What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a holistic healing art developed in Japan and based on traditional 3500-year-old oriental medical wisdom while incorporating the principles of anatomy, physiology and pathology. The theory of traditional Chinese medicine proposes that energy, otherwise known as chi, qi (or ki in Japanese), moves through the body in well-defined channels or pathways known as meridians. Each meridian is connected to an internal organ and carries the energy of that organ’s functioning. Good health is reliant upon the harmonious flow of chi through the meridians and internal organs.

Shiatsu back of thigh

Shiatsu is a dynamic body therapy in which the therapist interacts with the receiver to restore balance in the energy system. Imbalance, that is, too little or too much chi, can manifest in various ailments, depending on which meridians are affected.

Like most natural therapies, shiatsu is based on the assumption that the body is a self-healing organism, and that the role of the practitioner is to aid and support that naturally occurring process. Shiatsu can assist an individual with their self-development and self-healing; balancing the underlying causes of a condition and addressing physical and psychological functions; promoting health and strengthening the body’s own healing abilities.

Although the word shiatsu translates literally from the Japanese as ‘finger pressure’, in practice, the thumbs, palms, elbows, knees and feet are used to apply pressure to various parts of the body. Pressure can be gentle or firm, depending on the condition being treated.

Treatment may also include the use of flowing stretches and gentle rotations of the limbs and joints, simple structural alignments and muscle release techniques. On a physical level this has the effect of stimulating circulation and the flow of lymphatic fluid. It also works on the autonomic nervous system; helps to release toxins and deep-seated tension from the muscles, and can also stimulate the hormonal system. On a subtler level shiatsu allows the receiver to deeply relax, stimulating the body’s inherent ability for self healing and regeneration

The person receiving shiatsu remains clothed, or is covered by a sheet and treatment usually takes place on a futon on the floor.

The effectiveness of shiatsu in maintaining balance may be supported with recommendations regarding diet, yoga, meditation and exercise as part of an overall treatment regime.


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