What is the Difference between Mayan Abdominal Massage and Chi Nei Tsang?

This question is brought up frequently at our massage studio, where we specialize in abdominal massage. Although I do not practice Mayan Abdominal Massage, I am a long-time recipient of this beautiful work and have benefited from it greatly. And, as a Chi Nei Tsang (CNT) practitioner, I have often noted similarities between these two incredible modalities. With a common goal of increased vital circulation and the freeing of stagnation from our internal organ systems, both marry the power of physical touch and visceral manipulation with subtle energetic attunement. They both allow for enhanced digestive, emotional, reproductive and musculoskeletal health by purging toxins and tonifying organs. In many ways, they seem more similar than disparate, especially in their overall goals. Yet, despite having similar intentions and outcomes, there are some notable differences between the two.

Firstly, one of the main differences is that Mayan Abdominal Massage tends to focus predominantly on the reproductive system, with an emphasis on enhancing fertility. In fact, it is most commonly known for its ability to realign a displaced or tipped uterus. The uterus plays a major role in traditional Mayan healing and can be seen as the core of a woman’s health. Chi Nei Tsang is the ‘physical branch’ of the Universal Healing Tao, which is rooted in the ancient healing traditions of Taoism from China.  Rather than working on the muscular or skeletal structures, Chi Nei Tsang focuses on the vital organs as a whole, helping to unwind tension from the navel outwards and purify the cells of physical and emotional toxins.  It’s primary focus is relieving the body of excess stagnation, while improving elimination and stimulating the lymphatic and the circulatory systems. Chi Nei Tsang has also been known to strengthens the immune system and is beneficial for people seeking relief from digestive issues.  Although Chi Nei Tsang can be used effectively to help increase fertility and reposition a uterus, it is more commonly used for its focus on digestive health and abdominal/ pelvic pain relief, as well as in balancing the colon and small intestine.

Another difference between the two practices is that Mayan Abdominal Massage is most often performed as a routine, or a sequence of techniques, that are repeated on a regular basis (perhaps weekly, biweekly or monthly) to bring balance back to the body. As a recipient, I look forward to the familiar and harmonizing work that leaves my body feeling so open and renewed. A Chi Nei Tsang session is structured differently in that there is not a prescribed routine, and each appointment will be quite uniquely tailored to meet the particular needs of the recipient’s body as it varies from session to session. For instance, a treatment could be centered on freeing the diaphragm to allow the liver and stomach to release, or on decompressing the sacrum to lessen tension in the lower pelvic organs, or on unwinding the coils of the small intestine; it all depends on what our clients come in with. For instance, a female client with IBS symptoms who also happens to be menstruating may require very gentle and subtle touch due to increased inflammation, but still can benefit from direct work to the colon and small intestine.

Both Chi Nei Tsang and Mayan Abdominal Massage  address structural (i.e. muscular and skeletal) components of a body while also restoring organ vitality. Something that I have not yet come across in Mayan Abdominal work, but that I use regularly in CNT, is a method called detoxifying the skin. Many physical and energetic impurities can be retained on the skin, especially in the central abdominal region. These impurities can be released through specific methods of stretching and manipulating the skin’s outer tissues. If an energetic or visceral boundary is encountered while trying to work directly on the organs, this means it is necessary to detoxify the skin. This will soften the entire fascial network of the abdomen and allow for deeper work with the release of what is known as guarding. Guarding is protective mechanism in which soft tissues of organs or muscles become tense; the resulting protective layers must be soothed for deeper organ work to be effective.

In closing, we believe that nearly everyone could benefit from abdominal massage – regardless of the lineage it originates from, or the techniques that are involved (even if it’s self-massage at home!).   The best method for identifying which modalities are best for you, is to try them and see which ones your body responds to the most.