Core. Center. Kanda. Dantien. Pelvic Bowl.
When we move, we are best served by moving from our power source. It has many names, but its location seems to be widely agreed upon, with so many systems landing in the same place through years of observation and exploration of the human body in motion. Our power center (as I like to call it, though I hardly think I came up with this term) is located at our center of gravity, in the pelvic bowl region, at about 55% of one's height (from ground up; statistic found in Hackney, 121).
In various Eastern systems of movement + wholeness (Chinese medicine, martial arts, Thai massage, yoga etc), the importance of this center is not in the physical body, the muscles and bones, but rather in the subtle body, as it is the location of the lower body energy center, known as dantien in many martial arts (I was introduced to it through Thai massage) and kanda in yoga. (Kanda can be translated as bulbous root and is said to be the source of the nadis, the energy lines that run throughout the body. It is specified in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as being about 9 inches high, 3 inches wide. Fun!)
In my dance studies, influenced by Bartenieff Fundamentals, I was taught to move from the core, connecting all movement through this lower center. It is the site of crossover between lower and upper body via the very powerful psoas muscle (and others, of course).
Pilates, about which I admittedly don't know that much (other than what I've observed from doing the exercises with a teacher), seems to operate on the principle that one should keep this lower abdominal area, and all connections from the body to it, strong, in order to move fluidly (i.e., with strength and suppleness).
I have even found in my studies of the Alexander Technique, which teaches us to lead movement in our spines with the head, an author who subscribes to the idea of the pelvis or ˜centre' in generating movement power, acknowledging the difference between leading movement and moving from: This area is the wellspring of life and the centre to our vital energy. To liberate and apply its full power, however, we must first free our necks. ¦ In other words, the pelvis is centraland the head-neck is primary (Gelb, 155). (More on the Alexander Technique in its relationship to movement to come in future posts.)
This past week, I having been working on awakening some awareness of this lovely power center (both in my and my students' practices), and it is rather easy to see why Irmgard Bartenieff referred to this area as The Dead Seven Inches (Hackney, 120) (in looking at Americans at any rate). Our cultural habits of posture and activity (or lack thereof) focus heavily on the limbs and leave the center spilling out or shrinking in. And once you've lost touch with your power center from years and years of habit, it is difficult to find it again. It takes practice to start moving differently, to move with awareness and from a place of connection throughout the body. But we all need to do that. Our movement will be more fluid and strong, our bodies more balanced, our minds at greater peace, all by letting the body operate as its structure dictates most efficient, and this includes letting the reach of your arm be supported by connection through your lower center all the way to your foot. In fact, try it!
The next time you reach for something, let your fingers lead your arm and at the same time imagine a line of energy (or, if it is easier, of muscles + connective tissue) that crosses your torso to your lower abdomen, and then spirals down your leg for a connection with the ground (or whatever you're sitting/standing on). You may or may not feel anything, you might end up feeling awkward or that you're thinking more than moving, or you might awaken a little bit of your self awareness.
Start where you are, the practice is only as valuable as it is present. (Your future self is no one. You are only yourself in this moment.) But please do start! Start noticing, start observing, start finding connections to your physical body that inform your energetic body, your mental body, your whole self.
And let me know what you uncover.
Om shanti, om tat sat.
Some sources that contributed to this post (confirming, inspiring, educating my words)!