“No” is the answer I get from around 80% of my clients, along with looks of fear or puzzlement, when I ask if they would like me to massage their stomach. But when it’s done well, stomach massage can be both wonderfully nurturing and incredibly beneficial. So why do so many of us shy away from it?
I get it, I really do. For years, I could not entertain the thought of someone massaging my stomach; It’s where I used to hold a lot of my tension and even now, when I am battling an anxiety attack, I can literally feel my stomach tightening and knotting up. The thought of someone working that area, however gently, used to cause me to panic slightly. Not because I thought it would hurt physically but more because I was scared that I might actually have to deal with all the emotion I had so carefully locked away there over the course of years.
I finally gave in on a training course. Actually I didn’t have much choice as if you are going to give an effective massage you really do need to know what it feels like. So I took a deep breath and, with a warning that I would probably get very emotional, nodded my consent. There was no deep pressure, no physical sensation of pain. Just care and warmth and a gentle nourishing, nurturing touch, scooping and circling, easing out the tension and soothing my stomach. It probably lasted no more than a few minutes. When it stopped, I could feel warmth over the whole area that stayed with me for ages, as if someone had wrapped me in a heated blanket. I sobbed for about 10 minutes afterwards and was surprised to find that I didn’t feel embarrassed. Instead, I felt something entirely unexpected; a huge sense of relief and release. It took some time and a whole lot of self massage but now, when I go for a treatment, I am always a definite yes when asked if I would like work on my stomach and in times of anxiety, my hands naturally rest on my stomach.
So what are the benefits of having your stomach massaged? As with any massage, you may well experience relief of muscular tension but the benefits go much further than that. Post natally, for example, stomach massage can help the muscles knit back together (even years after birth – it’s never too late). It might aid digestive or bowel issues and for some people it can aid emotional release. And even if you don’t hold any tension there (physical or emotional), it is at the very least, incredibly nurturing and relaxing.
For those of you who, like I used to, shy away from anyone coming near your stomach, always remember that it is YOUR choice whether you want to experience stomach massage or not and you should never feel pressurised into having it if you are not comfortable. It is absolutely fine to say no.
But if you are just a little curious, you can start with your own self massage to get used to the idea. Place your own hand on your stomach, wherever feels comfortable, and just leave it resting there. That may be enough for you initially. When you are ready, you can start gently circling around your belly button, going from your right hand side, up and over the top of your belly button to the left, then down and under the belly button so you follow the natural path of your colon. If you decide you are ready for someone to massage your stomach, you can ask them to start with simply placing a hand over your stomach to see how that feels and so on. A good therapist will always take your feelings into consideration and will NEVER judge you. It is, after all, your treatment and should be how you want it.
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