What is Shiatsu and what are its main benefits?
Shiatsu is a physical therapy that supports and strengthens the body’s natural ability to heal and balance itself. It works on the whole person - not just with the physical body, but also with the psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of a person too.
Shiatsu originated in Japan from Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), with influences from more recent Western therapies. Although Shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’ in Japanese, in practice a practitioner uses touch, comfortable pressure and manipulative techniques to adjust the body’s physical structure and balance its energy flow. It is a deeply relaxing experience and regular treatments can alleviate stress and illness and maintain health and well-being.
Shiatsu, like Acupuncture, works on the body's vital energy (known as 'Ki' or 'Chi'), and by harmonising this energy promotes better health and strengthens the body's own self-healing abilities. Shiatsu Therapy is a healing art, which draws its theory and techniques from both Oriental Medicine and from Western massage practice.
Shiatsu helps to relax the muscles, tone up the circulatory and lymphatic systems, improve suppleness and flexibility in the joints, and assists the functioning of the internal organs. Shiatsu has a deeply relaxing effect on the body, calms the mind and produces an overall feeling of well being. Shiatsu may be used in conjunction with orthodox medical treatment or other alternative therapies. It is an excellent treatment for sports injuries, read more about Sport Shiatsu here.
The term shiatsu is composed of two words: 'shi' meaning finger and 'atsu' meaning pressure and so the therapist applies comfortable, sustained pressure with their thumbs, fingers, and hands to specific points on the body. Shiatsu is used for stress management, to improve and maintain health and to treat a wide variety of specific conditions, both chronic and acute.
The pressure applied in shiatsu can help to increase circulation, release muscular tension, relieve pain, increase range of motion and help the body to function at its best. While there has only been a limited amount of research on Shiatsu, what has been done has demonstrated a positive effect on short and long-term stress levels, anxiety, tension, sleep disturbances, and pain.
A full treatment lasts sixty minutes and is done with the client fully-clothed, lying on a massage table or, more traditionally, on a comfortable mat.
Shorter treatments of twenty or thirty minutes are also quite effective, particularly if done on a regular basis. Short treatments can be done using a massage chair and are ideal for a corporate environment.
Shiatsu can be performed on anyone, regardless of their age or state of health. The depth and strength of pressure are adjusted to suit the health needs and comfort level of each individual client. Pressure can range from extremely gentle for those who are quite sensitive or in a delicate state of health to very deep for those in robust health and with a stronger tolerance.
*Can I receive Shiatsu while on medication?
Yes, it is safe to do so, but it is helpful to make the practitioner aware of medical conditions.
*I'm pregnant, can I receive Shiatsu?
Yes, it is a safe therapy to receive during pregnancy, after the first trimester.
*Can Shiatsu help with ongoing or incurable illness?
Shiatsu may help ease symptoms of an illness, as well as supporting you in how you cope with your illness and pain.
*I cannot lay on the floor, can I still have Shiatsu?
Yes, it is possible to adapt Shiatsu to a massage table or chair and cushions are always used for comfort.
*Will I have to change my lifestyle?
No, a practitioner respects your lifestyle and choices. She may offer simple recommendations which you are free to take up or not as you prefer.
*What is Ki?
Ki is the life force energy understood by Oriental philosophy to pervade all life. Within the human body, it can be felt as an energy field and greater balance brings greater health. What is Ki? Blog-post.
*What are meridians?
They are the energy pathways in the body that Ki runs through, generally relating to the different organs and systems of the body. A shiatsu perspective encompasses a broader range of understanding of these systems and organs than just on a physical level. For example, a reference to Spleen may be around needing support.
*How does the Shiatsu diagnosis work?
The practitioner feels for the quality of energy in the abdomen and the areas most out of balance in order to guide the treatment in which areas need the most support and work.
*Is Shiatsu massage?
No, not exactly, as it does not work just with the muscle system. The effect of the pressure works on a deep level and has a different understanding and effect. It is a stand-alone system in this sense.
*Is Shiatsu healing?
Shiatsu techniques tend to trigger the body to bring about it's own natural healing capacity. A practitioner may work with their own energy development and sense of Ki in their hands, but do not 'channel' Ki as in Reiki for example.
*Can Shiatsu be harmful?
Shiatsu techniques are generally very safe and gentle, listening to your body and its responses. The deep relaxation that can result is very healing. There are generally no ill effects from a treatment, although you may occasionally experience a 'healing reaction' immediately after a treatment (feeling emotional, tiredness, headache or nausea from toxins being released). This will pass in a short time and you feel greater wellbeing as a result.
*How is Shiatsu connected to self-development?
The mindful nature and process of Shiatsu can help bring you to become more sensitive to the subtle changes in your own energy. You can develop a deeper connection to your self and insights in awareness of where you are in your own path and in life. Should you wish to, Shiatsu can offer a sense of support and a vehicle to explore the dynamics in your life.