Abdominal Fascia Release – Try This if You Have Digestive Issues or Process Anxiety in Your Gut

Do you have knots in your stomach, process anxiety and stress in your gut or have digestive issues?

The gut is a HUGE and very complicated topic. This post is meant to be a signal in the dark, a stopping point where you might glimpse a piece or two of your own unique “gut” puzzle; and I’ll give you a self-help abdominal release technique you can use to begin chipping away at the tension in your belly.

While this self-help work can be extremely beneficial, if possible I highly recommend that you find someone in your area who does Mayan Abdominal Massage. My entire abdominal region has never felt so light, free and spacious as it did after a massage with someone who specializes in this work.

Before I teach you today’s technique I have a question for you:

Are you listening to your gut?

I had horrible digestive issues for nearly 20 years that often meant I opted out of parties, excused myself from dates and hermitted at home even though I wanted to be around people because it was preferable to be alone than put a fake smile on my face and pretend I felt “normal” when I was really in a lot of pain.

The KEY (for me) to healing my gut wasn’t releasing the fascia in my abdomen.

I’m not going to tell my whole story or we’d be here all day, but essentially this boiled down to two things:

  1. I had not “digested” some of the painful experiences of my early life. I had unprocessed trauma stored in my gut and it was screaming for attention. When I finally faced it, felt and “digested” those experiences…my actual gut digestion changed dramatically for the better (by about 90%, and it’s stayed this way for the past 2.5 years).
  2. I ignored my gut/brain for way too long. When I stopped ignoring my intuitions and instincts and decided to TRUST them implicitly and let them guide me through life…I stopped feeling so much turmoil and tension in my gut.

I believe all the tension, restriction and knots in our bellies are not the actual cause of our gut issues but another “symptom” alongside whatever gut or digestive issues we might be experiencing. Releasing the fascia without addressing the TRUE cause is like trying to fix a leaky faucet by catching the excess water in a bucket.

I’m not a therapist or a digestive health expert, this is simply my own  personal experience and every one of you will have to find your own “right” way to get to the root cause.

The technique I’m about to show you will help in the interim, hopefully bring you some relief and might just get you more in touch with your gut and what it’s trying to tell you.

Fascia and the “second” (or first?) brain:

The gut is often referred to as our “second” brain. I propose it is likely vastly more intelligent than our thinking brain.

We have ten times as many proprioceptors in our fascia as we do muscle fiber.

Proprioception is our ability to feel our physical body in space, and proprioceptors are the nerves that conduct movement by telling muscles to do their job.

Fascia wraps or coats EVERY nerve ending. This includes proprioceptors, but also every other kind of nerve. Consider that we have motor nerves, sensory nerves and autonomic nerves (which regulate breathing, heart beat, digestion etc), and ALL of these converge en masse in our abdominal cavity where there is more going on than anywhere else in the body (except the brain).

The relationship between fascia and the nervous system has not been studied much yet, but I’m betting there will be some major findings in the future about the connection between fascia and how we (as individuals AND as a species) process our entire lives. Every thought, every trauma, every joy, every “butterfly” moment of nervous excitement and every single stressor – all of these experiences are happening in the nerves and FELT by the fascia (the tissue we ‘feel’ the world with).

The fascia then either moves “stuff” (experiences) through us, or…if we’re not moving through our experiences fully, this incredible system of tissues stores them for us so we can address them later.

We probably have more fascia in our gut than anywhere else in the body in large part because of all the nerves there.

The common saying when we’re stressed that “I have knots in my belly” is in fact a good literal description for anyone who processes stress or anxiety in their gut!

If this is you, chances are extremely high you have actual physical knots in your abdomen. Releasing them won’t “fix” whatever it is that’s creating them, but it will hopefully bring you some relief while you work on finding the true cause.

Reasons to release your abdominal fascia:

  • Releasing the restrictions and tightness in the abdomen can bring space and fresh blood to the area, which makes for healthier organs, better breathing and easier digestion.
  • If you process anxiety or stress in your gut, this will help relieve some of that tension.
  • This can help women have less severe cramps during menstruation.
  • This may help with some instances of low back pain and “tight” psoas issues (the “tight” psoas might actually just appear tight because of the extremely knotted up fascia in the abdomen and quad hip flexors pulling the muscle(s) in opposing directions.

Even if you don’t have digestion issues, you might have knots in your belly or benefit from releasing any tightness.

Please watch the video for the tutorial of how to do this work.

Once you’ve watched the video, make sure you’re getting the most out of this work.

