Mahanthi Ramaraju
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BELLY BREATHING

In Japan  the concept of Hara is much larger than the simple idea of abdomen and belly. Hara refers to the lower back and abdomen. The Japanese  consider that the vital spirit resides in the Hara, more specifically  at a point a hair's breath below the navel, known as the "Tan-Den".

The Hara  describes the quality of a persons energy - one may have a "good hara" or a "bad hara". All movements and power in Japanese Martial Arts originate from the Hara

The  Oriental thought and medicine health is the first principle without  which disease itself may not be defined. Disease is an out-of-balance  state and an aberration of the harmony of life. 

Health  is the normal and natural functioning of the body and the goal of  ideal treatment. To help to restore harmonious function is to bring  about the state where healing may optimally occur. 

Jackson  Morisawa the Kyudo instructor at Chozen-ji in Hawaii writes:

Hara is  the seat of Life, the centre of intrinsic energy. It is also referred  to as a state of mind in the development of one's character. One who  controls the hara is not likely to loose his balance or composure. Who  has hara does not consume himself or spend himself completely. He  learns to anchor himself in the hara, and can shake off  disturbances  of the body and mind and alternately release himself from the ego and  return to the deeper power of the "original being", the  will is silent, the heart is quiet; and one accomplishes his work  naturally without effort.

 In Budo,  physical strength alone cannot contain the vigorous procedures of  training. Setting the hara, to center oneself by concentrating on the  vital spiritual energy, ki, alleviates one’s difficulty in maintaining vigorous discipline 

The  faculties of hara are also used in other Japanese arts where to put a  flower, when to make the final brush stroke in calligraphy. Using the  hara encompasses within the idea of seeking perfection, or even  enlightenment, through disciplined practice. There is no competition element, for this is an inner, spiritual way. 

Developing  the use of hara can be accomplished through many different media,  meditation, exercise, martial arts, and of course Shiatsu. 

The hara  is a very sensitive and personal area which most of us are not used  to having touched. The hara should be soft, relaxed above the navel,  and full and firm below it.

Sedentary  Living, poor eating and drinking, lack of attention to breathing and  posture contribute to universally weak conditions in the lower hara,  which at the same time mental/emotional strain may lead to diaphragm  tension and a tight upper hara.

The  energy that maintains our vital Life force flows through twelve  meridians, they are a crisscross network of interconnected path ways  which link organs, skin, flesh, muscle and bones in a unified body. 

Each of  the meridians is classified as Yin or Yang depending on which Yin or  Yang organ it is connected with. The flow of energy throughout the  meridinal system follows a specific sequence. Meridians have a protecting role in stopping harmful energies entering (viruses etc.).

Hara  diagnosis is performed by touch diagnosis of the abdominal area.  Pulse diagnosis is a natural method that originated in China, whereas  Hara diagnosis was developed in Japan. In Shiatsu the practitioner is  required to have a sound understanding of his patients mind and spirit. He diagnoses the kuyo-jitsu pattern in a pair of meridians  opposed to acupuncture when the diagnosis is based on one meridian  only. 

In a  hara diagnosis of the meridians in that area the practitioner finds  points that are Kyo and points that are Jitsu. Kyo points have  usually a penetrating stiffness are very sensitive to abrupt manipulation. When Kyo points are attacked the patients body will  contract in order to defend itself. Jitsu points are very easy to  find because they are obviously distorted areas. 

With  tonification we can strengthen the kyo points and dissipate  stagnation or stiffness in the joints Sedation is obtained with an  anti-clockwise pressure to a Tsubo point. 

Toudou,  the master of oriental medicine once said that the hara always comes  first. Applied to Shiatsu one can diagnose the total body condition  and treat it with tonification and sedation. 

To train  the hara one will strengthen the whole body. All body movement  originate from here. The strength or weakness of this area is the  mirror of the body's health. 

Following  is an exercise to power your hara: 
Hara  Breathing
Concentrate  on conception Vessel 6 (three-finger's width below your navel) while  breathing deeply in to the lower abdomen, let your diaphragm come out  as you inhale. Feel the breath being expanded into the depths of the  belly. Exhale, drawing the belly in, letting the energy circulate through to body. The exercise will strength the general condition of  the body.