Things in Erin’s Head
Fun Fact: I’m a violent vomiter. I hate puking (granted, who really *enjoys* it?). It’s a full body endeavor for me. Kneeling on the floor, arms clenching cool porcelain, forehead pressing into the back of the seat, I wretch and heave and gag loud enough to wake a full city block. When I was little my mama tried to calm me by telling me to relax, but I would still strain, just trying to get the poisons out of me. As an adult deep into her 40s, I try to be calmer about it, but the violent pattern typically resurfaces leaving my abdomen spasming uncontrollably, another round of vomiting triggered by swallowing my own saliva. It can be the flu, bad food (once there was a bad oyster and ooofff that was uglyyyy), and there have been times where my heart has been so broken I cried until my insides literally came out.
The one thing that can help calm my spasming tummy is a gentle belly rub. Jerry has amazing tummy rubber skills. Done with gentle love and kindness, a little belly rub can remind the muscles they don’t need to be clenched and on guard, that they are safe and can begin to release. It can remind us to breathe. Slowly and steadily. It can relax our mind and ease whatever is ailing our souls.
Knowing how much a tummy rub helps me, I am a little surprised at how few people are interested in receiving abdominal massages. I get it – it’s not the “norm” in a western spa setting – a therapist can barely make time to massage your arms in a 50 minute massage let alone massage your stomach (that’s why I give a full 60 minute massage). But clients also tend to shy away from this vulnerable body area.
Today I’m offering a few tips so you can perform abdominal massages at home (even on yourself) and some insider information so you can feel comfortable requesting abdominal massage with your favorite massage therapist.
1) Home Tip: Be gentle. You are not digging and jabbing around in all this soft tissue. There’s a lot going on in the gut (our second brain). It’s light, gentle pressure. Always massage in a clockwise motion. This is the direction our digestive system works, so you never want to send things upstream. Always go with the flow.
2) Draping: Draping is the industry term for “keeping bits covered.” In my sessions only the body part being massaged is uncovered, so there are never any bits flying about. No one wants flying bits. Not you. Not me. No one. For the ladies, when I perform abdominal massage, I drape a king size pillow case across the chest, over the main, full body sheet. I then slip the main sheet out from under the pillow case, leaving the ta-tas covered and exposing the abdomen from the bottom of the rib cage to the top of the hip bones. It’s kind of like the magician who can remove the table cloth from a fully set table and nary disturb a goblet. I’m not quite that quick, or that smooth, but I get the job done securely, with comfort for everybody. No flying bits.
3) The Massage: It’s a gentle, circular, clockwise massage. I pause in areas where I feel tension, just as I do any other area of the body. From here the psoas muscle can also be accessed, sometimes more successfully than through the back (psoas is a very deep back muscle that can be tricky to access). Once you are comfortable receiving, an abdominal massage can be hands down the most relaxing element of a massage. I also feel like the massage just feels more… complete… a true full body experience.
4) Timing: While the abdominal portion of the massage doesn’t necessarily take a long time, I typically work it into sessions 75 minutes or longer. As with any area that needs extra attention, it’s helpful if clients let me know in our pre-massage consultation that they would like an abdominal massage so I can properly manage the timing and flow of the session.
5) Benefits: Abdominal massage can help with constipation, gas, bloating or other tummy discomfort. It can improve circulation, aid in digestion, and release emotional stress. (Fun Fact: The vagus nerve – the longest and main set of nerves of your parasympathetic nervous system, reaches all the way into your abdomen).
Tell me what do you think? Have I piqued your interest? Is abdominal massage already part of your regular routine? I hope the next time you treat yourself to a massage you give the abdominal massage a try.
Because it’s all about love…