The hara is ‘the seat of the subconscious’, which deals with our survival instincts and procreative drives, and therefore some of our darker emotions. Referred to variously as the ‘id’, the ‘reptile-mind’, or by the yogi’s as the ‘kundalini’ (a great black serpent that dwells at the base of the spine), this part of us can be super-aggressive, utterly ruthless, and totally lacking in conscience or morality. Therefore, for reasons of both practicality and because we are civilised beings, it is essential that we keep this potential under the control of the higher mind.
The hara encompasses, in yogic terms, the root, and the sacral chakra – the ancient and most primitive core of our psyche. Physically it comprises the lower abdominals, psoas muscles, pelvic floor and sacrum. Use of the hara enables us to coordinate our movements (and techniques), via the core, which leads to far greater physical efficiency.
Mind, body & spirit in total spontaneous unity – the Zen, or ‘enlightened’ mind-state.
Through use, or activation, of the hara, one is able to start the process of unifying conscious intent (mind), with bodily movements (body), and with intuitive/subconscious, responses (spirit).
Without this unification our negative emotions (fear, aggression, hatred etc), can, unfortunately, run amok, over-riding our intellect and rendering us unable to think, assess situations clearly, or respond appropriately. An ‘adrenaline dump’, caused by a high-stress situation, severally narrows the focus of attention, it shuts down the pre-frontal lobes and the neocortex (and therefore the higher mind), allowing our ‘reptile’ mind to take over. For many people, martial artists included, this means that we may go into ‘overkill’, and on coming to our senses later, may be appalled at what we have done – we then have to deal with the legal, social and emotional consequences of our actions (our karma). However, if we can gain control through the hara we can begin to control our ‘fight or flight response’, and in a conflict will be more able to use our intelligence to control the outcome – this is especially important if there is more than one opponent.
The journey doesn’t end here though, as for full emotional development the solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown chakra all need to be opened. This process invariably involves a great deal of work on the breath and posture and calmness of mind, whichever art one chooses.
Engaging the ‘hara’ is therefore at the heart of both Te and the therapeutic bodywork arts of yoga and shiatsu/anma, enabling us to unite mind, body and spirit, and keep a clear head.
For more on unifying the mind, body and spirit please refer to the ‘Yoga’ & ‘Bodywork theory’ pages of this website.