Somebody Finally Loves Stomach Massage…

… as much as I do.

“You know what? I really like stomach massage. I didn’t at first but now I really do.”

This client’s comment during his last session was music to my ears. You might have got the gist by now that I really love Pilates and I want all my clients to love it as well. So when they really start to get it I’m so happy. Another reason is that I used to feel the same way. So many things in Pilates can be a love hate relationship, there’s the wunda chair for example but that’s another blog post for another time. Stomach massage is one of those marmite exercises. For example another client’s comment on the same exercise:

“You really need to get a f***ing massage so you can appreciate how unlike a massage this is.”

Love and hate you see? For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this little beauty of an exercise here’s a clip of me demonstrating the round back and flat back versions of this exercise.

I didn’t teach this exercise for years because I just didn’t get it. It just didn’t feel like I was doing anything, the carriage was moving but there seemed very little effort involved. During our training a fellow osteopath and Pilates student and I tried to figure out what we were doing wrong and asked for help from our teacher. It still didn’t feel right and there were so many exercises that did feel right to get excited about stomach massage got very little attention from me. Years later I saw a podcast with Amy Taylor Alpers using a different breathing pattern to the one I had learned and gave it a try. A big piece of the puzzle suddenly fell into place. This way felt far more natural for me. I had the chance to discuss this with the teacher when I took a workshop with her when she visited the UK and got an ever deepening appreciation of what was for me an underused gem.

What I love is that this appreciation goes further all the time and like all things Pilates it’s a constant work in progress. I now have a kick-ass reformer to practice on which makes this exercise even more of a full body experience. The wonders of the internet allow me access to teachers such as Shari Berkowitz and Alycea Ungaro whose years of experience have helped me to dig that little bit deeper into my own practice and my teaching. Kathi Ross Nash and Cara Reeser have been encouraging us to see the connections between the movements in Pilates and sometimes beyond and here is more evidence that Pilates is a method the connections are there to the other exercises elements of the footwork and tendon stretch for example.

From being an exercise where it felt like nothing much was happening this is now an opportunity to lengthen out against the compression that the reformer creates and really squeeze the stale air out of my lungs. Hopefully in the video you can see that I am moving the carriage by lengthening my body in all directions and not just pushing from my feet. After just a few reps of this I now start to sweat.

So what’s not to love, the deep breathing and movement of the carriage give your internal organs a welcome massage and your whole body gets to feel long and strong. For me this decompression must be one of the reasons that Pilates does wonders for clients with chronic low back pain whose bodies are so congested.

The second client still thinks I should get a massage though.

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