Introduction to Shiatsu
Shiatsu is a form of Oriental Therapy that has evolved from a 5000-year-old tradition of healing arts.
Shiatsu combines pressure and assisted-stretching techniques, some of which are shared with other therapies like Massage, Physiotherapy, Acupressure, Osteopathy, Lymphatic Drainage, Do-in, and more. This treatment stimulates circulation and lymphatic fluid flow, releases toxins and deep-seated muscle tensions, stimulates the hormonal and immune systems, and impacts the autonomic nervous system, enabling deep relaxation and connection with one's innate healing power.
Shiatsu, a contemporary therapy rooted in Oriental traditional medicine, is sometimes referred to as Japanese physiotherapy. Its treatment approach and philosophy are similar to acupuncture, involving the use of meridians (energy channels) and tsubo (pressure points) as well as diagnostic methods, but without the use of needles. Unlike many other bodywork forms, shiatsu recipients remain clothed during the treatment, and no oils are used for massage.
The term "Shiatsu" is derived from two Japanese characters: "shi" meaning finger and "atsu" meaning pressure. The application of pressure is the fundamental principle of shiatsu. While it is sometimes called acupressure, this is not technically correct. Shiatsu could be considered a variant of acupressure since it involves stimulating acupoints with pressure. However, this is not the sole or primary technique used in Shiatsu. In Shiatsu, pressure is sometimes applied over a broader area, not exclusively on acupoints. Sometimes, pressure is applied precisely on the acupoints. Practitioners use fingers and thumbs for precise pressure at specific points and palms, elbows, knees, and feet for broader pressure application.
Shiatsu incorporates not only pressure but also gentle stretching and manipulation techniques. While these techniques may have been inspired by modern physiotherapy rather than ancient Oriental massage, shiatsu differs from Western massage in both technique and theory. Whereas Swedish massage employs long, flowing hand movements to knead muscles, shiatsu practitioners apply rhythmic and gradual pressure to the meridians and tsubos. Sometimes, very light 'holding' techniques, akin to the laying on of hands in spiritual healing, are used. Stretching exercises and other corrective techniques aim to enhance physical and energetic balance and flexibility in the body.
Shiatsu works with the flow of energy, or qi, which circulates through our bodies within specific energy channels or meridians. Traditional Oriental Medicine suggests that every individual possesses a "life force" or "life energy" that forms their physical structure and regulates physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual stability. This life force, referred to as qi in Chinese and ki in Japanese, maintains a homeostatic balance in the body.
Disturbances in the flow of qi can result from external traumas, such as injuries, or internal factors like depression or stress. These disruptions lead to symptoms such as aches and pains, indicating the onset of a state of "disease." In shiatsu, physical touch is employed to evaluate the distribution of qi throughout the body and to address any imbalances.
Touch is at the core of shiatsu. It is a powerful means of expressing love and compassion directly. Touch varies in quality, ranging from aggressive, mechanical, and abusive to nurturing, caring, and intuitive. All living beings respond to touch, and shiatsu helps fulfill this need. The nurturing touch in shiatsu can activate the self-healing process within.
Modern shiatsu employs a combination of approaches, integrating ancient and modern techniques. It incorporates pressing, hooking, sweeping, shaking, rotating, grasping, vibrating, patting, plucking, lifting, pinching, rolling, and brushing, along with a variation known as barefoot shiatsu, which involves walking on the recipient's back, legs, and feet. All of these methods share a common element: touch. Thus, shiatsu is fundamentally a "hands-on" therapy.
Despite differences in the East and West's perspectives on health and life, these viewpoints can complement each other. Eastern beliefs center on the primary flow of energy throughout the body along specific channels known as meridians. It is also believed that this energy exists throughout the universe and that all living creatures depend on it as much as they do on physical nourishment. This energy is referred to by three similar names: ki, chi, and prana in Japan, China, and India, respectively.
Shiatsu has gained recognition as an alternative therapy in Western countries and is offered in many healthcare settings as a complementary therapy for treating and preventing common ailments. It is a safe and effective treatment option.