The Fourth Pillar for Supporting your Mind-Body Practice
The fourth pillar for supporting a meaningful mind-body practice is “center”. Physically it is important to make sure you are centered in your stance. If you do not have regular contact with an instructor who can point out imbalances, it is a good idea to assess your posture in a mirror from time-to-time. This is a way to check that you are not beginning to favor one side over the other without realizing it. Actually this is a good idea even if you do study regularly with an instructor.
Being centered does not necessarily mean that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. There are many postures where one leg is more weighted than the other, but you should understand where the center is at within each posture. Also, if you are practicing postures where one sides is more weighted than the other, you should try to work both sides equally in order to balance your Yin & Yang.
There is concept behind of centering that moves beyond the mere physical aspect. It is the idea of centering your mind and spirit along with your body. One of the best ways I have found of achieving this is to first try to focus on the center of your mind, or what is known as the Upper Dan Tian. Picture a single point in the very center of your mind and focus your attention on that single point. You only need to this for about 30 seconds.
Next move your attention down to your heart or Middle Dan Tian area. Imagine the Upper Dan Tian connecting with Middle Dan Tian. After 15-30 seconds move your attention to a spot midway between your naval and lower back, known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as the Lower Dan Tian.
Maintain your concentration on this point from here on out as this is both the physical and energetic center of your body. Breathe slowly and feel both your abdomen and lower back expand as your inhale, and contract as you exhale. You can visualize fire or light entering through your naval as you inhale and expanding in your Lower Dan Tian area as your exhale. Return to this physical and energetic center whenever you feel your mind becoming distracted.