When you get a massage, it’s normally focussed mainly on the back, neck and shoulders, and rarely the belly. Yet this is where 90% of the body’s serotonin (the wellness and happy hormone) is made. Reason enough to engage in some navel-gazing.
Age-old therapies have long held that the belly is key when it comes to health. It is now considered the second brain, and massage is an excellent way to remedy any complaints affecting it.
4 good reasons to give in to a belly massage
1. Belly massage improves blood circulation and lymph flow
This abdominal region is where vital organs like the liver, spleen, kidneys, womb and bladder are located. To fulfil their respective functions, these organs must be well irrigated with blood and lymph. Massage ensures that there’s a good supply to nourish and oxygenate all of these organs.
2. Belly massage bolsters immune function
This region is home to a number of lymph nodes which are drained by lymph flow. Unfortunately, lymph does not flow easily because, unlike blood which is pumped by the heart, it has no pump to move it along. Massage can also help it to expunge pathogens and bolster immune function.
3. Belly massage speeds up bowel function
Specific strokes (slow, firm ones) on the abdomen can relieve constipation completely naturally. However, they are not a substitute for treatment, if necessary, and dietary changes.
4. Belly massage relieves stress
In the belly, there are nerve endings which are connected to the brain via the vagal nerve. That is why, in times of stress, you might get that “stomach in a knot” feeling. Massage relieves tension and releases endorphins, dulling any pain and making you feel less tense.
What kind of belly massage should you go for?
A great many therapies of various kinds include belly massage.
- Nei Zang (which translates to internal energy of organs) in Chinese medicine. Derived from Qi Gong, it restores harmony to energy circulation by getting rid of bad emotional energies.
- Shiatsu, a Japanese massage therapy technique, which uses finger pressure to restore the body’s balance and health.
- Tui Na (which translates to push and grab) is a branch of Chinese medicine designed to reharmonise life energy through more than 30 basic bodywork strokes.
- In the view of holistic treatment expert Chantal Lehmann, “belly treatments are the most important of all, by far”. She has spent more than 25 years learning these various techniques. They include Ayurvedic Sarasvatî massage, named after the goddess Shakti who embodies the feminine side of things, and Hawaiian iomi iomi massage. Over time as the sessions went by and particularly after attending a training course in Korea, she discovered that beyond mere massage, belly massage is able to work on the central nervous system (the neurovegetative system). Hence it improves digestion and sleep quality, and even in some cases relieves back pain and migraines. This wide-ranging experience allowed Lehmann to develop her own belly massage. HoliBelly is a real patchwork of all these techniques, which takes 2 hours to complete. The first session also includes an assessment, with a pulse reading and pieces of advice, to get a better handle on any problems and move towards a healthier lifestyle. The moves are very gentle, and get rid of tensions in various organs to rebalance the energies.
Dietary advice as regards the belly
In Lehmann’s view, “It’s essential to make the body as alkaline as possible to bolster the immune system. You have to drink foods and eat liquids. The stomach has no teeth, so let’s not wear it out needlessly!”
If you eat animal protein, skip the carbohydrates and opt instead for green vegetables. With her specialist knowledge, Lehmann feels that no more than 25% of the plate must be set aside for acidic foodstuffs, and 75% for alkaline ones. In her view, a short-term course of green clay treatment (taken by mouth) is also essential to detoxify the body. Dilute a rounded teaspoon of green clay powder in 250 ml of water, stir it well and let it stand for a full day. Stir and drink it in one go before bed. Stick to this routine for 21 days. If you are on medication, after your dose wait at least two hours before drinking the clay suspension.
How about massaging your own belly?
There’s nothing stopping you from massaging your own belly. In the morning on an empty stomach to stimulate bowel function, or in the evening as a relaxation exercise. To do so, place one hand on top of the other beneath the navel. Stroke in a circular motion clockwise from bottom to top, up to the solar plexus. Repeat around 30 times. Then massage the solar plexus with your fingertips for 5 minutes before pressing down hard on it. Finish off by massaging all around the navel with small circular strokes, focussing on any knots.
Breathing massages the belly, too
Taking deep breaths is another way to mobilise the organs in the belly. Lie flat on your back, and breathe in while pushing your belly out to bring the diaphragm down and compress the organs. When you breathe out the diaphragm goes back up and the lungs deflate, which flattens the belly. Do this about 10 times. Finish off by sucking your belly in to halt your breathing. Repeat 10 times.