I recommend this book to anyone who wants to make themself healthier, calm their mind, relax their body, gain more energy and have more power. I would pay hundreds for a workshop to learn what this book put together for me. Buy this book!!!
I've been studying martial arts and Eastern Philosophy on various levels for 28 years. I now mostly study the internal arts of Qigong and Taiji, but anything that fleshes out my understanding of these arts I will read, anything from Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais method to studying Zen Buddhism and Taoism, standing meditation, or attending zazen meditation at the Zen Center, etc.
But this book just blew me away. It not only has all the selling points of why keeping our awareness in our center is vital, but most importantly it SHOWS us how to do that. Keeping our awareness there sounds simple enough, but we get yanked up and out of it all too easily. This book gives very practical, almost step by step instructions on how to solve the puzzle of softening the upper belly enough to breath there while maintaining a slight tension in the lower belly so we can support the pelvis and spine to build a firm foundation for upright standing and sitting. It tells us how to tuck the chin, relax the shoulders and bring a slight tension to the hara (the area below the navel and the low back across from it). We strengthen the hara on the LONG exhale, while the inhale can be just short and easy. This book really drives home HOW to strengthen the hara with the exhale. My review is purposely vague so as not to give away the best parts for free, so don't let my oversimplification ruin it. This is heads and shoulders better than 99% of what is out there.
The Appendix is worth its weight in gold, and the best part of the book, in my opinion. There are three Japanese masters each with a coresponding Appendix. In Appendix I, Master Okado has a long list of various quotes which is a great overview and checklist. In Appendix II, Sato Tsuji has an amazing Appendix on teaching the human body, I have read it a dozen times, no exaggeration it is that informative. Appendix III broadens out on the philosophical implications, my least favorite Appendix (because I got this book for somatic education reasons) but still solid work that I am sure I will expand on later.
Buy this book!!!
P.S. Another book that is in this ballpark is Aligned, Relaxed, Resilient: The Physical Foundations of Mindfulness
It goes into a lot more detail about whole body awareness, and I have to say that this book is also one of the few select most influential books for me along with the one I am reviewing. Absolutely life changing, practical, yet stunningly inspirational. Both books help anyone with any practice or with just living life and being present.