The term “shiatsu” means “finger pressure” and is the name of an ancient and widely practiced form of Oriental massage. It dates back thousands of years to the massage systems developed in ancient China that were brought to Japan, then gradually changed, and developed into separate therapies.
Shiatsu is based on the same principles as acupuncture and aims to restore a balanced flow of energy within the meridians and to enhance vitality and wellbeing. However, it does not rely solely on acupressure or massage techniques but also incorporates elements from physiotherapy, osteopathy, and from other forms of healing tradition.
How it is Performed
Shiatsu is usually practiced on a mat on the floor and is performed through clothing so there is no need to undress. Diagnosis is made by pulse-taking, questioning, and palpating the abdomen to determine areas of strength and weakness in the internal organs and the meridian system.
Pressure is applied to individual acupoints and along meridian lines using the fingertips, thumbs, knuckles, elbows, or knees as appropriate. In some forms of shiatsu, the practitioners use their feet. In this way specific points or whole areas of the body may be treated. Some areas of the body may feel sensitive, or even painful, to the touch but this soon eases as the course of treatment progresses.
Much of the pressure applied in shiatsu is sustained and stationary, rather than vigorous and moving, and it is this unique holding and supportive touch that enables the muscles and soft tissues to relax.
Body stretches are used to release muscular tension and- to promote relaxation. In this process, the breathing of both practitioner and recipient is important. Various gentle manipulation techniques may also be used to improve the mobility of the joints.
Treatment lasts between 60 and 90 minutes and is deeply relaxing. The treatment is holistic in nature, aiming to balance the body as a whole rather than just treat specific symptoms. At the end of a session you feel invigorated and refreshed, as if no part of the body has been left out.
One of the maxims of shiatsu is that “diagnosis is treatment and treatment is diagnosis” since every touch has an effect on the body and also gives information to the practitioner. In this way shiatsu can be used simply for relaxation but can also be effective in treating a wide range of common ailments.
What Ailments Can Shiatsu Treat?
Shiatsu reduces stress and calms the nervous system. It boosts stamina and improves digestion, menstrual function, concentration, and mental state. It promotes better posture and helps relieve back and neck pain. It enhances body awareness and creates a feeling of well-being.
Shiatsu is practiced widely in Japan by both acupuncturists and those trained only in massage and acupressure. In the West it is also enjoying an upsurge in popularity as people come to realize the importance of stress-release and of taking responsibility for promoting and maintaining their own health.