Hara Treatment & Shiatsu

While traveling throughout the US and Europe teaching shiatsu for many years, I began to notice the diminishing role of hara in the development of mainstream shiatsu education. I was surprised at the lack of vitality of the hara when watching students work. They were often not working from their own hara, and they were treating without penetrating application. There was also scant emphasis on personal training for hara health. In Zen Shiatsu, a branch of shiatsu created by Shizuto Masunaga, the hara became almost exclusively used for a very light touch diagnosis of other systems of the body. 

It seemed like students were not integrating what they did learn about hara treatment. Some were afraid to touch the hara and I often saw little change in receivers’ ki (energy) as a result of hara treatment. Some receivers did not want to have their hara touched at all during treatment. Hara is one of the most important aspects of healing in bodywork. Working with it promotes transformation into a state of well being, centeredness and a perspective that brings things in life into balance. Without a thorough knowledge and training in hara treatment, students were missing out on a powerful opportunity for themselves and their clients.

When I began studying shiatsu with the Japanese teachers, like Shizuto Masunaga, Michio Kushi, and Ohashi, they all emphasized that treatment revolves around the hara. They talked about how life comes from and is a reflection of the hara. Shiatsu training not only included hara technique as a central element, it also strongly focused on the development of the practitioners own hara. The education included dietary awareness, strong physical exercise and philosophy that awakened the multi-dimensional meaning of hara. It was as much a spiritual training as it was a technical vocational training.  

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Many of the Asian teachers that first presented shiatsu to the west gave very strong and vigorous treatments that were directed by a whole body view with organ, meridian and tsubo considerations in a supportive role. The goal of these treatments was to restore balance and fluidity to the ki flow and to encourage the the body/mind/spirit to discharge toxic qualities of a physical, emotional and vibrational nature. This kind of treatment came to be considered too provocative for the western appetite. Gradually this approach was westernized, modified, and distilled to meet the needs of the clients’ capacity for challenge and change.

Over time the role of hara was diminished, both in treatment application and practitioner education. People began limiting the use of hara to kyo/jitsu diagnosis. Shiatsu education became more conceptual and intellectual. It started to emphasize the development of acupuncture theory instead of developing and evolving the the most important quality of the practice - the manual, physical aspect: touch and pressure. This trend has almost overshadowed what was of utmost importance in early shiatsu and it’s origins: awakening the hara in the practice, in the condition of the practitioner, and in the life flow of the healing arts community.

Hara is a microcosm of the whole environment: our local landscape, the air we breathe, the water we drink. We can also see the hara as a microcosm of the larger physical and spiritual universe. By spiritual I am referring to the world of vibration, not beliefs or religion. In the taoist practice of chi kung, the hara is open to exchange with all the physical and vibrational forces of nature - air, ocean, geographical landscapes, mountains, trees, environmental entities.

Environments themselves have a frequency range and ‘personality.’ Often particularly powerful centers are areas where civilizations develop and grow. Cities, towns and countries flourish where there is a strong flow of ki. It is interesting to walk in a major city and feel the vibrational vortex circulating through all of the buildings, people and activities. Why does a city develop in one place and not another? There are particular characteristics that create access, movement, and resources to feed the creation of that place. There are other areas where civilizations tried to develop, but they withered and stagnated because they lacked the right energetic flow. 

 
Treating the hara is one of the most potent tools to improve a person's condition.

Treating the hara is one of the most potent tools to improve a person's condition.

 

When we touch someones hara, we can feel their personal history and their environment coming through, depending on our experience. A person’s whole story is in their hara. Working with it gives us one of the best opportunities to listen to and understand who they are. It can transform the health of their organs, emotions and life system. Treating the hara is one of the most potent tools we have as practitioners to improve a person's condition and assist them in the initiation of changes that will lead to engaging in present time with vibrant awareness and health. 

We welcome your comments & questions below. 


