What is Shiatsu?

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 a physical body, but also a psychological, emotional and spiritual being.

Shiatsu originated in Japan from traditional Chinese medicine, 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.

Oriental tradition describes the world in terms of energy. All things are considered to be manifestations of a vital universal force, called ‘Ki’ by the Japanese, ”Chi”, or ‘Qi’, in China. Ki is the primary substance and motive force of life. It is most often described as “energy”, but Ki is also synonymous with breath in the Japanese and Chinese languages. In Oriental medicine, harmony of Ki within the human body is conceived as being essential to health.

The philosophy underlying Shiatsu is that Ki flows throughout the body in a series of channels called meridians. For many different reasons Ki can stop flowing freely and this then produces a symptom.

Common conditions which have been helped by Shiatsu include:

  • stress
  • wellbeing
  • helps aid sleep

Your Shiatsu practitioner will consider your state of health, the symptoms you are experiencing and, depending on your constitution and general energy levels, will use a variety of techniques to improve your energy flow. These may include gentle holding, pressing with palms, thumbs, fingers, elbows, knees and feet on the meridians and, when appropriate, more dynamic rotations and stretches.

As the quality of Ki changes, the symptoms associated with a lack of flow will gradually improve. Shiatsu is a therapy that works on the individual as a complete being – not just the physical body but also on an emotional and/or mental level.

Guidelines for receiving Shiatsu

Please bring or wear loose, warm, comfortable clothing, preferably cotton, e.g. sweatshirt, tracksuit trousers and cotton socks. Do not eat heavily in the two hours prior to treatment. Do not drink alcohol before or after treatment. After treatment drink plenty of water to smooth the flow of changes through the system. If at all possible avoid strenuous or stressful activities after your session.

What to expect in a Shiatsu treatment

  • Each session lasts approximately one hour. The first session may be slightly longer since your practitioner may ask for details of your current state of health, any medical conditions, history, and lifestyle. The practitioner may take written notes.
  • You remain fully clothed at all times. The session usually takes place on a padded mat or futon at floor level, although it is possible to receive Shiatsu seated or on a treatment couch.
  • Your practitioner will treat your whole body by using finger or palm pressure or sometimes, if needed, using knees, elbows and feet.
  • Shiatsu can involve rotation and stretches of joints and limbs.
  • Following Shiatsu, due to the body’s natural healing process, there can be a feeling of increased vitality and you may feel invigorated yet relaxed. To experience the full benefits you may wish to rest for an hour or two after having received Shiatsu.

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