The Joy of Ampuku (an introduction)

Mmmm, sounds interesting … and a bit like a dodgy ‘70’s book.  Well, now that I have your attention ….

Ampuku is a very ancient form of abdominal massage.  So, why is it so good?  Firstly, it would be helpful to briefly explain the “lay of the land”.

Ampuku works on what is known in Japanese medicine as the Hara, and the word does not have a simple and straight-forward meaning.

Physically speaking, this is the area of the soft abdomen, an octagonal’ish shape starting from below the sternum, radiating out along and below the border of the rib cage toward the waist, then down to the hip (ileum) bones and toward the centre running above the pubic bone.

Within this area, toward the centre (to be precise, 3 fingers-width below the belly button on the medial line), is an acupoint (known as tsubos in Japanese) which is widely understood to be the central energy point of the body from which all energy (Ki in Japanese, Qi/Chi in Chinese) radiates … and that’s as far as I’m going with this central tsubo in this article.  I may revisit it in more detail at a later date, but you get the point that it’s quite an important area.

The thing with the wider Hara (from here on, “Hara” will be the abdominal area, not the central tsubo … oh, it gets complicated!), is that ALL meridians (some in their extended form) flow through the Hara, so it is therefore a really good therapeutic area to work with … as long as you know what’s what and where it flows!

Ampuku is part of shiatsu, and, as with all shiatsu forms (yes, there are few), it doesn’t just work with the physical being, it also interacts with the psyche - a catch-all term denoting the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects.  Think about it, when you are really upset or anxious, where do you usually feel it?  In your abdomen.  There are many sayings that allude to this, the most obvious being “butterflies in your tummy”.  And, as in many situations, that which affects the psyche, translates, or manifests, in the physical – in this case, normally a pressing desire to visit the smallest room!

So, how can Ampuku help?

The most obvious is with stress and anxiety, IBS, constipation (or the other way), anything gastro-intestinal for that matter, but it can also help to centralise us, it is very useful for giving mental clarity.  Oddly enough, it can be an effective way to treat joint stiffness, shoulder pain, backache and headaches, because what manifests in the body is often reflected in the Hara.  It is also good to move the visceral organs about anyway, there is a Chinese saying (and I paraphrase heavily) “jiggling the organs daily leads to longevity of a healthy life”, and this makes perfect sense, a stuck, or jammed-up abdomen can be really painful, a free abdomen makes for a happy life!

We all live such busy lives, we spread ourselves very thinly, and Ampuku can help to draw us back to our centre, reconnect us with our most central energy, and it therefore acts to recharge us, we recover our wellness and life force.  Because all meridians flow through the Hara, working with this area helps to rebalance us throughout, takes us away from our heads, and brings us more to our intuitive self.

So, next time you have a grumbling tummy…