Giving yourself an abdominal massage is an easy and powerful way to support your digestion and overall health. Commit to a five- to ten-minute session a day for two weeks and the benefits will inspire you to make it part of your daily ritual. Aim to give yourself an abdominal massage prior to breakfast; to double the gain, do another one before bed. I’ll share with you the basics in a moment, but first, let’s go over why abdominal massage is a great health boon.
Benefits of Abdominal Massage
- Relieves constipation, bloating and gas
- Improves abdominal muscle tone
- Supports metabolism and digestion
- Increases blood, lymph and oxygen flow
- Reduces stress
- Relieves menstrual cramps and lightens heavy flow
- Softens adhesions and scar tissue
Start by Warming your Hands
First warm and energize your hands by clapping them together and rubbing them briskly. Imagine that they’re imbued with the healing energy of the sun itself. As the energy builds, feel their sparkle. Massing with warm hands helps your belly open and relax. So if your paws are still a little cool, then massage through a layer of thin clothing. Using lotion or massage oil is optional.
Lie on Your Back
While still in bed or on a firm surface, lie on your back. For the deepest abdominal release, bend your knees and place your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Let your knees fall together to support themselves. For deeper penetration, you may next drop your knees to the left and then to the right. Once you’ve got the system down, you can also give yourself an abdominal massage while standing or sitting up straight.
Good Morning, Liver
According to traditional Chinese medicine, before breakfast is the best time to support the liver. Place your fingertips below your sternum and, following below the contour of your rib cage, gently stroke your liver (along and just under your right ribs) and stomach area (under your left ribs), down to your sides. Gentle is the operative word. Your right fingers work down your right side and your left fingers on the left. Repeat several times. Percussion, or light thumping, over your midriff also energizes and supports organ function. Start at your top right to flush the liver and then work your way across to your left side.
As you work your left side, can you feel where your liver ends and your stomach begins? The accompanying illustration will help you sense this. While rubbing and probing, imagine all the skillful ways you’ll be taking care of your vitals throughout the day.
Is there a tender area? If so, that invites a pause and to move in slow motion. Explore the area. If it doesn’t want to be rubbed, then apply light but gentle pressure and breathe into that spot. Feel the energy from your fingertips radiating into and releasing any knots, bubbles or tension.
Clockwise around the Colon
After a few minutes on your liver and stomach, move both hands to the lower right side of your abdomen. To support elimination, mimic the clockwise direction that the large bowel empties. Massaging up and alongside of your pelvis, work up your ascending colon, across (just above the navel) your transverse colon and work down your left side for your descending colon. Once you’ve made a horseshoe shape and are at the bottom of your left side, you’ll have finished your first colon round.
Now massage your way from left to right above your pubic bone, offering TLC to your bladder. Continue in this clockwise pattern while slowly making smaller circles to massage your small intestine. End with your fingers circling around your hara (energy center in Chinese medicine) which lies mid-point between your navel and public bone.
The Finishing Touch
Finish by retracing your route. With your palms and fingers, first smooth out the liver and stomach area and end with a few clockwise rounds of your belly. Then quietly hold your hands over your lower abdomen and take three relaxing breaths to seal up the treatment. Feels good, doesn’t it!
While you can accomplish your massage in five minutes, take more time if you wish. A regular abdominal massage releases held emotions, tension and stress that otherwise block and stifle your digestion. Enjoy your rubs, thumps and holds . . . and your enhanced well-being.
Note: Should you have kidney stones or gallstones, a hernia, stomach ulcer, internal bleeding or inflammation in your abdominal area, rather than palpating the afflicted area, simply hold your hands over it for their healing warmth to penetrate and soothe the area.