Older woman sitting relaxed and happy.

The Benefits of Abdominal Massage and Connection to Well-Being

By: 
Jayne Doyle, BSc

It can make many people feel uncomfortable when I ask, “Would you like me to massage your abdomen?” All the fears and insecurities arise about the shape of our bellies and what people will think of us.

For years there was not a chance you’d get anywhere near my belly. It was definitely one of my least favorite parts of my body, and carrying extra weight added into that insecurity. I have worked on this over the years and I now adore abdominal massage. In fact, I always feel a little disappointed when it is missed in a massage.

I am still working on learning to love my gorgeous belly and massage actually helps.

From the perspective of the massage therapist, I make no judgment whatsoever about your shape or size. It really does bring some great benefits, so perhaps the next time you are asked, before you jump to say no, pause for a moment. Ask the therapist what is involved, where will the towels be placed, and if you can change your mind mid-massage. Then maybe, just maybe, give it a go. I promise you will never look back!

The Massage Feels Complete

Most clients prefer not to receive abdominal work. This makes for a huge section of the body that has not received touch or had its issues addressed. After an abdominal massage, clients often comment that they feel lighter, more integrated and even like themselves a little more, indicating that addressing the abdomen may actually improve body image.

Abdominal Massage Techniques Aid in Intestinal Function

A number of studies have shown that massage promotes peristalsis, soothes minor intestinal discomfort and helps with constipation. With a cancer diagnosis, many allopathic treatments make people constipated, so they feel great relief when the abdomen is massaged and constipation is eased.

The Connection Between Abdominal Massage and a Sense of Wellbeing

Closeup of woman receiving an abdominal massage.

Fascinating new information is filtering through to us, as scientists learn more about the enteric nervous system—now categorized as a third division of the autonomic nervous system—and its connection to emotions, along with the role of the vagus nerve. I talk about this in more detail during my five-week trauma therapeutic program.

The enteric nervous system predates much of our more advanced brain development and has many independent features. In our early evolutionary ancestors, drives and feelings of satisfaction related to food search and eating, crucially tied to survival, were an intrinsic aspect of how the enteric “little brain” operated.

Humans have more serotonin receptors in the gut than in the brain. Understanding this relationship has many implications. As we all know, emotions can have a profound impact on how our digestive system functions. It is also now becoming recognized that conditions in the gut can determine influences on the mental state and development of mood disorders.

The vagus nerve is understood to be the messenger between the enteric nervous system and the brain, including playing a role in the regular dialog between higher centers of autonomic regulation and the limbic centers of emotional expression and control.

At a minimum, the connection between vagal stimulation and helping shift the body into a parasympathetic state helps support the use of abdominal massage for relaxation and sleep promotion.

Abdominal Massage Benefits Physical, Mental and Spiritual Conditions

Abdominal massage has real benefits for people with abdominal conditions. Lower back pain, postural abnormalities, and post-childbirth fascial syndromes are also examples of conditions that usually indicate abdominal work as an effective treatment.

Make sure you communicate with your massage therapist about the amount of pressure that’s comfortable for you. 

Enjoy your beautiful bellies!

More on this fascinating topic from Jayne Doyle and YogaUOnline - Yoga Anatomy: The Vagus Nerve, Amygdala, and The Stress Response.
 

Doug Keller, Yoga Teacher, YogaUOnline Presenter, Keys to Healthy Hamstrings

 

Reprinted with permission from Jayne Doyle/The Quiet Way.

 

Jayne DoyleAbout Jayne Doyle

I have been in practice for over 20 years and now specialize in trauma work, ancestral inheritance, cancer care, and teaching practitioners too. I am developing a stronger online presence in 2019, with subscription-based audio and video content, offering meditations, bite-size wellness classes, yin yoga, Quiet Way training, and more. 

 

 

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