Originally Shiatsu is a Japanese form of massage. Literally meaning finger (shi) and pressure (atsu). It is a technique by which the therapist exerts pressure mainly using his/her fingers, but also hands and occasionally feet. This technique works with the body’s natural tendency to heal itself and encourages it.
The Shiatsu practitioner stimulates this natural life force in the body by harmonizing both body and mind.
Ever since the origin of Mankind, human beings have applied pressure to relieve their aches and pains. Touch has always been part of healing, relaxation and personal development. An ancient Chinese medical treatise, dating back 4500 years, explains how it works and why it is important to receive this form of touch therapy to remain in good health.
This art of massage is still used in Oriental Medicine today. Shiatsu is one of the massage forms derived from this tradition and enriched by a variety of different elements.
The underlying spirit of Shiatsu reminds Mankind that we should live in harmony with the Universe. When this harmonious relationship is disturbed, a situation of dis-ease becomes manifest.
By means of Shiatsu, it is relatively simple to eliminate certain physical manifestations such as aches and tension. Yet this technique has a more far-reaching implication : It restores harmony within the client without trying to treat any health disorder. The body heals itself. The therapist is merely a catalyst.
In terms of Shiatsu, a disorder is neither good nor bad. It is simply Nature’s way of pointing out that there is an imbalance or a disturbance in the body. Illness is a natural defense mechanism.
During a Shiatsu treatment, the practitioner makes use of specific techniques of applying pressure. He may use one thumb at a time, both thumbs simultaneously and also his thumb and another finger to slightly pinch the area of application. He uses different techniques : palms juxtaposed, hands overlapped, index and middle finger one on top the other etc…
The aim of these techniques being to exert standard pressure, continuous pressure, waves of intense concentrated pressure, vibrations, diverse stimulations, frictions, impulses, hammering and stretching movements.
All these ways of touching the body bring about true relaxation and a good circulation of energy.
The fundamental principle of Shiatsu is to exert gradual pressure onto the body so as to de-stress the muscle beneath the skin. The therapeutic effect of this treatment is the result of the bodies natural capacity to recuperate and heal itself. It is not only the hand or the finger tips that work but the entire weight of the therapist’s body exerting the pressure.
For, as Shiatsu practitioners commonly say : “Any pressure exerted only by the tip of the fingers is painful and is of no use to the person who receives it”.
From a physiological point of view, Shiatsu stimulates blood circulation in the blood vessels of the skin, activates skin cells, relaxes muscles tissues and enhances the circulation of nutrients through the body. The body is thus energized and finds within itself the resources for its own healthy balance.
On a more subtle level, Oriental healing techniques –whether in the Chinese, Indian or Japanese Tradition- take into account the capital idea of Energy : Ki (or Chi), life force. An energetic person with a radiant presence has a strong Ki which circulates well in his body. All his bodily functions are therefore in good health.
As soon we start feeling weak and tired and fall ill, it means that our Ki doesn’t circulate properly.
By means of Shiatsu, the Practitioner stimulates the body so that it may better receive and use optimally the Ki. Thus, provided he breathes correctly, eats light and balanced meals, avoids emotionally and psychologically trying situations and accepts to adapt himself to the demands of daily life, the patient revitalizes and heals himself.
More than a mere massage technique, Shiatsu is in fact a life style.
From someone receiving Shiatsu massage, you could evolve to become the person giving the massage to close friends and family members for example.
Shiatsu is a non violent and non invasive form of communication. If you have the chance to receive a great Shiatsu treatment, both body and spirit will benefit from it. You will then be able to say as the Japanese do : “Ki gan au”, our energies fuse…
By Marie Borrel and Ronald Mary
(partial or integral reproduction authorized without mentioning the authors under the condition of mentioning IFS.)