I recently received a unique form of bodywork, specifically a series of abdominal massages. My practitioner (colleague / friend) is trained in Chi Nei Tsang, Mayan Abdominal Massage and Visceral Manipulation. Her name is Dawn Woodring and her bodywork is absolutely amazing. Only thing is, that due to Covid, she is rarely doing in person bodywork. You can find her (work) here: https://www.abdominal-therapy.com/ If you are in Central Virginia, it would be worth checking to see if she is doing in-person sessions.
My partner, Jessica, also does Mayan Abdominal Massage, and she is an excellent bodyworker. With Jessica’s work, she also does a lot with the lower back (which plays a major role in abdominal dynamics). You can find her site here: https://www.7moons.one/ I know she is seeing some clients and occasionally has an opening.
As another aside, I also offer some abdominal massage and Masunaga Shiatsu (abdominal shiatsu). However, most of my bodywork consists of working from the outside-in, meaning I offer Somatic Experiencing to gradually and skillfully working through layers of freeze or activation, to discover more and more authentic, alchemical resilience.
Back to the main topic of this post, in receiving this excellent bodywork, it got me thinking about many things regarding the guts and trauma resolution. In particular, thinking about the various methods and ways of working to repair trauma. I am used to doing – both giving and receiving Somatic Experiencing, Craniosacral Therapy, Therapeutic Massage, Polyvagal Therapy and more. I often think that in order to work through trauma, we need someone to assist us in repairing the trauma. And I think this is true in certain situations – especially for repairing attachment trauma (think developmental attachment styles: secure, insecure avoidant, insecure ambivalent or disorganized attachment). And doing emotional-process-oriented bodywork or therapeutic work, we need a guide, a skilled mentor or competent coach (and/or therapist), as emotions are social creatures – they require good company to process, repair and release. In isolation, emotions cannot transform.
But is it possible to repair trauma by inviting more spaciousness? The work I received from Dawn was actually quite gentle. I would call it a biodynamic abdominal massage. Typically, or at least in the past, when I got an abdominal massage, it was pretty intense. I knew this was coming (I had a couple weeks to do more breath work, visceral waves and a form of Qigong which cleanses and purifies each of the 12 organs) so I was doing more self-care and bringing more awareness to my abdomen. I ask that initial question because Dawn did not ask me any questions or really have much dialogue at all except to ask about the pressure and to occasionally say, “there is a something here still hanging on” or “do you feel a little bit of resistance here?”
Maybe that was all she had to say. I have done a lot of personal growth work up to this point. I have been extremely fortunate to receive quality bodywork, emotional-process-oriented work and more subtle modalities. So it is quite possible that I am at a point where I can bring awareness to both sides of an inner conflict and work to loosen that resistance she mentioned that way. Just naming the bind might help to loosen it.
We talked about the mesentery – how this wild, incredible, new organ (I think in some systems it is designated as a separate organ from the small intestines) is highly vascularized and innervated. The second brain – the gut brain – is located here. Our gut reactions or gut feelings about people or situations comes from here. And about how my intestines (my guts) were all bunched up and tight at first. However, after two sessions, and a lot of gut-oriented self-care, they loosened up considerably! And knowing my physical history (of injuries and surgeries) and emotional / stress history (shock trauma / surgical trauma / birth trauma / etc), it makes sense that my guts were all tight.
So now that I have discovered this new spaciousness, what do I want to do with it? Will I fill it with binging on Netflix shows again? Can I be okay with some discomfort as my body gets used this new sensation / new experience? What else will improve if I can stick with this spaciousness, even just a little bit more than previously? Can I fill this spaciousness with the “AH” sound from time to time, or other quality practices?
We also discussed the omentum. This is a layer of fat over the peritoneum, over most of the visceral organs. In fact, she mentioned how the omentum tends to move around the belly, sucking up waste from various parts of the abdomen that need to detoxify. She mentioned one story of a doctor who did autopsies and who put his findings online. This doctor did an autopsy on a person who had died of liver failure, and that person’s omentum was wrapped entirely around his liver (I’m guessing in an attempt to clean and clear it). Normally the omentum is spread across the entire gut, so this story is quite unusual!
I have had several surgeries, and one in particular was laparoscopic, meaning they put three holes in my abdominal wall. So the peritoneum and the omentum have / had some surgical trauma from that. And sure enough, she said it felt like the omentum was clinging very hard to that top of my pubic bone, meaning the omentum could not drift around my gut – it was stuck in one position. So a part of my homework (she mentioned about 6 exercises / techniques I can do total) is to pull up from my pubic bone, going as deep as comfortable, intending to stretch and free the omentum. Wow!
In addition, we discussed the peritoneum. This is the layer of connective tissue covering all of the abdominal organs. It is the large fascial sac containing all the smaller sacs of organs. Apparently, the only easy place to access the peritoneum (in a healthy body) is through the navel, the umbilicus. But to do so, one must go pretty deep. So a part of both sessions involved her working with my navel. Sometimes going deep, sometimes stretching it a little, sometimes introducing a twisting motion. It felt uncomfortable but profoundly beneficial. Almost like it hurt so good! She said that eventually she could access the peritoneum, and I believe it. She got deep in there by the second session!
I will continue this post shortly, saying more about approaching healing and repair (trauma resolution) from the outside-in or from the inside-out.
Thank you for reading!
May you and all beings rest in equanimity and spaciousness, allowing the already present, longed-for embrace to hold us as we connect beautifully and blissfully with source!