Hello beautiful friends,
"It is a continual source of wonder how sinking into and yielding to his deepest level of being results
all at once in a transformation and deepening of the meaning-content of every situation in life,
as well as the possibility of his mastering it and how everything thus acquires a new perspective."
Karlfried Graf Durckheim, "The Vital Centre of Man"
It's the middle of the year and I'm excited to bring to you today's blog on the "Centre". I'm loving reading this book mentioned above. After several decades of experiencing the profound ramifications of practicing "centering" I'm just delighted to continue to find more and more references to the Centre as the place of self- mastery. And I'm thrilled to be exploring the concept with clients and yoga students, incorporating it more deeply into my services through both individual sessions and the very popular Yoga & Posture Workshop.
I'll share with you today a glimpse of some of the ways in which being centred can positively impact your health and wellbeing and show you three exercises to start you on your journey towards being centred. Firstly though, some of you are probably wondering just what the Centre is, so here's a brief description for those who are unfamiliar with the term.
The centre lies approximately 2-3 centimetres below the navel. In women, it lies just above the uterus which is about 5 centimetres below the navel. In the west it's the centre of gravity and in the East it's known as the centre of energy. The Chinese call is the Tan Tien (pronounced "Dan Dien"), translated as "the field of elixir" and in Japan it is highly revered as the "Hara".
In yogic terms it's known as the "Nobhu" and is considered to be the central point where all the 72,000 nadis (energy lines) running through the body, intersect. This understanding and philosophy in particular clearly suggests the potential for the Centre to influence the state of our entire body-mind.
"Samana jayaat jvalanam".
Patanjali, Yoga Sutra: 41
By acquiring mastery over samana [at the centre] a yogi glows with radiance.
The Centre is intrinsically linked with lower back and spinal health, core strength, digestion and metabolism, respiration, circulation and many other bodily functions, but much more than that, through the body-mind relationship, has subtle and far-reaching affects on our emotions, attitudes and state of mind. Here's some of the holistic benefits of practicing being centred and make sure you read on to discover the three exercises you can do every day to help your radiance shine.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING CENTRED
Having a sense of your centre is perhaps the greatest contributing factor for lumbar spine health and freedom from injury and degeneration. "Being centred" intrinsically requires a degree of healthy abdominal tone and balanced posture, two factors which greatly contribute to the creation and maintenance of a healthy lumbar spine.
Also the centre lies at the direct level of the junction between the lumbar spine and the pelvis, arguably the most vulnerable and the most important part of our spine. Whatever the state of this junction, whether it's mobile or rigid, strong or unstable, balanced or imbalanced in relation to gravity, it affects the alignment, balance, integrity and function of the whole spine and every joint in the body. So in terms of spinal healing, health and longevity getting in touch with our centre is the place to start.
When you're centred your body is more relaxed and able to function with greater efficiency. This arises because the act of centering recruits your deep postural muscles in a holistic way. These muscles work together synergistically to support your weight and alignment from the inside out which creates less tension in the superficial dynamic muscles. And we all know that less tension equals greater relaxation.
The centre is the true foundation of the body. The act of centering fosters greater strength in all the muscles in the abdomen and pelvic area, providing almost total support for holding the body upright. Hence the upper body has little work to do, which creates greater freedom and openness in the chest and liberates the breath.
Centering also draws your awareness downwards promoting softening of the shoulders, less activity of the upper accessory muscles of respiration and activation of the diaphragm, the primary muscle of respiration.
Sense of Balance
The centre is the balance point for your body's gravity field and energy field. Hence the centre literally helps you to feel balanced within yourself and to maintain balance not only physically, but mentally and in your life. And we all need that! When we're up in our heads and focussed on the innumerable tasks involved in daily life it's common to be disconnected from our body especially the lower realms. If instead we bring awareness to our lower body through the centre, we become less reactive, more measured and wiser in our thought-making processes and decisions.
I could go on and on, but in the interests of simplicity I'll leave it at this for today. Let's have a look now at the three ways you can bring awareness to your centre into your daily life and start to energise this esoteric and potent place.
ACTIVATE YOUR CENTRE
1. Pelvic Breathing
This exercise flow promotes mobility of the centre at the lumbo-pelvic junction. It helps you to feel the position of the centre relative to your stomach, lumbar spine and pelvis.
In forward stance, place your hands on your lower thighs or knees;
Inhale lift your tailbone and arch your back into a concavity;
Exhale, tuck your tailbone under and lift your abdomen up towards your lumbar spine to round your back into a convexity.
Repeat slowly either flowing from one to the other with each breath. However if you find your coordination isn't happening easily, then hold each position for 3 breaths amplifying the appropriate action for each inhale or exhale.
2. Wall Squat
This practice helps you to activate the deep abdominal muscles which lie over the centre and provide support and strength. It also relaxes the lower back and releases overly active lumbar spine muscles.
Stand with your feet apart, your knees over your feet and your back to a wall. Take you tailbone down until your lower back either approximates or touches the wall.
Place your hands below your navel over your lower abdomen.
Inhale, relax and release your lower abdomen.
Exhale and gently draw your abdomen inwards and backwards towards your lumbar spine and pelvis.
Repeat for several minutes taking breaks to simply stand and feel the alignment this pose creates within you.
Practicing standing and feeling your body weight balanced around your centre is a powerful exercise alone.
You can free-stand or stand with your back close to a wall.
Place your feet hip width apart (the length of one of your feet) and soften your knees, your knee cap in line with your third toe.
Feel your pelvic position. Is it tipping forwards or backwards? If so, then adjust until it feels upright. A mirror can be very helpful here.
Lift your sternum without thrusting your lower ribcage forward and lower your chin as needed to create length in the back of your neck.
If you feel stable and balanced then close your eyes.
Remain for about 5 minutes.
Be aware that tension or shaking in muscles can indicate tightness or weakness respectively. So respect your body and give it time to slowly adapt to the practice, building up the time you can stand centred in awareness, stillness and balance.
Start now. Start practicing being aware of your centre and dropping into it when you're standing and moving. With repetition, like everything you'll begin to feel the positive effects . I'd love to hear of your journey with posture and any changes and insights that unfold with your practice.
The next Yoga & Posture Workshop is just two weeks away. A great opportunity to vastly deepen your understanding and experience the possibilities that more prolonged and intense practice can deliver.
JOY dropping down, dropping in,