You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘mini-brain’ tag.


Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10AM-3PM

Come get a mini table massage from me, and check out first edition of my new book, Circle of Healing: Helping Extraordinary Clients with Yoga and Massage, A Practical Guide.

Pechanga Resort & Casino

45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, CA 

Sponsored by Riverside County (CA) Commission for Women

60 vendors and speakers

Admission free with non-perishable canned food item or grocery store gift card for $5.  Refreshments provided with admission.

The County of Riverside Commission for Women seeks to improve the status of all women by ensuring opportunities for each woman to develop to her full potential.  In support of this mission, the Commission for Women identifieis problemsl, defines issues and recommends policies and procedures to the County Board of Supervisors regarding, but not limited to, women and health, the workplace, family, education, violence, law and society.

More information, contact me at 951-677-5962 or Michele Broad, Women’s Health and Wellness, 951-304-3180.


In 1970, when I took a ceramics class at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I quickly discovered that I could not center clay on the pottery wheel.  After months of attempting to keep my clay creations from leaning to the left or right, I decided to ditch that idea and make pinch pots instead.  Over the next few years I studied tai chi and ten years later my studies took me into the heart of Kenpo Karate and White Crane Kung Fu.  It was those movement systems that taught me about finding one’s center, also called hara or tan tien.

The hara, also called “one point”, is said to be located just below the navel and about an inch inside the body.  It is a protected area and considered by many to be a sacred space.  It is not surprising that this is the womb area, and is immediately below where the umbilical cord connects mother and infant. Another factor that makes this area important is that the psoas, a major walking muscle and the only muscle to connect the lumbar spine to the legs is nearby. The intestines, located in the center, are where 95% of the serotonin is manufactured in our body.  The gut’s own nervous system or mini-brain has more nerve cells than our brain’s central nervous system.  The number of nerve fibers that carry messages from our GI tract to our brain is nine times more than those that travel from the brain to the GI tract.  Therefore, a calm gut or hara means calm mind and body.  (I have noticed when I take immodium to slow down motility, my mind relaxes also.)

As a yoga/movement instructor I emphasize that students become centered through mat work, stretching, conscious breathing and attention inward.  By focusing on the center, yoga practitioners are able to generate heat and healing energy throughout their body, at the same time bringing the person into the here and now, with less focus on worries.  The squat, the Iyengar standing and balance poses, dog pose, seated forward bends, and many others stretch the legs and open the hips to develop strength and flexibility in the lower body which encourages us to extend and open our upper body.  And what is the connector here? Our center – of gravity, balance and equilibrium.

Skilled dancers of all styles also move from their centers. In Contact Improvisation, dancers move with others in a constant flow of losing their balance, falling, catching and supporting, often with movements that mirror those of infants learning to move and to trust.  Many forms of movement originate from our center, and that includes bodywork.

The minds of skilled bodyworkers are focused and free of Ojai 12distraction so they are able to be totally in the present with their clients.  They may reach this state before beginning a session by consciously inhaling and consciously exhaling, and using energy awareness techniques such as yoga, meditation or focusing on a mandala.  This creates a free flow of healing energy so that the massage recipient experiences more than simply the physical sensations of having muscles rubbed.  They often experience a renewed sense of wholeness.

I am fascinated by the concept of hara and or center because I know what it is like to be not centered physically, a good example being last year when I was moving a large box in a dark garage. I fell backwards and literally flew through the air and landed on my hipbones. Also there were several times I tripped over grapevines in the hill behind my house which resulted in my completing a somersault mid-air.  I also know what it is like to lose my center emotionally/spiritually.  I know what it is like to “fall out of rhythm” as Brooke Medicine Eagle says, and to be helped back into my rhythm with the help of bodywork and movement.

The center is the starting point when I begin creating a mandala and my calligrapher neighbor has shown me the difference between making a line on paper, and making the line from your center.

