You have probably had a massage or two in your lifetime - perhaps a variety of them. Do you prefer Swedish, deep tissue, shiatsu or a more relaxing aromatherapy massage? The power of touch has been proven to have deeply healing and restorative effects, and countless scientific papers have been written on the topic. But have you ever had your organs massaged? Did you even know that it was possible to have your colon, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, uterus and even spleen manipulated? It makes perfect sense. Why should your hard-working organs not benefit from the same relaxing technique as your tired muscles?
I set out to explore three different types of organ massage therapy, to see if they really can penetrate further than the skin and muscles and reach deep into the parts of the body that other massages cannot touch.
'Hara' is a Japanese word that refers to the energy centre in your lower belly and Hara therapy is intended to release stagnation in the area that stretches from below your ribs to the pubic bone, and approximately two hands widths on either side of your tummy button, freeing up the blood and the circulation so that it moves freely as it was originally meant to. Most of us breathe shallowly, and Hara therapists believe a lack of oxygen deep into the belly can result in congestion, eventually contributing to illness of various kinds. When you release the tension by gently massaging and working specific organ-related pressure points, you can relieve symptoms of anxiety and stress, and improve the quality and depth of your sleep.
I really liked the treatment. It is related to Shiatsu and as the therapist moved around the surface of my stomach, he stimulated the various meridian points on my body, each of which is related to a specific organ. As I lay down on the couch, fully clothed, but with my stomach bare, he massaged gently, feeling for blockages, moving slowly and comfortably deeper through the tissues of my belly. I could actually feel when he came up against a constriction, and noticed the ‘stringy’ damage in areas where I had residual scar tissue from an operation a decade ago.
As he went into the area more deeply, he moved and separated the fibres of the internal scarring. I could feel the tissue relax and release and certainly, afterwards the area felt like jelly. Regularly treating surface scars with castor oil and iodine apparently also breaks down even long-established internal tissue damage over a period of time. He mentioned that women who have had liposuction frequently come for a series of treatments in the weeks after their surgery to help the healing process.
During the treatment, he massaged the skin and tissue surrounding each organ individually. He explained he was sensing whether it had too much energy, or too little, with the ultimate aim of creating more overall balance in the region he was working. I could feel his fingers roll over my stomach, my colon and my small intestines, and then he briefly manipulated the kidney area, the liver, gallbladder and spleen. I get the point - we spend hours of our lives massaging our muscles and skin - but the inner organs are crying out for release. They are overworked and under constant stress. By massaging them gently, it makes sense to me that this will release the congestion and tension that may have built up over many years, encouraging blood flow and extra oxygen to help renew and energise you.
There should be a video here to show you, but I'm afraid that after watching it, I decided my stomach wasn't in a suitable state to be publicly viewed - so its a photograph only this week!
Chi Nei Tsang
A long time ago, I had a session of Chi Nei Tsang, which I have to say I never repeated. This is a Chinese version of Hara, focused on the navel, which is where many of us store our emotions. The navel is considered the first place of our contact with the world. Early sessions can be entirely devoted to releasing the trauma and stress of your birth experience which they believe is held in your belly button, ironing out the creases, releasing tension and bringing blood circulation to feed the area. It does seem to help with digestive problems and reduces constipation and bloating.
This is not, or at least, not in the session I had, a relaxing experience. The therapist dug deep and painfully into my stomach and although I definitely felt lighter and freer in the area afterwards, and I am sure it effectively stimulated my organs, increasing flow to my lymphatic system, fascia and nervous and endocrine systems as the brochure claimed, it wasn't something I was inclined to do again.
Last in the trilogy is the Arvigo massage, developed and named after Dr. Rosita Arvigo, who spent some years in the Peruvian highlands studying ancient Mayan techniquesof abdominal massage under the tutelage of the Mayan healer, Don Elijio Panti. Much of the focus of this treatment is on restoration of the the body to its natural balance by correcting the position of organs that have shifted and restricted the flow of blood, lymph, nerve and chi energy.
Arvigo specialises in resolving fertility and pregnancy issues, readjusting the uterus and improving structural alignments which can also improve menopausal symptoms and period pain. Arvigo believes emotional traumas can get trapped in the body at times of great stress. The technique works to release those memories and the associated emotional pain, easing physical symptoms at the same time.
I haven’t experienced Arvigo myself, being well past fertility and pregnancy issues. I have talked to people who have, however, and all reports indicate that Arvigo has had remarkable success with both - well worth a try if other methods have failed for you.