For more information about our online video courses in hara treatment, please click on the button below:


Hara: A Path to Realization

Vision of Life ≠ LIfe

We all have ideas, dreams and projects. We have a vision of how we want our life to be. However, there is usually a disconnect between how our reality is actually playing out in real time and what our inner visions look like. Maybe there is that rare person whose total image of how they want their life to be matches their actual circumstances, but most people experience some degree of gap between their vision and their current life scheme. For many clients this is in the mix of reasons as to why they come for treatments. 

They might say ‘I have back pain’, ‘my digestion is not good’ or ‘I’m depressed.’ But as you get to know them a little better, you discover that the inability to create the experience that they desire is a strong force behind what is going on in their life that is making them unhappy. Many of the things that are bothering them physically or emotionally are actually symptoms of this disconnect. There is festering frustration and discontent with the difference between what they envision for their life and what they actually experience, and how that feels day in and day out.

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In other words, what they dream is not what they experience. Not the dream while sleeping, but the inner semi-conscious dream we have while we are awake. If there is an extreme disconnect, the inner dream becomes fantasy. The closer the dream comes to what is actually happening in the daily life, the less a person fantasizes, and the more engaged and creative the person becomes with what they are doing.

 

 

 

The Role of Hara in Manifestation

The hara plays a large role in translating our ideas, images, and dreams into physical reality. There are several aspects of hara that contribute to this activity of manifestation. First of all, it is the physical seat of our digestive system, which converts food into usable fuel for our body to function and act in the world. The hara transforms food into energy so that we can act, so that we can carry out our visions on the physical plane. The hara also holds the reproductive organs, which function to spark and create new life in manifested form.

Another factor in the hara’s function to translate dreams into reality it that it is the energetic center and physical component of the Conception Vessel meridian, an electromagnetic current which runs up the front of the body. The word conception is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both.’

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When the Conception Vessel meridian is flowing with strength and balance, it gives the capacity for visions to begin forming into third dimensional reality through a process of fertilization. Ideas become pregnant. They enter the phase of developing into a fully matured form. I am working from the unique premise that the hara is the most direct way to diagnose and treat the Conception Vessel and effect this capacity. It makes sense that when the Conception Vessel is flowing well, our ability to conceive is enhanced.

 

A third factor that contributes to the hara’s role in manifestation is related to the hip structure. I consider the hip structure as the bony aspect of the hara, and the hip joints as the mechanism that set the hara into motion. The hara and its motion are prominent factors in moving our intentions into the life sphere; they play an strong role in determining what unfolds there. 

 
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So to summarize, the health of the hara is related to our ability to manifest our visions because of the close relationship it has with the following aspects of the body:

  1. Digestive & reproductive systems
  2. Conception Vessel meridian
  3. Pelvic structure & hip joints

When we work with clients and treat the hara, it becomes more clear, strong and balanced. The organs begin to function better. Circulation and oxygenation of tissues is increased. The flow of the Conception Vessel meridian improves, and the mobility and alignment of the hip structure improve. The hara can now better do its job to translate images and intentions into the physical plane, and a person’s ideas about their life and their life itself begin to have a more direct correlation. 


 

Improve your practice with online video courses in hara treatment. Click the button below for more information:

 

Hara Technique: Pumping Up the Hara

This technique is very good for bringing energy to the lower hara. This area becomes weak from excessive sitting, poor diet, lack of walking, and lack of other leg movements. Lower hara weakness will cause poor elimination, organ stagnation, and stiffness in the hips, and will also contribute to sexual and urinary weakness.

Using this pumping technique creates powerful stimulation in the body. Because it increases circulation and chi in such a strong way, do not use it under the following conditions:

  • • pregnancy
  • • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • • Crone's disease or diverticulitis

We welcome your comments and questions below!

 

Please note:  This video is from our new online shiatsu class "Hara: Traditional Techniques".  For more information, please click on the button below:

Hara Treatment: The Essence of Traditional Shiatsu

What is Hara?

