Unwinding the Belly

However, as with many therapies, we tend to think homeopathy can do it all, that the right remedy is going to cure everything ill in a person. However, there are many other therapies that share a common philosophy and practice with homeopathy. It is important for all practicing homeopaths to be aware of what other therapies are available to be used to complement homeopathic treatment. This book is one of those. All homeopaths reading it will connect with the underlying principles of homeopathy and the radical possibilities of self-healing of body, mind and spirit. It is always inspiring to read things from a similar yet different perspective and this book is one of them. For homeopaths in practice an awareness of other healing possibilities is essential and the information in this book can greatly aid in our ability to offer our patients a complete healing possibility. It is a beautifully written and totally accessible book.

Knowledge of the bodys own healing power has been part of human experience since the beginning of time. Every culture and society has found ways to help the body when challenged with sickness. From the use of herbs to prayer, from yoga to meditation, from massage to nutrition, we have found many ways to help body, mind and spirit.

However, in modern society, we have become more and more dependent on drugs and the expertise of doctors to tell us what is wrong and to rely on chemicals to combat our health concerns. The consequence of this has been an ever-increasing dependency on drugs and doctors along with a greater alienation from the body itself. Our complex lives - with ever increasing psychological stress - has meant that we have become less attuned to what our bodies are telling us. This experience of disconnectedness can make us deny what is going on in our lives until the body breaks down in some way and forces us to listen. Taking chemical drugs often lets us continue what we are doing for longer periods of time until the body again says no. When we get sick, it is a way for the body to inform us that something needs to be addressed and that maybe something needs to change.

So how can we listen to the body more? What can we do to help ourselves become healthier and to prevent the body having to tell us in more serious ways? Unwinding the belly explains how we can do this. It reveals the body like a map, guiding and connecting us back into the body, exploring techniques to help the bodys own healing potential. The book is based on years of experience in a variety of bodywork techniques and philosophy, such as massage, cranial sacral work, Shiatsu and breath work; Chi Nei Tsang(internal organ energy transformation) and Qigong which are part of the Taoist approaches to physical and spiritual well-being and a holistic vision common to other models of holistic therapies. The common denominator of all these approaches is that the body is more than just bio-chemical interactions; it vibrates with its own internal energy and consciousness which connects all functions of the body into a harmonious whole when flowing freely.

The authors explain very clearly that the body does know if only we can listen to it and then they proceed to tell us how we can do this, how we can really heal ourselves in the most practical sense. Firstly, and most importantly it is about being present right now and cultivating this awareness through the body. The result of this awareness is to tap into the intuition of the body and mind, which will lead us naturally to better health physically and clearer in our mind and emotions. The focus of this intuition is the belly, the whole area around the navel that contains many of the bodys important organs like the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach, intestines, kidney and bladder. Here is where food is digested and the energy from food is transported to the rest of the body. The authors discuss how much interaction there is between our emotions and what is going on in our body, especially the belly area, how it is a two way street, both affecting the other. The food we put in our body can affects our emotions, and our feeling state can affect how our body functions. This may sound obvious but medicine does not talk about this much and often we forget the obvious. To quote the authors " The center is the physical nexus of the emotions, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. It is the place where we feel our way through life. Unwinding the belly will restore the holistic conversation between the feeling body and the thinking mind. It clears the center of obstruction and allows the free flow of authentic emotion."

The book then explores how to use techniques to cultivate awareness of the body and how these techniques can help heal the body. Great focus is put on learning how to breathe properly, breathing from a conscious place belly breathing - and not just the shallow breathing most of us do most of the time. They explain clearly how you can do this and how simple it can really be to breathe consciously from the belly and connect back with the body. All the techniques they then describe are infused with the knowledge of breathing properly. The first techniques described are using a simple but effective circular massage technique around the navel area, the center of the whole region. The authors state that the body still uses the navel area as a pathway for the influx of nurturing energy. They emphasize going slowly and gently, gradually opening up the body and then describe other physical techniques that explore more deeply the abdominal area.

The authors present the "unwinding" techniques in five phases. In this way, the practitioner can experience the changes as he/she goes along. The book is then like a workbook, to be used as needed and referred to as the techniques are learnt more deeply. Each technique focuses on varying breathing and massage techniques over the whole abdominal region, each one stimulating certain organs, helping digestion and the release of toxins, both physical and emotional, cultivating health and awareness. Some of the techniques even involve the back and the bones. The back and the skeletal structure are integral to the structure of the whole body, including the belly area and awareness of them helps the breath process deepen throughout the whole body.

One of the fascinating things the authors discuss is how powerful simple and gentle touch can be. It is not necessary to push hard, to force the body into one direction or the other, but as the authors describe, to listen, sensing stillness and hearing what is present in the body. If emotions arise whilst working on the belly, then nothing needs to be done but to observe them and watch them come and go.

The book also gives simple but clear descriptions of the main functions of all the abdominal organs. It allows the reader to understand what each organ does, how important each one is to healthy functioning and with the techniques described, how to help the organs function optimally. The effect of the techniques also allow the practitioner to become more aware of how well each organ is functioning, it heightens the awareness of the whole region. There is also a succinct but important description of the importance of good food in ones diet and how so much of the food available today in mainstream markets is bad for us.

The source of the books inspiration though can really be found toward the end with the description of what the authors call "The Inner Voice", that part of the heart and soul of a person that is often suppressed and squashed, constricted within the body, starving for breath. Through the techniques described the authors describe how the heart of a person can be gradually or immediately released, liberating a person from the trappings of lifes traumas, compounded by the fears and doubts that afflict all of us some of the time. Through applying these techniques a person can be freed from these shackles, experiencing the immediacy of life anew, and able to make whatever changes are necessary to express this new-found freedom. The body carries with it all the accumulated memories of our lives, and through awareness of the breath and connection with the body, they can be dropped like bags of coal.

This book then is far more than a just a manual of self-help massage techniques. It goes right to the core of our existence, exploring the possibilities of our body, mind and soul, changing the body from a prison of our unresolved problems to a vehicle of lifes potential. Each breath we take can feed this potential, giving fuel to the body as it makes its way in life, but we have to know how to breathe instead of gasping. This is ultimately what this book offers. It is possible to change. We can take our lives and have the courage to express what is true to us. We do not have to suppress everything into the body until it falls apart on us. All it takes is some courage and a little time and energy. Healing begins from within, not looking at what is wrong without. The authors suggest that it can be done and offer advice how to do it. It should be and is ultimately simple. It seems worth giving a go.

Unwinding the Belly is published by North Atlantic Books and the authors live and practice in San Francisco.