I'm rereading a book I bought way back in 2009 titled Hara: The Vital Center of Man by Karlfried Graf Durckheim. I was drawn to get this book because Hara palpation is one of my diagnostic tools and I was interested in another perspective of the hara.
You might be asking what "hara" means. Literally, it is the area just below your belly button, but it can also mean your vitality, your essence, your center. It is the area where the breath should drop down during a deep inhale. It's where our "gut instincts" live. This area of our being is of most importance in Eastern medicine.
In today's society, so many people live in their heads while breathing rapidly and shallowly. We take in information through screens rather than through gut feelings, leading some to have compromised haras.
So how do we improve the health of our hara?
1. Acupuncture - Acupuncture is an excellent way to rediscover your center. After treatment, many patients report feeling grounded or centered. Their energy is more rooted in their lower body, and their breath feels deeper and easier. Ideally, this is the state we should be in as often as possible even during times of stress.
2. Breathwork - Breathwork has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. Practicing various breathing techniques can help strengthen the relationship between the Kidney and the Lung (I've written about the role of the Kidney grasping the Lung Qi on inhalation in previous blog posts). Breathwork classes, both in person and online, are more common than ever. If you'd prefer to practice by yourself, I highly suggest reading Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor.
3. Mindfulness - There are numerous ways of practicing mindfulness, but one way to reconnect to your hara is by sitting or lying comfortably, placing your hands on your lower abdomen and focusing all of your attention to that area for several minutes. This can be a challenging exercise at first, so start by practicing for 2-3 minutes and work your way towards longer stretches.
4. Gut Health - Thankfully more and more evidence is pointing towards the importance of gut health (also known as hara health) and its impact on the entire body. The food and supplements we consume matter greatly. If you experience brain fog, anxiety, bloating, fatigue or moodiness, prebiotics and/or probiotics can be helpful. It is critical to work with a professional, such as a naturopath, when selecting the best ones for your body.