Our body’s center is perhaps our most loved and important body part. The belly houses our digestive system, vital organs, and reproductive system. Also called our second brain, the digestive system plays a vital role in cleaning the body, absorbing nutrients, creating hormones, and more.
Benefits and Contraindications
Abdominal massage benefits the belly by aiding digestion, improving elimination, relieving gas, and easing heartburn. These techniques also release emotions and remove tension from the core muscles, which can enhance quality of life.
Caution is urged if you are pregnant, have cancer or infection of the stomach and pelvis area, or have recently had surgery. If you are unsure, or have a specific concern, consult your doctor before trying these techniques.
Begin with Belly Breathing
To connect with your body before massaging the abdomen, practice a few rounds of pranayama. Close your eyes and breathe down into the base of the belly. Watch as the breath fills the belly to its maximum without too much strain. Let the breath flow up to the lungs and collarbone, and then watch as it exits the body from the top down.
Yoga Poses for the Abdomen
Seated Cross-Legged Easy Twist
Sanskrit: Parivrtta Sukhasana
Step by step: After breathing calmly, inhale and place your right hand on the floor behind you near the base of the spine—palm flat and fingers facing away from your body. Lift your left arm to the sky, lengthening the side of the body. On the exhalation, twist your body to the right and place your left hand on the right knee. Stay here and breathe, lengthening the spine toward the ceiling and rooting the sacrum down to the earth. Keep bringing attention to your breath and allow each exhalation to take your twist deeper. Stay here anywhere from 5-10 breaths, as long as you are comfortable and steady. Repeat on the opposite side.
You can always sit on a blanket to make sure your sitting bones are resting evenly on the ground, and that your body is not tilting forward or back.
Step by step: To focus on a more therapeutic aspect of this asana, have a blanket, block, or bolster available. Kneel with your shins parallel and your feet on the outside edges of your hips. Place the prop under your sitting bones or knees—if you need that support. Inhale and lift your bottom off the ground. While doing this, use your hands to slide the calf muscles out slightly and back to create more space. Then sit back down. Make sure you are not experiencing any pain, as holding this pose for a longer period of time is ideal. Breathe down toward the belly to promote more oxygen and space. Hold this pose for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes while continuing to breathe.
Use as many props as necessary. If you have ankle, foot, or knee problems, you should practice with a trained and qualified instructor. This pose promotes digestion and helps relieve gas by bringing fresh blood to the pelvis and allowing the organs to relax.
To prepare for abdominal self-massage, wear comfortable clothes or have a bare belly. Oil is optional, though it can feel nice and make the strokes more fluid.
- Find a comfortable position lying face-up. Place a pillow under the knees for support, if available.
- Rest your hands on your belly and breathe. Recognize the pressure building beneath your hands as you inhale and decreasing as you exhale.
- Say hello to your belly by rubbing your hands clockwise with moderate pressure. Stay here for about 10 breaths.
- Make wave-like presses or undulations across the belly, following the hours of the clock.
- Put one hand on your belly button and the other on your hipbone; then trace your fingers halfway in between. Bend at the knuckles, so your fingers form a 90-degree angle with the surface of your skin. Press straight down. Feel for a diagonal band, which may feel tender for some people. Hold for a count of 10, applying gradual pressure as the breath deepens. Relax and let the fingers sink.
- Repeat from the opposite hipbone.
- Because pressure points surround the belly button, use it as a landmark. Press the middle and pointing fingers straight down—two inches to the top, to the left, to the right, and below the belly button. Alternate five counts on each side.</li>
Your abdominal region needs as much massage as the rest of your body. With these abdominal massage techniques, you’ll find relief while showing your belly some love!</p>