What is Shiatsu?
Shiatsu is a traditional, hands-on form of Japanese bodywork, which is informed by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dating back over 2000 years. Health is viewed in terms of balancing the flow of 'Qi' or 'Ki', which is the energy or force that holds matter together. Energy is believed to circulate through the body in 'meridians', these are associated with physical aspects, such as, the Organs and the Blood, as well as emotional and spiritual aspects, such as, feelings, thoughts and aspirations.
An imbalance in a particular organ of the body is reflected not only in an imbalance or blockage in the meridian channel related to it but, also, in the behaviour and attitude of the individual. An example would be stress and overwork causing weakened Kidney and Bladder energy which can lead the individual to experience urinary frequency, back discomfort and hormonal irregularities, as well as being restless ('tired but wired') and fearful. Needless to say, none of us are in a completely 'balanced' state all of the time and many people receive Shiatsu therapy simply to maintain their general health.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM approaches to health include the use of acupuncture, herbs, diet and exercise, such as Qi Gong and T'ai Chi. It is believed that Shiatsu (which means 'finger pressure') may predate acupuncture since rubbing and massaging of 'pressure points' is likely to have preceded the development and use of needles. The form of Shiatsu I practice is known as 'Zen' Shiatsu. It was developed in the early part of the 20th century in Japan and was recognised there as a therapy in its own right in 1964. Hands, feet and finger pressure are employed as well as gentle holding, manipulation and massage. Thus, Shiatsu is suitable not only for those who are relatively robust and may benefit from massage and body stretches (energy dispersing) but, also, those who are frail or unwell and require gentle holding (energy toning) techniques.
A contemporary writer and therapist of Shiatsu, Carola Beresford-Cooke* (1999), describes Shiatsu as unifying human psychology and physiology with the theory of Ki (energy).
* Beresford-Cooke C (1999) Shiatsu Theory and Practice.
Shiatsu is beneficial for a variety of symptoms including:
Stress and anxiety; back/musculo-skeletal discomfort; menstrual, pregnancy and menopausal discomfort; tiredness and depression; grief and emotional upset; digestive, respiratory and skin problems.
The individual is assessed by taking into account past and current medical history as well as using a variety of observations to determine the level and quality of their body energy. Treatment is given fully-clothed, as energy can be felt more readily by the therapist through clothing rather than on bare skin. The receiver is usually treated lying on a futon but it is possible to treat in a sitting position or lying in bed.
Effects of treatment
Shiatsu improves the flow of energy throughout the body. It is deeply relaxing and there is often a sense of feeling invigorated, yet rested, after a treatment. Its effects are experienced on physical as well as spiritual and emotional levels. In treating muscular discomfort, for instance, the individual is likely to become more aware of how and where they 'hold' physical tension as well as aware of any associated emotional and spiritual feelings. For many, this promotes an increased sense of their 'self'.
Further information on:
The Shiatsu Society is an organization representing all types and styles of shiatsu.
Shiatsu on a regular basis has helped me to cope with periods of heavy family responsibilities, giving a sense of well being and relaxation. Massage has been of great benefit when tired and weary.