If you’ve learned abdominal self-massage from me, you’ve got the basic strokes, and I hope you’ve been practicing. Being actively involved in your healing… really showing up for yourself and dedicating the time… makes all the difference.
A deeper practice involves your whole being. Shifts happen on so many levels. Physical healing can begin with letting go of an old story or allowing grief to be fully felt. It works the other way too; sometimes relieving tension in the abdomen (or elsewhere), will begin to unlock emotional issues that may be the root of the symptoms.
What follows are some ideas for developing a deeper practice… for allowing abdominal self-massage to touch all aspects of your being for maximum benefit. Really, it’s about how to make the massage a meditation and a prayer.
You’ve probably determined what time of day is best for your self-massage. Can you give yourself a few more minutes? This may be difficult in the morning, I know. Finding a time time when you are not rushed, when you are available for more than just going through the motions is key.
Make a Nest
Lie down in a favorite place. Your bed, a sunny spot on lush carpet, or whatever makes you feel best. Be sure there is enough padding, and that you have support for your head and knees. Are you warm enough? Make everything just right… you’re worth it!
Set an Intention
Always begin by breathing… with your hands just resting on your belly. Do you feel it rise and fall with the breath? Is the breath stuck anywhere? Just notice what is.
Say hello! Say thank you for all your belly does to support you. Be sure to attend to those places that are struggling – your uterus, scar tissue or your intestines – the source of the symptoms that brought you to this practice in the first place.
Then, if you have a specific intention like enhancing circulation or melting away adhesions, lifting your womb or inviting a baby, send it through your resting hands and feel that intention/prayer radiate into your belly. Invite the body to allow this shift without force or strong agenda… just loving suggestion.
When you slow down, you can become curious. There is this delightful duality with self-massage: you have the sensations in your hands which give you information about tension and tissue quality. You also have your internal physical and other experiences of that contact.
How does that tight spot you notice with your finger feel from the inside? What thoughts or emotions do you have when you contact that spot?
Move with the breath. Exhale as you stroke or press in. Inhale as you release the pressure between strokes. Your breathing may get deeper as you begin to allow for expansive in-breaths and complete out-breaths. This is good!
Motion of the breath supports the circulation we are bringing to the tissues of the belly with our hands.
Deepen your Pressure
As you continue with this practice, your hands will find their way to exactly what you need. Keep your hands relaxed even though they are working and use the pads of your fingers.
With this nice slow pace you’ve established, experiment with deeper pressure. If you find you are sore later in the day or the next morning, rest for a day and return to lighter pressure.
End with Stillness
Like savasana at the end of a yoga practice, give your being some time to integrate all that’s just happened. Rest, breathe and be grateful. Thank yourself for showing up so fully to the experience.
We all know we get the most benefit with consistent practice. Whether its yoga, language studies or nutritional changes, you can’t expect to do the thing once a week and experience satisfying results. I invite you to be with your belly every day for a complete lunar cycle – 28 days.
If you are hoping to conceive, follow the guidelines and do the parts of the massage that you can. Then spend time in loving stillness with your womb.
If you are menstruating you should change the strokes as well, but experiment with how your belly would like to be contacted at this time.
You only need to do the abdominal self-massage once a day, but as often as you think of it, put your hands on your belly and take a few breaths. Reconnect. It just takes a moment. The more the body is recognized and acknowledged, the more healing can happen.
After that 28 days you will have established a rhythm and an expectation… like the well-hydrated body expects to be hydrated, the well-loved body will expect contact and connection and that will become the healthy normal. It will tell you what it needs, and whether massage on a given day is necessary or not. This is an ongoing practice for life. It’s about coming home to yourself.
Teach your Family
You can share what you’ve learned with those you love. If you are on a fertility journey, please teach your partner and share this deeper practice with them. Even if you’re not making a baby, if you share a bed with someone it’s a powerful practice to experience together. If you have kids… any age… rub their bellies! Help them settle, or sleep, or digest. Most of all, empower them to take care of themselves and stay connected with this simple technique.
If this has inspired you to take your practice to a deeper level, or to begin again after some time away, great! If you need a refresher or would like to learn the abdominal self-massage for the first time, please come see me for a professional session.
Preview: in Part Two of this series, I’ll be writing about castor oil packs and how to use them to further your healing. Stay tuned!