Put Your Hips Into It

A simple technique for making things a little easier.

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Proper shiatsu-giving is all about working from the hara... the area of the lower abdomen, the center of gravity, and as far as the Japanese are concerned, the seat of intuition (referred to in the west as our 'gut feelings').

From the perspective of good body mechanics, when treating someone, you always want to keep your hips close to and directly aligned with what your hands are working on.

I forget this sometimes, and will find myself straining in odd positions, or extending just a little too far beyond my reach.

When my body says, "Hey.. um, ouch..?", most times, all I'll have to do is torque my lower body slightly so my hara is facing what I'm doing, and it's like a palpable "click"... back strain disappears, arms are relaxed, and I'm back in control of myself.

I've created a shorter distance between my hands, which are listening, and my center, which is interpreting and guiding.

Working from the hara means that it is mostly driving the pressure. In other words, I'm not pushing into someone with my fingers or even my arms and shoulders. My hands simply become and remain an extension of my center, which not only informs me much more intelligently about how to proceed, but feels infinitely better for the person on the mat.

Hara de ... kangaroo???

No, silly. Hara de kangauru is a Japanese phrase meaning, "to think with one's hara".

And hara de yam, is "to act from hara".

This is a key precept not only of shiatsu, but in the martial art of Aikido.

We may think of this primarily in terms of the dynamic of acting in relation to another person, but at the heart is the discipline of mastering one's own energy and staying in center.

It's about not allowing yourself to be pulled away from the task at hand by meandering thoughts, multi-tasking, other people's agenda and dramas.

Commit the hips and the mind will follow.

There's the straightforward physical lesson here... that of good posture and body mechanics.

If you're currently sitting at your desk, notice your body. Where are your hips in relation to what you're working on? Are you sitting straight with feet on the floor, or are your legs crossed or off to the side?

Shift yourself in various positions for brief periods of time as you work on a task ... whether at your desk, or washing dishes, or talking with someone. Notice what happens to your attentiveness as you either fully face or move away away from what you're dealing with.

Let's get engaged!

Then there's the life lesson.

Interesting to note that the second chakra, the one dealing with being present in your own body, is located in the center of the hara, the dan tien.  When you bring your awareness to your hara, and you bring it into the conversation, you are essentially saying to whatever or whomever: "Here I am. I'm paying full attention. I am present."

And when you are present and engaged, everything seems to flow, does it not?

Try it for a day. For an hour. Get up and right now and move about your space, walking, standing, lifting, reaching, interacting.. all with the intention of "hara de yam"... acting from the hara.

Need a visualization?

Picture your lower abdomen in 3-D. See your pelvis structure as a bowl holding a ball of light or energy. This is your hara. Place your hands on the place below your navel. Take a few breaths, allowing this area to expand with each inhalation, and imagine the ball of light glowing brighter with each breath.

Imagine the ball having weight, and stand with your knees loose, bouncing a little to allow yourself to sink in the ground and root with the hara's solidity.

Shift your weight from side to side. Now try moving around the room again with this awareness.

Are you feeling it?

**As Gina's mind goes wandering off on tangents, she wonders if there's more than just coincidence between 'kangauru' and kangaroo... given that the hara/dan tien/second chakra is the area where babies gestate, and where marsupials, such as kangaroos, carry their young. Hmmmmmm.....