As I was massaging a client recently, she referred to her abdomen as "The Cauldron of Lymph Nodes."
Kudos to her for being so in touch with her body, but...
Are you picturing an iron pot over a fire, in which green, steaming soup boils with snakes and floating eyeballs? I can't say I blame you... I did, too!
The truth is, your guts are teeming with lymph nodes doing hard work. Picture a smattering of organized, beautiful nodules filtering gunk like an elite, well-trained army of goodness and efficiency. That's exactly what it is!
You may have heard that your gut is your second brain. It's the main host to your microbiome and a key player in your overall health. It's also crucial for regulating inflammation and immunity.
It's not uncommon to sometimes resent your tummy's sluggish turmoil –– or experience a degree of self-loathing for eating those tacos so late the night before.
I get it! Call this too much information, but my belly is loud and proud. I'm often embarrassed by the sound of a firecracker exploding underwater about an hour after eating a rich dinner. I've apologized for my vocal digestive system more times than I even remember.
One of the beautiful things you can do for your bellyful of lymph nodes is to treat it like your friend. Appreciate all those lymph nodes for the work they do -- trying! -- to remove junk from your system.
Why would your body have such an ample supply of lymph nodes in your intestines if they were not there for a reason? What we eat isn't always the most perfect nourishment for our bodies. Think about it. Our species has always been trying to make its way through the wilderness (a jungle, a savanna, or a local grocery store) and make the best of what we eat. Our bodies are evolutionarily created to deal with whatever we put in our mouths. Some of it is great –– nourishing and healthy. Some of it is not-so-good ––and the body filters whatever it can't easily process, like residual pollutants, fertilizers, pesticides, and all the weird stuff that makes its way into our bodies.
The lymphatic system works away in the dark, processing toxins and hidden byproducts from all of the food we eat.
My fight song today... I'm advocating for showing our belly, full of lymph nodes, some love. Let's help them help us. (Here's Tom Cruise impersonating your belly's lymph nodes.)
Here's what I'm getting at: A lymphatic massage includes a thorough, hands-on treatment of your gorgeous guts.
And you wouldn't believe how wonderful that feels!
By the way, as a massage therapist doing muscle tissue work, it's always a hard sell getting a client to sign on for abdominal work. Most people intuitively know that abdominal muscles are quite distinct from your soft belly guts that do the work of digesting. Why are you pressing on all that soft, squishy stuff when the abs are rarely the muscles that actually "hurt?" The guts and the abs are two totally different things.
But with lymphatic massage, it's a non-negotiable. Abdominal work is a given. Yes, we are working on the gut. And that's a good thing...
If that scares you a little bit, rest assured, it's GENTLE. Here's how to picture the abdominal part of a lymphatic massage.
You will receive a gentle wave of pressure over your navel, like a boat rocking on a gentle sea, then some scooping action at the outer periphery of your large intestine, all four points. (You might need to pee at this point because we're close to the bladder, and flushing lymph ALWAYS involves moving fluid, soooo... That's fine, you go do that and come back to the table.)
Then (and this is the best part), I coach you through some deep belly breathing accompanied by gentle pumping by my hands. I always follow your natural breathing rhythm; I follow your lead as you breathe in delicious oxygen and use your diaphragm to literally exercise your lymphatic ducts. We're clearing the lymphatic highway for all the lymph that will be flowing during and after the massage.
[A personal note: the coolest thing about this is... I get the chance to deep-belly breathe, too. And I always take the opportunity, because it's just delicious. Don't believe me? I have reminders at key places in my house to "BREATHE."]
Yes, the word "Breathe" is on my cabinet, next to my sink where I do dishes. It's also on my dashboard above the steering wheel of my car. I even tacked it on my son's bedroom wall near his desk.
We women often walk around with tummies so firm as if we're expecting to get punched in the stomach. We hold our bellies so tight! Sometimes we even forget to breathe. at all. Have you ever realized at some random moment, that you are actually holding your breath? I have.
But in a lymphatic massage, you get to let it all hang out, You get to be fully present and at ease in your body. You pooch out your belly like you are pushing air into your guts, and never mind how your belly expands. In fact, we want the belly to expand. It's a sign that your diaphragm, that muscular bowl in your abdomen, is working with beauty and strength.
I promise that with practice, you will come to know this expansion as a wonderful, soul-expanding, body-affirming, gourmet practice. Truly, a healthy massage always incorporates the intestines, the belly, and the abdominals. Unless you're on the massage table of a manual lymphatic therapist, though, you might not get that beautiful experience.
Here's an invitation to get that abdominal lymphatic work your body is craving. Find a manual lymphatic drainage therapist near you and book a massage. Your muscle tissues are not the only ones needing therapy. Your belly would love some hands-on work, too.
Next time you want to do something wonderful for your body, get some lymphatic belly work done with a lymphatic massage. It's life-changing.