Last week I saw a woman who practices visceral manipulation, a kind of deep tissue massage for the organs. I had originally made the appointment for some acupuncture and craniosacral therapy, but Asha identified tension in my abdomen and suggested we try this instead. Not that I was surprised; this journey keeps bringing me back to my gut.
For the next 45 minutes, she gently probed, pushed, and pulled at my belly. As she worked each new area I felt little at first (she has a strict "no pain" policy), then a slow stretching, and finally a profound release. Each time I would take a deep, almost-involuntary breath as my body let go of tension I had not realized I was holding.
That night was difficult. My body was clearly adjusting to the changes and letting go of some ... well ... "stuff" that had been released in the process. Stuff I didn't need anymore. But in the days since then I have felt comfortable, and much more aware of my relationship with my belly.
For years, I have been at odds with that area of my body. More often than not, it's the first thing I see when I look in the mirror. Nice legs? Pretty manicure? Good haircut? Whatever ... what does my stomach look like? I defined myself as fat or thin by whether my stomach looked bloated or flat, how much I could "suck it in," how much hung over the top of my jeans. I defined myself as "good" or "bad" by the same standard.
But this treatment made me wonder: What have I really been holding in all this time? For whose benefit? At what cost?
In the last 8 or 9 months, I have re-learned to eat by listening to what feels good to my belly. I pay little attention to calories, fat, carbs, or even quantity (aside from feeling hungry and full). Ironically, I have lost weight as a result; I finally have the flat(ter) belly I longed for all those uncomfortable years. But it is a side effect, not the goal.
And since last week, I also remind myself periodically to stop, fill my belly with air, allow it to expand, take whatever space it needs.