Hara is a Japanese word.  Anatomically, it refers to the region of the abdomen, but it means much more than that.  Hara is the center of a person, not only physically, but also energetically.  Some believe it to be "the spiritual center of the soul and the body’s life processes" (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hara).  

Hara massage is the most important aspect of a traditional shiatsu treatment.  When I was learning shiatsu, hara was always in the center of discussions about theory, technique and treatment development.  During the last few decades, the tendency in shiatsu training has moved towards using the hara to diagnose the rest of the body systems, rather than doing diagnosis and treatment of the hara.  Any pressure that is used in the hara is usually very light.  Although this type of work has great value, there is something else to be added that also has great value:  hara treatment that uses deep, penetrating contact.

 
 

When someone receives traditional hara treatment, many things occur in the body.  Circulation is stimulated, digestion strengthens, absorption & blood quality improve, oxygenation of tissues occurs.  Hormonal function steps up, reproductive organs awaken and sexual energy receives a boost.  The flow of Conception Vessel, the meridian that energizes our ability to materialize our thoughts and dreams, is increased.  The physical and energetic benefits are tremendous!  We are enthusiastic to inspire you to expand your hara work so that you can enjoy the benefits it can bring you and your clients.  

 

Strong Hara Treatment = Strong Practice

If you want to have a thriving practice, learn how to give a good, strong hara treatment.  Why?  Because a traditional hara treatment will change every client's condition for the better.  It is one of the most direct ways to improve someone's health.  When you give treatments that clearly bring more vitality, clarity and resilience to someone's life, as strong hara work does, you will attract more clients. 

Many practitioners shy away from applying penetrating technique to the hara.  There are many reasons for this:

  1. Shy of New Territory - Practitioners are sometimes shy to work on clients' haras because it is new territory. Most clients are not familiar with this kind of bodywork and are cautious to have this area of their body touched, especially in a deep way.

  2. Fear of Causing Harm - Many manual therapists are fearful that applying pressure to the hara will hurt their clients. They don't feel confident in applying the techniques because they have not been educated in the application and effect of this work.

  3. Benefits are Unknown - The tremendous benefits of traditional hara treatment are not that well known these days. Even when students learn some basic hara work, they often fail to incorporate it into their treatments due to a lack of understanding of its true potential.

  4. Lack of Education - The therapeutic importance of hara treatment is often overlooked in teaching curriculums. Most shiatsu programs have simply stopped including traditional hara work as part of their classes. Working with the hara more as a diagnostic tool, and a dominance of meridian study and treatment, has become the new normal. Therefore, many manual therapists have simply not learned how to treat the hara.

Because these factors, most bodywork practitioners miss out on one of the most effective ways of building a strong practice.  And people seeking out bodywork miss out on one of the most powerful ways to improve their physical, emotional and psychological well-being - hara treatment!

 

An Opportunity for Practitioners and Clients

Learning how to give traditional hara treatment is one of the best opportunities for practitioners to help clients and improve their practice.  The good news is that most of the techniques themselves are not physically complex.  They don't require extensive positioning, diagnosis or technical skill.  Whereas some bodywork skills require months/years of practice to begin to use effectively, you can learn these techniques in a relatively short amount of time.  Hara work is also easy to integrate into any type of bodywork treatment.  

What hara treatment DOES require is the ability to listen, to observe, to be responsive.  Of course this is not always easy and requires great skill.  If you want to be an effective practitioner who facilitates transformation, you need to be clear, healthy and aware.  You need to keep developing yourself.  Keeping your own hara clear and strong is an important part of that journey.  So eat good quality food, chew it well, and do some Do-In (self shiatsu) on your own hara if you know how.

Traditional hara treatment is not just about the techniques.  It encompasses a whole cosmology.  Each individual is seen as a microcosm of the universe, and the hara is seen as a microcosm of a person's whole life.  By working with this part of the body, you are helping shift a person's whole being towards wholeness, vitality, and balance. 


For more information on our 2 online courses on hara treatment, please click on the links below: