One of the ways to separate you from the pack is to include an area in your full body wellness massage that many others are leaving untouched – the abdominals (their core). There are many reasons therapists have neglected this area, but for every one of those reasons, there are two why you should give the belly its due. Scientific research has supported the idea that the diaphragm, vagus nerve, and organ structures can benefit from a little attention.
Upping the ante by going beyond your school taught abdominal massage protocol is an important tool in your toolbox. You can take the route of following indigenous traditions and/ or clinical protocols I have studied – Mayan traditional, Cherokee, Stone Medicine, Aromatherapy, NMT, Myofascial, etc. Almost every modality pays specific attention to the abdominopelvic area. So I’m going to share some of my favorite moves that are simple to integrate into your massage.
Place one hand on the client's head and the other on their hip. Rock them in a rhythm that makes the whole body sway in the same wave. While continuing to rock, you can move your hand from the hip to different areas of the abdomen. You can then move your hands' side by side on the outside hip and gently rock to finish.
Place your stacked hands lightly on the center of the abdominal area. Following the client’s breath, apply vibration with each exhale and relax the pressure with each inhales.
Placing your hands in a rake-like position, just superior to the pelvic bone. Slowly let hands sink in as the area relaxes. Once you have reached a holding point, slowly rake your hand towards the belly button. Follow all along the inside of the hip bone by repositioning your hands and repeat the raking.
Simply adding the appropriate essential oils to your massage medium during an abdominal massage can enhance its effectiveness. For example, a “when in doubt” choice is Lavender. It is calming to the mind, body, and spirit. People tend to store stress in this area, so it’s almost always a suitable choice. I often lightly apply a combo of Lavender, Clary Sage, and Rose to the area and the feet for menstrual cramps. These oils are known for their antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties.
If you have a client that does not want to have their stomach area undraped, you can still perform most of these techniques. If they don’t really want you to mess with it or are running short of time, you can utilize your stones. All year I’ve been sharing with you my journey on the Native American Healing Arts Medicine Path Program. In this program, we learn the indigenous technique, the tradition behind it, and the science of its efficacy. Some of the most interesting research was about the Vagus Nerve and its role in homeostasis. Placing warmed stones on the abdominal/sternal region can help relax the area and the systems it houses.
Note: Remember you never want to perform heavy work on this region during menstruation or if there is an acute issue.
Be Well, Do Good Work, and Write us about your favorite abdominal work.