Centering is a foundation of my Quaker upbringing and of yogic philosophy.  In Quaker worship, we meditate by calming our thoughts, centering and opening to divine communication.

When I was a child, an elegant family friend always impressed me with her graceful manner and movement.  After her husband died, she immersed herself in Zen Tea Ceremony.  When I bumped into her in New York City decades later, she was still striking, graceful and moving from her hara.


Summer into Fall

Summer into Fall

The Art of Centering in Yoga and Massage

In 1970, when I took a ceramics class at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I quickly discovered that I could not center clay on the pottery wheel. Over the next few years I was also studying tai chi and ten years later my studies took me into the heart of Kenpo Karate and White Crane Kung Fu. It was those movement systems that taught me about finding one’s center, also called hara or tan tien.

The hara, also called “one point”, is said to be located just below the navel and about an inch inside the body. It is a protected area and considered by many to be a sacred space. It is not surprising that this is the womb area, and that it is immediateley below where the umbilical cord connects mother and infant. Another factor that makes this area important is that the psoas, a major walking muscle and the only muscle to connect the lumbar spine, is nearby. Also the digestive tract, especially the intestines, is where 95% of the serotonin (feel good transmitter) is manufactured. In fact the gut area has its own nervous system, often called the mini-brain.

As a yoga/movement instructor I help students become centered through mat work, stretching, conscious breathing and attention inward. By focusing on our centers, yoga practitioners are able to generate heat and healing energy throughout their body, at the same time bringing the person into the here and now, with less focus on worries.

The squat, the Iyengar standing and balance poses, dog pose, seated forward bends, and many other positions stretch the legs and open the hips to develop strength and flexibility in the lower body. This allows us to root or ground and supports our extending and opening our upper body. And what is the connector here? Our center — of gravity, balance and equilibrium.

An alarming number of people, especially over sixty years old, have suffered from falls, and even more alarming is how many people die as a result of complications from the injuries. It is urgently important for people to stay in touch with their center as their anchor, thus I highly recommend yoga for people from early years to one hundred years old or more. And while they are at it, they can learn how to give massages!

Most forms of movement originate from our center, and that includes doing bodywork. The minds of skilled bodyworkers are focussed and free of distraction so they are able to be totally in the present with their clients. They may reach this state before beginning a session by consciously inhaling and consciously exhaling, and using energy awareness techniqes such as yoga, meditation or focusing on a mandala. This creates a free flow of healing energy so that the massage recipient experiences more than simply the physical sensations of having muscles rubbed. They often experience a renewed sense of wholeness.

Peter Levine, a well-known trauma recovery therapist and author of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, believes that trauma is not in the event but in the nervous system. Thus everything we can do to enhance the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system will help us stay calm even while external events attempt to un-hinge us.

Not only is awareness of our center or hara an essential part of everyday balance and agility, it is a component of subtle and often spiritual ways of healing. We transmit healing energy from the same center that we use in an emergency, such as when a mother rescues her child pinned under a car. Our “chi” or life force, hyper activated in this instance, is also available to sooth us.

One of my favorite poses for bringing awareness to our center is called constructive rest pose. Lying on your back with knees bent,
legs hip width apart, feet flat on the floor and arms resting on your abdomen, across your chest or relaxed with palms up by your head, relax into gravity. This is a passive release of the psoas, encourages good alignment of the spine and full and deep respiration. Inhale, focus on your center, then exhale, internally sensing your breath move your energy or chi through your body, to release tension. After several breaths, allow your breathing to simply happen. After five, ten or twenty minues, roll onto your side, prop yourself up slowly, and re-enter the world.

  • ************

“Holding the breath is like holding the soul.” BKS Iyengar

  • ************

“Energy is the real substance behind the appearance of matter anad forms.” Randolph Stone, D.O., D.C., founder of Polarity Therapy

  • *************

“If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.” Walt Whitman

  • **************

“Movement never lies.” Martha Graham