The Benefits of Abdominal Massage, Self-massage and Abdominal Breathing Exercises

Staff article posted 10th of October 2014 Last Updated November 10,2017

Abdominal massage is found within the traditions of many ancient cultures.  The abdominal region of the human body houses and protects many of the vital organs.    One of the main ways that we can add the benefits of nutrients from our environment into our cells and tissues is to eat and drink.  The digestive track or alimentary canal breaks down the food stuff that we provide into fats, carbs, proteins and other micronutrients.  Abdominal massage can promote healthy digestion and assimilation

Although this massage technique is taught in massage schools and is an amazing technique it is often overlooked in modern day massage rooms.  Too often therapists will leave it out of their full body massage routine, preferring to spend more time on the neck, shoulders and back.  These areas are often described as the most important area to be worked by clients from around the world.  Although these areas always can use some extra attention, the individual receiving massage would benefit greatly from a few minutes of abdominal massage.

When skillfully performed and openly received, this massage can impart a deep sense of relaxation the kind that comes with a deep sense of safety and security.  The ability to let go of stress is crucial to balanced health and boosting immunity.  It supports the vital process of the body in a natural elimination of wastes.  Abdominal massage can relieve constipation and support the body's natural ability to move material through the digestive track by stimulating smooth muscle contractions. 

One of the most beneficial elements of abdominal technique is its ability to improve blood flow to the digestive organ's and increase oxygenation of the cells.  The increased O2 to the stomach, small intestines and large intestines will improve the organ's ability to break down food and allow for assimilation.  The best part about all the wonderful. healthy benefits of abdominal massage is that you do not need a prescription and you can even perform the technique on yourself. 

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How to Perform Self Abdominal Massage

We recommend that anyone who really feels comfortable in the massage treatment room ask to have an abdominal massage added to their full body massage.  Many therapists will ask, but some will have gotten into the routine of leaving this wonderful experience out of their normal daily bodywork.  If your therapist is truly a dedicated Swedish or Esalen Massage therapist you will always feel the deep relaxation that comes with the skillful application of abdominal massage. 

If you are willing to support your own health, self-massage can provide one with the benefits of this massage technique without needing the presence of a massage therapist.  You can use lotion or oil with the following directions if you have sensitive skin and are applying the pressure directly over the skin.  If you are not sensitive or performing the work over clothing lubrication is not necessary.

  • Start with your right hand pressing in firmly under your breast bone or sternum. Move along the ribs pressing in as firmly as is comfortable.  Move from right to left along the ribs and down toward the pelvis. 
  • Once you reach your pelvis switch to the left hand pressing along the top of the hips moving in a circular motion up toward the ribs and back to the sternum.
  • Repeat this two to three times in a circular motion with large diameter.
  • Next continue moving in a circular motion in a clockwise manner around the belly button reducing the diameter of the circular motion after each second or third circuit.
  • Once you have reached the umbilicus, take both hands under the breast bone or sternum and gently press in and down toward the pelvis.
  • Repeat this at least three times.
  • It is best to be lying down in a supine position, although this can be done standing up in a shower.
  • If lying in a supine position on the back, increase the effects of the massage by moving bent legs from side to side with the circular movements.

Many times digestive discomfort and abdominal bloating, discomfort can be resolved without heading toward the medicine cabinet.  We are bombarded daily by ads for medications that are intended to help resolve acid reflux and heartburn only to hear an endless list of negative side effects for the medication.  An alternative to prescribed and over the counter medication is self-abdominal massage. 

Abdominal Massage with Abhyanga

Get massage smarts' page on the art of Abhyanga hot oil massage offers a self-oil massage video that includes abdominal massage as a part of a daily self-care routine. For those seeking touch therapies to improve digestion and the functionality of their digestive track we offer a link to our page on foot reflexology.  In the middle of this page you will find a video that shows the connection between the digestive track and foot reflexology presented by Adam Thomas a Canadian foot reflexologist.  At the top of the page is a link to the American Reflexology Certification Board for those interested in finding a certified reflexologist in their area.

Chi Nei Tsang
A Traditional Chinese Medicine Abdominal Massage Method

Visualize the Movement of the Diaphragm
Understanding Your Breath from the Inside Out

Abdominal Breathing Exercises

Practicing good diaphragmatic breathing relieves constipation, releases stress and brings earth energy up from the root chakra.  When preformed daily this breathing exercise can strengthen the abdominal musculature and improve oxygenation of the tissues of the body.  Take in and release a deep breath three to five times.  Once you feel well oxygenated but not light headed, release the breath as deeply as possible.  Once the breath is fully released, bring the abdominal wall inward toward the spine as forcefully as possible. 

Focus on lifting the abdominal wall inward and upward.  Release the press before taking in a new breath.  Repeat until exhaustion, or as many times as you can.  Do this every morning, consistency will increase the overall benefits of this abdominal workout.  The repeated use of abdominal breathing will act like self-abdominal massage, increasing oxygenation, reducing the likelihood of constipation and stimulating the smooth muscles of the small and large intestine. 

Balanced PH and balance, abdominal flora is vital to a properly functioning digestive track.  By utilizing any of the abdominal techniques highlighted in this article you can improve your overall health.  Consider making a positive change for your own well-being by practicing any of these techniques daily.

David Carbonell Ph. D. provides a complete demonstration on how do belly breathing from his YouTube channel. Check out his other insightful information at  Dr. Carbonell is the author of 'Panic Attack workbook: A Guided Program for Beating the Panic Attack'.

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