Unwinding with Chi Nei Tsang


As a massage therapist, I see the manifestations of daily stress in the bodies of my clients. The tension in our muscles often gets our attention, but consider the emotional tensions we feel when we “can’t stomach” something. That stress is held in our abdomens and internal organs. Do we ever direct attention there, bringing light to areas that are out of sight?

People come to see me with various presenting complaints. Many stem from a lifestyle out of balance with the rhythms of nature. Many of us on an average day walk around on concrete with shoes that deform our feet. We sit at computers for hours at a time, slumped over out of alignment. We are in rooms containing irritants and allergens with forced heat or air conditioning, lit artificially. We eat chemically sprayed, often genetically modified food, and drink treated water.

We are often burdened with unrealistic financial responsibilities that are worrisome enough to lose sleep over. There may not be enough time to get the fresh air and exercise that would produce endorphins to lighten our mood. Our relationships suffer as we go our own ways throughout the day with children in day care. Evenings allow little time for family and self care. Frequently our communications are reduced to texts. We focus on deadlines, commitments, and concerns and are always seem to be catching up—or feel we’re falling behind.

How do we begin to unwind? All roads lead to Chi Nei Tsang

Chi Nei Tsang is primarily an abdominal massage that releases stress and promotes healing. Originally from the East, Chi Nei Tsang in Chinese means “working the energy of the internal organs.” It is said that it was used by monks in mountain monasteries to detoxify and strengthen their bodies to sustain their high-level spiritual practices.

Here in the West, the abdomen is sometimes called the enteric brain and there are more nerves going from the abdomen to the brain than the brain to the abdomen. Have you ever had a “gut feeling”? This is that “brain” at work.

Bringing awareness to the abdomen with breath and gentle and sometimes deeper massage brings energy, blood, and nutrients superficially and to the organs. Do you know that the skin is the third lung and we breathe through the skin?

Have you ever had your navel massaged? Probably not. The abdomen is often completely ignored during massage or asked to be by the client because of poor body image. This is sad because it’s just what is needed most!

We grew from our umbilicus, which was connected to our mother. This is how we received nutrients and eliminated waste. Massaging around the navel frees up congestion, tightness, and stagnation, allowing for increased circulation of blood and lymph.

All systems of the body benefit from this modality: digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, and musculoskeletal, as well as the acupuncture meridian system.

It encourages deep breathing, circulation, digestion, and elimination and is a relief for related dysfunctions, including those that appear to have less of a connection. Our bodies are holistic, one organism with trillions of cells, and everything is connected. No part of our body is an island unto itself.

Through the systems of the body, as one body part releases the whole body does—mind and emotions too. Every organ, muscle, and bone is surrounded in web of connective tissue called fascia. The meridians of the acupuncture system run through this fascia. When this tissue is pulled tight in one area of the body, it tightens throughout the body, restricting circulation and mobility.

Emotional holding is at the root of a lot of what we experience as physical aliments. By releasing these emotional charges, we integrate body, mind, and emotion and are able to let go.

There are specific bodywork techniques for helping the organs function more efficiently. But even without training, you can with tender, loving intention positively affect your key abdominal area.

Lay on your back with feet flat and knees up. Place your hand on your abdomen and breathe deeply. Feel your breath down deep in your belly and up into your lungs. Notice where the breath goes and where it doesn’t. Let your hands move intuitively, feeling for interesting places, and when you find one breathe into it and let your hands explore. Smile to your organs and send them love and light energy. Listen to them and get to know them. Thank them for all that they do.

Abdominal health is whole-body health. All roads lead to Chi Nei Tsang. Take a deep breath and unwind.


About Author

Celeste, the creator of the anthology How Do You Pray?, is passionate about helping people discover a deeper experience of the sacred in their daily lives. Ordained as a Minister of Walking Prayer by the Center for Sacred Studies, Celeste leads “How Do You Pray?” workshops in which people share and experience different ways of connecting to a Source greater than themselves. She also maintains a private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she facilitates healing and transformation through her unique approach to spiritual coaching and her mastery of a number of the healing arts. With breath, touch, prayer and song she holds a space of awareness, presence and inspiration that allows participants to experience a profound integration of body, mind, spirit and emotion. www.HowDoYouPray.com

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