Tips for the best result:

  • Make sure you are RELAXED and breathing through this!
  • Every breath you take while doing this work should be relaxed (not forced), using FULL inhales and FULL exhales
  • Find up to 10 tight or knotted spots and focus on each one for about 20 seconds
  • While releasing each spot KEEP YOUR FINGERS MOVING SLOWLY – you don’t want to move fast. Gentle show consistent movement will help break up the fascial knots
  • Spend approximately 3-4 full breaths on each spot before moving to the next
  • You can either “follow” one spot through your entire abdomen or pick and choose up to 10 separate spots that feel worthy of releasing
  • If what you’re doing HURTS, stop. This should feel slightly uncomfortable, and if your belly isn’t relaxed it might be more uncomfortable than it should be, but it shouldn’t HURT. Maybe back off the compression, try a really light touch or change spots.
  • If you find you have extremely an tight/knotted up belly, then try this once a day for a week – after that it’s really up to you how often you do this. As I’ve stated above a number of times, this isn’t meant to be a “fix” for your digestive issues, it’s meant to help you release old knots from stored trauma or unprocessed stress, and/or bring relief to a current experience while you seek out the true cause and find healing at the source.

I want to hear from you! Let me know how this works

If you liked this post please “like” and share it!

  • Roberta says:

    Can this be done on a daily basis? I have so many digestive problems and I have had two abdominal surgeries within a year. I have alot of pain from scar tissue. Do you have any videos on scar tissue release?

    Thanks for all you do.

  • Katie says:

    Instant relief to hip mobility, back tightness and even some digestive stuff. The missing link I needed! Thank you!

  • Mary says:

    Hi, I have had issues with my abdomen and pelvis since I fell in 2012. I had a hysterectomy in 2005. In am in pain most of the time especially when I walk. I tried this and felt a couple of clunks when I pressed certain parts of my abdomen. Is this a good thing or not, it feels a bit looser but still there. Thanks!

  • Jayshree says:

    Hi Elisa,

    I love your work. It’s been helping me feel lighter and brighter since I discovered you on you tube. I have a really tight clicking sensation in the right side of my diaphragm and all the way around to the back of the ribs on the right side. I believe I heard you mention in one of your other videos it could be due to a tight liver fascia. Do you have any suggestions on how to tackle this? I’ve been releasing the diaphragm and now starting the gut after watching this video. Might make a difference but wondered if there’s something in particular for that organ which could help? I love your work and feel so grateful to get to learn from you. Thank you for overcoming the challenges in life that you have as you’re now inspiring me to find my way out of pain too. Thank you again.

    • Hi Jayshree – I recently released a NEW abdominal fascia release technique using a softball, you can find it using the search term “vagus nerve” here on the blog or on YouTube. That one can get into the liver 🙂

  • Gus says:

    Hi! What about the Solar Plexus area, right in the middle of the chest. I have been having pain/knot/contraction for 20 years. I believe it’s connected to trauma. Any tips that can help me? Thanks 🙂

  • What an awesome post. Recently, a doctor suggested that my body acts like it has PSTD. What happened? He asked. Upon reflection I realized some of the reality of that question. Tell me, if you have had 2 abdominal surgeries PLUS a Hiatal Hernia can this technique help? I am, however, going to do it anyway. LOL
    Take care and God Bless you.

  • Carol says:

    I so of had a tear in my eye and heavy heart while listen to you. I too have had gut issue for 30 years. worse now then ever. I get so afraid to explain to y doctor of how I feel and what I go thru at home. I have spend the last three years get some of my house work done in the morning before breakfast because 20 minutes after eating upper legs gets heavy stomach very tight to the point I can’t breath well. The sole of my feet and sometimes the top of my foot tingles numb but no pain. I used a walker outside of my apartment because it takes a lot out of me I am Ok inside as long as I can sit frequently. I need to take a laxative to get relief 2-3 x a week also my blood pressure goes down to normal and then it starts all over again. Yes I turn down all family function no one understands and I hate that all my doctors gives be that blank stare look when I explain my daily symptoms. Taken public transportation, walking and getting to the office and known my stomach is already tight which means high blood pressure it can go up to 180/110 but at home before breakfast or empty stomach in the day time without taken my blood pressure every morning my BP is 120/80. My question is how do you find the knots when the stomach is so tight all over. Do you breath in and out while pressing on area or after you release your fingers. I was watch your hands but you keep moving them as you were talking and couldn’t understand what your fingers was actually doing. One more thing I actually had a MRI of my stomas last year and I just read on my report that my gall l bladder has slugs in the gall bladder my doctor never told me said every then was normal but want me to keep taken zantat etc., I have been on these medication for 10 years or more I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I just want to take a walk around the corner with my arms and leg free of tightness abdomen and shoulder up straight breathing. One other symptom you had to your list with this disorder: Astigmatism of the eye. I am always looking to the side and down to the ground to catch my balance my right eyes is stuck to the side I had 20/20 vision as of two years ago and now I am almost blind if I look forward but I can see when my eye rolls to the side so my focus to the retina is off. I self evaluated my myself one day when I realize my upper face and the side of my eye sock is very sore when my abdomen is very tight .

