Linking Body and Breath for Better Digestion

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By Kristen Minke, LMT (previous practitioner at the Tummy Temple)

For many people the inner workings of digestion are a complete mystery. To help you make the connection between movement of muscle, breath, and your gut I’d like to paint you a picture of just how connected everything really is.

When you move your breathing changes. Typically it will get deeper and sometimes faster as well (like during exercise). To take in air, your diaphragm just below your ribs contracts down to create a vacuum inside your rib cage.  That pulls air in.  It’s a similar concept to how liquid is pulled into a syringe when the plunger is pulled back.

What you may not know is that some of your digestive organs are attached to the diaphragm via connective tissue.  When your diaphragm contracts for a deep breath it compresses the viscera below including your stomach and colon.  When you exhale it pulls up on the very same organs.  Rhythmic, deep breathing has the effect of massaging your gut to help it work efficiently.  This pumping action of the breath keeps things moving.  This is the ideal scenario.  However, most people are estranged from the ideal way to breathe and digest.

Sometimes, there’s a less than ideal scenario that takes place when something like food sensitivities, infection, surgery or injury creates inflammation.  Inflammation is your body’s way of holding itself together when things go awry.  Anytime cell walls in a tissue are broken or irritated it triggers inflammatory substances to leak.  In your body this is equivalent to spilling a bottle of glue, because inflammation is sticky.  The sticky nature of inflammation is great in the short term, because it allows you to get through whatever you’re dealing with to a place of safety and healing.

Sometimes, in the process of holding the vulnerable areas together the inflammation sticks unintended surfaces together.  This can lead to problems with your intestines being unable to move the way they need to.  Yes, your intestines move.  This continuous wavelike movement is called peristalsis, and freedom of movement is critical for this phenomena to take place.

You may be thinking, “But I can’t even feel my intestines moving, how will I know when they are stuck together? And if so, how do I do something about it?”  Well, I have good news for you.  Most therapists at the Tummy Temple have advanced training in how to feel where things are stuck and how to unstick them.

A typical abdominal/visceral massage session takes about an hour and is VERY relaxing.  The connection between the movement of the breath and the movement of the gut is a convenient way to release stuck spots or adhesion.  We can feel each organ and gently coax it into it’s rightful place.  If an adhesion is felt we can gently hold while the rhythm of your breath pulls the two surfaces free; kind of like peeling two post-it notes apart.  It doesn’t hurt at all.  Afterwards you just feel deeply relaxed and like you finally have room to breathe.

Schedule an abdominal massage today!