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.

walter.mitty.vision.hara

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.’

conception.vessel.hara.baby

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:

 

Facial Diagnosis - an introduction

Facial diagnosis is an important tool for a shiatsu practitioner. Learning how to read the face to diagnosis the condition of the organs can give valuable information about how to craft a client's treatment. This video is a short introduction to this healing art. It is part of an online shiatsu course called 'Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems.' For info & enrollment, please click on the button beneath the video.

 

 
 

This video is part of an online course called 'Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems.' For info & enrollment, please click on the link below:

Treatment of the Ileocecal Valve

The Ileocecal valve lies at the juncture of the small and large intestines. This valve often gets stuck open, disrupting movement of waste material into the large intestine. This technique helps to strengthen this area of the body and restore its proper function. 

This video is part of the online course called "Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems." For info & enrollment please go to the link:
Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems.

Many people today have digestive challenges, including constipation, bloating, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis, leaky gut, Crohn's or Celiac Disease, diabetes, gall stones, or cancer somewhere in the digestive tract. The techniques that you will learn in this course are powerful tools to address these ailments and assist clients in recovering digestive strength and balance. Some of them are original to this work, while others have a long tradition of use.
 

 
 
 

This video is part of the online course called "Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems." For info & enrollment please click on the button below:

 

Hara: the path to manifestation

Vision of Life = Life?

We all have ideas, dreams and projects. We have visions 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.

 
life-purpose-and-vision-2.jpg
 

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.

 

Hara is the translator

The hara plays a large role in translating 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. It also holds the reproductive organs, which function to spark and create new life.

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:

  1. ‘The process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both’ or 
  2. ‘The capacity, function, or process of forming or understanding ideas or abstractions or their symbols.’ 

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. The Hara is the most direct way to diagnose and treat the Conception Vessel and effect this capacity.

 

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 boney aspect of the hara, and the hip joints as the mechanism that set the hara into motion. The hara and its motion are a large factor in moving our intentions into the life sphere and so play a role in determining what unfolds there. 

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 hip structure gains mobility and alignment. The hara can better do its job to manifest images and intentions into the physical plane, and so people's visions about their life and their actual life itself begin to have a more direct correlation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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7 Principles of Shiatsu & the Soul of a Practitioner

Shiatsu has evolved over the years in how it is taught and practiced.  Some of the original power of this ancient healing art has been lost due to an emphasis on specialization and certification.  Although more contemporary methods of treatment, technique and diagnosis are very valuable, it is important to also integrate the original principles of shiatsu into your practice so that receivers and practitioners can reap its full benefits. Please read below about the 7 core principles of shiatsu.

 

1. Whole Body “Ki”

Original shiatsu diagnosis was very simple. The practitioner started by viewing the whole body as energy or “ki” (also called 'chi') and assessing the receiver in simple terms. Here are some examples of how the ki might be described:

  • stuck ki
  • dispersed ki
  • ki doesn’t move
  • yin or yang ki
  • heavy ki
  • weak ki

A practitioner could use any “impression” of ki that characterized the overall energy of the person.

 
shiatsuwholebodyki
 

The treatment approach was often times simple and based around balancing the overall condition of the client. A shiatsu practitioner might say “If ki doesn’t move make it move” or “If ki is too dispersed then bring together & ground the ki.” The treatment might also include one or two specific targets, such as addressing the condition of an organ or body system.

Over the last 25 years shiatsu has moved much more towards details and specific diagnosis; sometimes the original spirit of a ‘ki oriented” shiatsu treatment is lost to conceptual exercises.  Learning to see whole body ki can bring more potency to the practice, and enliven it with the original spirit of shiatsu.*  

* Please click here for more information about our online instruction course in traditional shiatsu.  

 

2. A Person’s Ki Reflects the Sum Total of Their Environment & Way of Life.

The Ki of the whole body is like a fabric made of different threads. A person internalizes the forces and qualities of the world with which they interface and becomes a matrix of ki that reflects those influences. Some of the forces that compose the whole body ki are:

Life Energy

Life Energy

  • Environment
  • Food
  • People
  • Beliefs/ dialogue
  • Emotions
  • Language
  • Events

 

 

 

Seeing and having empathy for the forces that have formed a person's ki matrix, including the imbalances, helps a shiatsu practitioner direct his or her technique in a way that allows the treatment to reach the basic core of the receiver's needs.

 

3. The Body Has the Power to Heal Itself

In Shiatsu, we use touch to enliven the body's natural ability to heal itself. Shiatsu stimulates the the body’s healing power in two main ways:

  1. The treatment stimulates ki, which then activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This activates the regenerative functions of the body, including the immune system.
  2. The stimulation of ki also encourages the body to purge itself of life suppressing toxins and stagnating debris that has been stored in the body over time. This process is called “discharge."  It can cause the symptoms of a condition to temporarily get worse. After the the discharging process has subsided, a person feels much better and more alive, because the body is clearer and can perform the life functions with less interference.