  • Katherine Adams says:

    Hi Elisha,

    This has been helping my gut issues a lot! I hit on areas that really have a pulse. Is that normal?

    • Awesome to hear that Katherine! And yes, it’s totally normal to feel a strong pulse in certain places. It happens to me when I find an area that’s particularly intense or adhered, and my best guess is that that particular area needs blood a lot to heal and even putting pressure there is redirecting blood flow. But then of course we do have big arteries in the abdominal cavity, and they pass through a lot of the territory that gets contacted with release. But I have found that the more I do this the less I feel that strong pulse…which is what tells me it’s more about how much that area needs blood when it’s restricted. Thanks for asking!

  • Sharon van Staden says:

    Instant relief, thank you.

  • Nina says:

    There is over 60% of your lymph in the abdominal cavity. Some of those are adjacent to the diaphragm so just in the act of breathing you have stimulated the natural flow movement and detoxification..
    In the latest research we have found that by allowing the fascial system to except the connection of hand to area is more effective.
    How to do this is by relaxing with breath .
    What do I mean ?
    For instance, the technique you are using would be more effective if you concentrate on breathing first , allowing your body to sink into the floor and naturally release any tension on expiration sinking further with each breath.
    Allow the hands to sink further into the abdominal cavity with each breath and continue the breathing connection throughout..
    In your mind give yourself permission to let go of tension .
    If you push your way in the chances are that your body will reject connection and push you away fascia will tighten to protect itself ..
    We need to encourage our fascia not to fight back and protect .. that is after all fascias job to protect our systems . We need to build a trust .. if I was to grab you by the arm and say you are coming with me your defence mechanism will pull away right . Fascia does exactly that .
    If I was to offer you my hand and ask you to walk with me the chances are if you felt safe you would be happy to come with no problems in fact you may even jump at the chance and would swing my hand as we walked .. fascia needs an invitation of trust to let you in X breathe away your tension .. calm your systems parasympathetic or sympathetic system .. I know which one I would opt for .. even when jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane ???? enjoy my friends XX

    • I completely agree with you Nina, and I teach exactly that about fascia – one of its jobs is to protect us. And, we can build trust with ourselves and our fascia in many ways, through breath, intention, learning to trust our body. Thanks for sharing.

    • Joy Hanna says:

      Fantastic advice! I’ve recently started working on fascia release all over my body, but the abdomen is especially challenging. I have several small mesh pieces inside that were surgically placed as “preventative” from a possible hernia. I wish I had known what I know now about small abdominal knots, tears, and pain, as I would have refused the surgery. I’m now trying to do what you’ve described, to build trust, so that my fascia stops building up protection and my body can relax into deeper movement and overall release. Thank you for your clear and thoughtful explanation.

  • I love all your videos but found this one particularly interesting. I have never done this technique. I will be using it on a regular basis. Much thanks

  • Brynne Veitengruber says:

    Hello Elisha,
    Thanks so much for you blog and videos, I tried the abdomen release and I thought there was a tight spot under my right rib, when I took my breaths my lower back hurt. I have been having
    Pain in my left hip and lower back. I had knee surgery about 2 years ago and have bee doing PT faithfully ever since, my PT says my left hip is
    Not rotating back fully . I played quite a bit of soccer until my injury got > 30 years, was playing 5-6 times a week in my 20’s and 30/“s. Any ideas?! Thanks so much l!

    • Hey Brynne – I am just now seeing your comment for some reason. I would definitely look at my calf and quad/hip flexor techniques for the knee and low back, as a place to start. I have head to toe solutions for you on this blog. Hope that helps, and thanks for your comment!

  • laura Steptoe says:

    Hi, This looks wonderful and I really hope it works for me. I’m not really sure what a knot feels like though. The whole of my abdomen hurts, particularly after lunch. I’ve been examined by doctors and they can’t figure it out, so it’s nothing serious. It feels like anxiety stomach, but as I said, it’s not in individual places, just everywhere. Please, please help! 🙂

    • Hi Laura – give this technique a try, use gentle pressure and see what happens. A lot of things could explain what you’re feeling: anxiety, emotional tension from stress or trauma, toxicity like heavy metals or pesticides could be a culprit impacting digestion…it’s a long list of possible answers! If you’d like my help I do offer 1-1 phone consultations. I charge $200/hr. If you’re interested, please email [email protected]

  • Paul says:

    This was really good Elisha.
    Thank you.

