage to see who might benefit from this work. And as always and anytime, you are welcome to contact me directly with any questions!
May you walk in beauty always, Heather
A Note From Heather~
I'm a loving, caring, and intuitive healer, whom feels a deep connection with all beings. On this blog I will share all things Spiritual, Health, Love, Nature, Bodywork, and Healing that needs its voice to be empowered!