Remember when you were 3 months-old and your parents put you on your tummy for you to attempt to roll over? Maybe you don’t remember it, but you and your tummy were building a connection that would last you a lifetime. There you were lying like a beached whale on your fuzzy little blanket, checking out some shiny primary-colored plastic toy, half cognizant of the audience of adults cheering you on, “Roll over! Go for it!”
With every wriggle from side to side in attempt to get out of that mess, your core muscles were getting stronger, and your organs were getting a little massage. It probably helped relieve those gas pains that had kept you and your mom up at 4am. Fast forward to your adulthood. Hopefully you and your tummy are on good terms. Maybe you wriggle around on the floor sometimes? Hopefully you do some self massage from time to time after Thanksgiving dinner? But when is the last time you really checked in with it? On either a physical or emotional level? You know the old adages:
“Trust your gut”,
“I can feel it in my gut” or
“I have butterflies in my stomach”?
These all go to show we have an innate intuition deep in our core about things. I would venture to say that when we keep an open conversation going between these gut feelings and the rest of us, those “things” go a lot smoother. Smooth moves in the gut are a bonus as well!
I love doing belly massage. Sometimes people ask me what is my favorite part of the body to massage. It changes from time to time, but the belly is always a top fave. I’ve come to see that many people would rather ignore their own bellies; they see them as a nuisance, something to get around, push out of the way, or cinch up. But as one of my clients has put it whenever I work on his, “It feels like you are looking under the hood of the car.” There is a lot of vital stuff in there! You may ask, “Why are you calling it the “tummy” and “belly” like you’re talking to a four year old?” This is the way my awesome visceral manipulation teachers talk about it, and so I do too. You can call it the abdomen, the guts, the tummy, or the belly, but try not to call all this stuff just your “stomach”. You stomach is just one organ nestled in there. So what else is in there?
External and Internal Intercostals
External and Internal Obliques
Iliopsoas (Psoas Major,and Iliacus)
Psoas Minor—absent in about 40% of people
Underneath all that soft tissue of our abdominal muscles is our vital digestive system:
Lower Esophogeal sphincter
Our digestive health is interrelated to our nervous system in that sympathetic (fight or flight) vs parasympathetic states (rest and digest), are expressed through smooth muscle contraction at every stage of our digestive tract from the esophogus to the anus. When we are stressed, the smooth muscle is tight and constricted. All sphincters are in lock down mode because evolutionary speaking, we don’t need to go to the bathroom when we are running from that tiger. When we are relaxed, the smooth muscle tissue relaxes and contracts and relaxes, creating a natural peristalsis (like a snake eating a mouse), and moving food through the system with optimal absorption and digestion. Smooth muscle contraction is also stimulated by direct pressure, meaning we can manipulate the tissue into peristalsis even if the rest of us is still a little stressed. And since the abdominal viscera is most innervated tissue in the body, we can flood the brain and spinal cord with good anti-stress hormones when we relax the belly, and thus we relax the rest of us. What a groovy relationship, right?
Why get belly massage?
Feel lighter and longer in the trunk
Move with a better sense of moving from your core
Feel more awareness of the entire breath cycle in whole abdominal cavity
Relieve gas, bloating pains, and indigestion
Relieve hidden stress
Increase Parasympathetic response—Rest and Digest Vs Sympathetic response—Fight or Flight.
I have been taking Visceral Manipulation classes from Marty Ryan. His seminars are called “Love Your Guts”. With his guidance and my own intuition, I’ve learned how to gently and effectively palpate the organs. If this is something you are interested in trying, please let me have a hand in it. HMM, Bellies! So juicy. I hope you think so too.