  • Curtis says:

    It was, thanks a lot Elisha.

  • Curtis says:

    Thanks Elisha, this definitely helps. It feels like it is loosening up and releasing some of the tension or stuck energy in my gut. I would be very interested to hear how you went deeper and released the stuck emotions that were there for you. Please email me the details if you are comfortable in doing so.

    • Hey Curtis – I feel perfectly comfortable sharing more of my story, but it’s not short. It’s essentially my life story 😛 Bottom line though: I had to be willing to FEEL the pain instead of trying so hard to get rid of it, in order to HEAR the message. That message was: “you can’t keep storing those traumatic memories in here or you might get seriously ill.” For a few years I had this distinct feeling if I didn’t heal my trauma and face my deepest demons, I would get cancer, probably colon cancer. I just felt SO much twisted energy in my gut. Healing my trauma is a whole story in itself – you can read some of it in my bio on the website, and some of it in the blog posts about “nervous system patterns” called “Deserving Desires: a nervous system story.” For what it’s worth: while I believe anything is possible and healing rapidly IS possible, when it comes to deeper trauma it can take years, layer by layer, to get through it all. I was able to heal HUGE pieces of my trauma all at once a few times, and in between I was always working on those smaller layers. I believe I’ve healed my worst traumas. Now I just have patterns stuck in my nervous system that I have to re-wire. I have to make different decisions to get a different life. I hope this is helpful! Thank you for asking.

      • Karen Dance says:

        I am at a point where taking charge of my pain in order to heal myself isn’t a chouce, it’s a necessity. Thousands of dollars spent different modalities. I have just starting watching your videos and reading your blogs. Thrilled to have found you. I have been saying for years that my nerves just don’t feel right!
        Karen BC Canada

  • Allison says:

    I love this video, thank you! I really want to try this! When it comes to finding the knots, what exactly should I be feeling for?

    • Hey Allison – you would be feeling for areas of density, and they will be more tender than healthier areas. Definitely use caution, go slowly with this one and don’t “poke” into your belly. Gentle compression and breathing go a long way! Let me know how this works for you 🙂

  • Karl Palsson says:

    Interesting to find this. I will be trying this out in the morning. I wanted for curiosities sake ask if you have experience working with singers with tension in this area.

    • Hi Karl – I don’t have experience with singers in particular around this area. Would LOVE to work with this because I definitely believe it would help! Please let me know what you discover!

  • L says:

    Thanks for the video! I’ve been having my chiropractor adjust my abdomen due to a Hiatal hernia and so much has improved. My anxiety came out and I feel so much better. But any stress tightens up my right side so watching this instruction is great at home maintenance. Thanks again. I’m forwarding this to my brother who I think will benefit from this also.

  • Yael Rachel Camissar says:

    I am so glad I found this post! The past two days I have been feeling so much tension in my stomach muscles (and I have had digestive issues for years), but I didn’t realize how tight my stomach was until I did these exercise – and they have helped me enormously!
    Thank you so much!

  • Mary Anne says:

    Thank you for posting this video. I tried the technique just now and noticed a lot of tenderness all throughout (having a SIBO flare today). After I went all around once, I went back around again and it seemed maybe slightly less tender. One thing I noticed is that whenever I was in the central area, say between my sternum and naval, I noticed a definite throbbing (aorta, I assume). Should I be concerned about this? I also wonder how far away from my belly button I should stay. There definitely seems to be hardness in the area around my belly button, and I don’t know if this this is an area I should work on to soften/break up fascia or an area to be avoided. I actually had an appointment for Maya abdominal therapy a few months ago but cancelled because my SIBO symptoms actually settled down. Of course, the symptoms recurred, as they’re wont to do. I think I could definitely benefit from the therapy, especially since I could stand to be educated about what exactly I’m feeling around my abdomen. Again, thank you for this helpful video.

    • Hi Mary Anne – As long as the pressure you’re using is firm but gentle and NOT digging in or poking into that throbbing sensation I would consider it ok/safe. Definitely use your intuition and caution, and listen to your body! When I do this on myself I feel my heartbeat sometimes, like a throbbing “beat” under my hands and that’s totally normal, and in fact I’ve come to view it as a vital spot that needs restriction (blood is likely trying to rush in to that up until now restricted area). And Mayan abdominal massage is wonderful, definitely give it a try even if you don’t have symptoms of anything! It’ll help you know what to feel for on your own and act as an anti-inflammatory for the gut. Good luck! Elisha

      • Karen wolf says:

        My daughter is going to school at CU Boulder. Would you mind sharing where you got your Mayan massage? I would love to get her an appointment as she is having a lot of discomfort.

  • Peter says:

    Tried and and it works! I was really in need of this. Thank you!

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