Old school practitioners therefore felt that a treatment was very effective if the client became sick afterwards. This can be difficult for westerners to accept.  But these traditional practitioners understood that before healing takes place, the symptoms can appear to increase and that this is a very positive sign.

shiatsu-discharge

We can also transpose the idea of discharge to transformation of emotional patterns and beliefs that undermine a person's health and happiness. When the physical body changes, these things change as well.  As that occurs, the life system can temporarily recreate situations that imitate the ones the formed the patterns in the first place.

 

 

4. The Spiritual Development of the Practitioner

Originally, shiatsu trainings were centered around the the physical, emotional and spiritual development of the student. Technique was often secondary. Classes always included exercises and practices for the personal growth of the aspiring healer. The training emphasized obtaining the strength, flexibility, and the awareness needed to navigate life and its’ challenge of constant change.

Many of the practices also focused on developing the perception of vibration, and the effect it has on our individual and collective lives. Practices such as chanting, aura clearing, palm healing, and activating chakras were used to give the future practitioner the health, vitality and perception for an effective, successful practice.

Please click here to listen to a lecture about the vibrational meaning of the word 'shiatsu' and learn more about what it represents.  

 
 

There were also techniques given for healing ancestors. This added greater depth to emotional and mental clarity. Shiatsu was ultimately presented as a way of life. A person needed to practice and develop themselves to acquire well rounded skills, experience and knowledge. Their practice was seen as a reflection of their own condition.

These may be difficult ideas for people to understand in our contemporary career-oriented society. Now many students want to go to school only to get a certificate. They pay their fees and feel entitled to have classes on their terms and to have the standards lowered to their expectations. Traditionally the right to practice was determined by the students dedication to the process and the fulfilling of the many unseen requirements that really create a qualified healing practitioner.* Originally, shiatsu was a path of service and self realization.

 

5. Beginner's Mind

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Beginner's Mind is the foundation of a shiatsu practitioner's attitude. Approaching each situation (treatment) as a blank page waiting to be filled in gives the possibility to see a situation clearly and accurately. Beginner's mind takes off the filters that tend to distort and prejudge what we are actually seeing.

At the same time, there is great value to protocols, systems and conceptual knowledge. These serve as structure for learning and developing skills. However, although protocol has an organizing effect on treatments, it must ultimately give way if we want to see each client as they are and allow their uniqueness to create the treatment map.

What we learn by exercising beginners’ mind in our sessions transposes into one of the most important lessons for being in the moment and enjoying life.

 

6. Hara is the LIfe Center

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Originally, hara was presented as much more than a diagnosis vehicle. It was taught as a very potent treatment element that initiates deep healing and change. Hara was presented as the life center and a microcosm of a person's universe.**

The development of a practitioner meant an evolving awareness of hara. It meant creating a strong physical hara through training as well as a metaphysical understanding that hara is the key to centeredness in life, relations and purpose. Hara is not really something to be talked about. It is an experience of connection to nature and the earth. 

** Please click here to read about our video instruction course in traditional hara treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Energy Follows Intention and Attention

A shiatsu practitioner learns to direct energy with intention

A shiatsu practitioner learns to direct energy with intention

Shiatsu is a practice of balancing ki. We move ki, calm ki, activate ki, soften ki, etc. We use our perception of energy and vibration to harmonize unequal forces of the clients ki to improve their state of well being. In life, we can use consciously formed intention to direct energy in order to create the circumstances we desire. In treatment, we can form our intention to direct energy where and how we want it to flow within the receiver's body.

Intention creates an atmosphere that supports the practitioner in their work and the client in their healing. Attention is where we focus our ki. Whatever our attention goes to, is magnified and becomes bigger in proportion. Often we see clients who have many good things in their lives, but they are focusing on the 10-15% that may be difficult. Therefore the 10-15%, in real space and time, dominates their life and appears to be 50-90% of their reality.

At the soul level, clients are the ultimate mirror for the healing practitioner who is walking the spiritual path. The people and clients we attract in our lives have the problems and habits that reflect our own on some level. Shiatsu practitioners are not curing people.  They are entering into a partnership during the treatment that encourages the innate healing power of all involved to awaken. This is where we can set our intention and focus our attention.


* For more information about our video instruction course in traditional shiatsu, please click on the link below:

Hara Translates the Dream - clip from Conception Vessel/Hara Course

This is a short clip from a Conception Vessel & the Hara course taught at the International School of Shiatsu in Doylestown, PA in May 2015.  Saul Goodman is discussing the role of the hara as the translator of Governing Vessel information (i.e. our visions, inspirations & dreams). Hara treatment facilitates life force flow through the hara, through the organs, and through the Conception Vessel pathway.  As the hara begins to function at a higher capacity, this assists a person to actualize their dreams and visions and inspirations into their daily three dimensional reality.