The Body Center
The body center is our physical center, located in the belly just under the navel and about two inches interiorly. It is also called the hara, the tan tien, or the kath, and is the seat of movement, vitality and of fire energy.
The body center is necessary for our safety, reproduction, and instinctual insights. It is the sensual home of our understanding and is informed by the environment, our spatial orientation and proprioception, and our "gut" feelings". The body has memory that seems to be cellular, and it responds positively to touch, warmth, and light.
The body center responds to the other two centers — the way we feel and think affects us physically. Stresses and anxieties from our daily lives can show up as disease and or pain. This is our body's way of telling us that something is wrong. Similarly, positive feelings and thoughts can enhance our physical well-being and even help us live longer.
Relaxing our bodies, eating well, and getting enough exercise also have positive effects on our emotional and mental well-being. For example, we know that chronic pain can create mental and emotional distress such as anxiety, depression, and irritability. Even if we don't suffer from chronic pain, however, studies indicate that regular massage can improve concentration levels and elevate mood by releasing and/or decreasing certain brain chemicals. Energy modalities can balance the body at a more subtle level. Thus, these therapies help release old traumas and improve mental health. Clearly, one center informs the others.
By definition, massage is the manipulation of soft tissues (muscles, fascia, connective tissues) and usually involves applying touch with some degree of pressure, which can range from very light to deep. Consequently, the massage therapist must use touch with sensitivity to determine the optimal amount of pressure appropriate for each person. Because touch is also a form of communication, sensitive touch can convey a sense of safety, healing and caring, essential elements in the therapeutic relationship.
Bodywork involves therapies that often have an Eastern philosophic framework, such as Reiki, Polarity, Tui-na, Huna, and Touch for Health. (In North Carolina, bodyworkers are required to know information from both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Aryuveda in order to use the term bodyworker in their state licenses.) The work is sometimes integrated into massage, but it can also be used alone. In those cases, the practitioner may not even touch the client physically, but the benefits of balancing the energetic centers of the body can have a far-ranging, holistically healing effect.