While giving a client a full body massage, I wouldn't dream of leaving off their hands or feet, or neck, or back (unless, of course, the client requested it). So why would I ignore the abdomen? As my esteemed teacher, Nancy Dail, is fond of saying, "The abdomen is the front of the back!"
And she is so right: the muscles that make up our core and support us in standing, walking, running, bending, lifting, and twisting every day are not limited to those in our back. We may not think of them often, but our abdominal muscles are hard at work nearly all the time, and when they are in proper tone, balance the work of our back muscles and help prevent injury. So, do a few crunches each day, or bridge and plank if that's more your style, and consider the benefits of abdominal massage.
According to Debra Curties, RMT, writing for Massage Magazine (2018) abdominal massage:
-makes the massage feels more complete and holistic;
-can aid in intestinal function, promoting peristalsis and helping to ease constipation;
-promotes a sense of well-being via the enteric nervous system, directly connected to the brain by the vagus nerve (no kidding – read Curties' full article linked below for more fascinating information about this division of the autonomic nervous system);
-benefits conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and low back pain.
All that, and it just plain feels wonderful! Ever had a dog or cat roll over and practically beg you to rub its tummy? They get what I'm talking about.
(Of course, there are some contraindications to consider: acute gastrointestinal illness and chronic conditions such as Crohn's disease, celiac, and ulcerative colitis; early or high-risk pregnancy; hypertension; and abdominal aortic aneurysm, to name a few, are reasons to forego abdominal massage, or receive only very light work after consulting with your healthcare provider. Always, always, give your therapist a full and complete health history before receiving massage. Please.)
Another positive outcome of abdominal massage that I have personally experienced is a kind and loving acceptance of a part of my body about which I haven't always felt great. I sometimes joke that I have an awesome "six-pack" that I keep tucked inside a very well insulated cooler – and that's true, especially since having babies. My waist size does not match the rest of my size (according to clothing manufacturers, anyway), so garments are forever either too tight there or too loose somewhere else, and I get bloated and uncomfortable when I eat or drink too much of the wrong thing. Receiving abdominal massage has helped me connect with and appreciate all that is there, and all that goes on there, and feel a little less self-conscious about it. To be sure, it is still a closely guarded bit of my anatomy, but an integral part of the whole and as deserving of tender care and touch as any other.
Next time you are visiting me and my massage table, if you haven't yet treated yourself to abdominal massage, perhaps be open to the suggestion and avail yourself of these potential benefits. If you decide against it, though - no pressure (pun very thoroughly intended).
Curties, Debra. (2018, April 24). "4 reasons you should include abdominal massage in your practice." Massage Magazine. https://www.massagemag.com/abdominal-massage-techniques-88920