Hara (Abdominal) Massage
Known in Japanese as 'ampuku', hara massage was considered to be the most effective part of manual therapy work, and indeed, made the difference between a therapeutic treatment, and massage simply for 'pleasure and comfort'.
The hara, in Japanese culture, is so much more than an anatomical region of the body.
Yes, it contains all the visceral organs, but is also the 'sea' of the entire meridian energy system, and a highly skilled ampuku practitioner would be able to discern, not only a patient's present health condition, but also their past, as well as future conditions.
With more than two hundred Japanese phrases containing the word 'hara', it is also used describe a person's character, intentions, seat of intuition, and way of being in the world. We have a slight inkling of that in our western-minded culture when we use phrases like 'feeling centered', or 'having a gut feeling'.
A doctor-patient relationship that included ampuku in the treatment necessitated a certain degree of trust and intimacy, for it would require a person baring themselves and the conditions of their lives to the doctor. But, indeed, an attempt to be treated without this larger context would be considered ineffectual.
Besides the occasional physical discomfort, perhaps this is why we shy away from this kind of treatment in massage sessions. It can be a very vulnerable area.
With the large degree of digestive and reproductive issues, poor eating habits, restricted breathing, suppressed emotional tension, and scar tissue from medical procedures, however, it might do us well to pay more attention to this area.
Hara massage can be a very powerful means of addressing these issues - even affecting hip and low back problems. It can also do wonders for pulling a person 'back to center', when life feel overwhelming and chaotic, and create a profound sense of relaxation.
I will often use hara massage in my sessions, and/or teach my clients how to perform it on themselves (unless there is a request for me not to...!)