In the Orient, and particularly in Japan, the belly is
very important to our overall physical and emotional health. Even in the
West we recognize this to a certain extent. Emotionally, many people
recognize that they hold tension in their belly. Some people get constipated
when they are stressed or anxious, while some get diarrhea. Also, people
talk about having a gut feeling about something or hating someone's guts.
Those kinds of phrases are much more common in the Orient.
On a physical level, most of the body's organs are in the abdomen. A large
percentage of the immune system is there as well. From an acupuncture point
of view, all of the energy channels flow through the abdomen. There are
special reflex points in the abdomen that reflect the health of the various
Through abdominal breathing and abdominal self-massage, you can keep your
internal organs healthy, your immune system strong, and your emotional state
calm and uplifted.
Caution: Do not massage your abdomen if you have cancer, an ulcer, a heart
condition, high blood pressure, or if you are pregnant.
The first few times you massage your abdomen it may take 20 to 30 minutes,
but if you get into a daily habit you can do it in about 5 minutes. After
the first couple of times you massage your belly, you may find an increase
in symptoms, or some abdominal discomfort. This is normal and will pass
How a healthy abdomen feels:
As you lightly touch your belly, it should be the same temperature
everywhere or slightly warmer below the navel. Above the navel should have a
looser, softer feeling, while below should be more resilient and springy.
The entire abdomen should feel elastic, not tight or tense. There should be
a slight dip around the navel, and another about midway between the navel
and the breast bone. The navel should have a uniform shape and indent
smoothly into the abdomen. There should not be any hardness, puffiness, or
pain when pressing, even relatively deeply. With deeper pressure, you will
feel a pulse around the navel. The pulse should not be too strong, or over a
large area; and it should not be visible. If you find any imbalances, then
focus on massaging those areas of your abdomen. Pay particular attention to
the areas that cause pain elsewhere in the body, especially where you have a
Lie on your back with a pillow under your knees, if that is more
Very lightly, feel the skin of your belly, and notice any temperature
variations. Particularly remember any areas that are significantly cooler
than the rest.
Spend a few minutes doing deep abdominal breathing. As you inhale, feel your
belly expanding, and as you exhale feel it fall. Every time you exhale,
allow your whole body to relax more and more deeply.
After a few minutes, check the temperature and notice if it has changed.
Then put one hand on top of the other, with the palms on the navel, and make
clockwise circles, lightly chafing the skin.
Use your palms to apply gentle pressure all around your abdomen, circling
The next section uses finger pressure on the abdomen. Hold the fingers back
to back, with all eight fingers pressing straight into the abdomen. Press in
as you exhale, release as you inhale and move to the next spot. The first
time through, use gentle pressure, then do it again, using deeper pressure.
Take note of areas that are puffy, tight, or tender.
Start on the midline, just below the breastbone. Press all the way down the
midline to the pubic bone, skipping the navel.
Move your fingers half an inch to the right of the midline and press all the
way up to the ribs.
Move just to the left of the midline, and press all the way down to the
Back to the right, press your way up, along the ridge of the rectus
abdominus muscle. If you can't feel the ridge of the muscle, go about one
and a half inches from the midline.
Again, go down the same line on the left.
Next go just outside the muscle, or about three inches from the midline, up
the right and down the left.
Next press just under the rib cage, from right to left.
Finally press just inside the left pelvic bone down to the pubic bone, then
up the inside of the right pelvic bone.
After you have done that twice, go back to areas that were puffy, tight, or
tender. Starting just outside of the area gently press in a spiral toward
the center of the area. If there is pain, press just so deeply that you
begin to feel the pain.
Finally, just relax and breathe for a few minutes. You may want to feel the
temperature of the skin again, and notice any changes.