In ancient Eastern healing practices the body is seen as a reflection of the environment in which we live. Each person is a unique landscape similar to our Earth with wells, springs, streams, rivers & seas of qi /chi (energy). This energy is supported by valleys and mountains as well as nurtured by all the elements of nature (wood, fire, earth, metal & water). Our microcosm is affected by the seasons, climates, external pathogens and thoughts (can be internal pathogens) just like our macrocosm. Shiatsu supports and harmonizes our being as we move through the winds of change (experiences) of our lives.
Its roots are truly organic in nature. It stems from Japanese family members caring for each other. Often times the elder would choose one child to share this healing art with. They would discover how to regulate the rivers of qi/chi by applying pressure to the meridians and gently stretching the body. As the meridians (rivers of qi/chi) opened the body, mind and soul were nurtured & harmonized.
Around the 6th Century AD, trading opened up communication between China & Japan merging the wisdom of Classical Chinese Medicine with shiatsu. This began the evolution of shiatsu. Its organic nature was enhanced with the wisdom of classical Chinese medicine. In the 20th century shiatsu teachers travelled from Japan bringing shiatsu to the West. This stimulated Westerns to travel to the East to study shiatsu. As these two worlds of thought united western psychology, and anatomy and physiology infused this ancient healing art increasing its potency.
Shiatsu treatments work directly on the meridian lines where the acupressure points lie. These points are the same as the points used in Acupuncture. The meridians are the channels of human energy that circulate through the points in specific anatomical patterns. They function to nourish the internal organs, muscles, nerves & vital centers of the body. The pressure applied on certain points of the skin stimulates the body’s natural curative powers. This direct pressure helps to release the excess lactic acid & carbon dioxide that contribute to cause muscular tensions. Shiatsu does not focus on any specific acupressure point, but a series of them along a meridian. These meridian lines are where the blood vessels, lymph, nerves & endocrine glands tend to concentrate or to branch.
The Japanese Ministry of Health & Welfare describes shiatsu as “a form of manipulation administered by the thumbs, fingers and palms, without the use of any instruments, mechanical or otherwise, to apply pressure to the human skin, correct internal malfunctioning, and promote and maintain health …” In Japan and around the world, it is a highly respected form of healing rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
Shiatsu is traditionally practiced on a mat on the floor with the client comfortably clothed. It continues its integration in the West and now shiatsu sessions are also offered on a massage table, in a chair and even in water (Watsu). What is truly wonderful about shiatsu is that it is complementary to all other therapies. When the meridians are opened, and the qi/chi flows freely throughout the inner landscape integrating the body’s natural healing powers with whatever treatment therapies the client may be receiving.
This elegant healing system combines gentle rhythmic pressure, stretches and rotations to alleviate headaches, tension, pain, and a wide range of chronic discomforts and minor ailments. It assists clients in recovering from the fatigue and strains of the daily routines. Sessions encourage a sense of peace, tranquility and deep relaxation as the body, mind and spirit begin to regenerate, balance and heal.
As our world shifts and changes shiatsu will continue to evolve as our healing awareness increases merging ancient wisdom with new sciences & theories.Brenda Molloy Published article in OkinHealth.com – 2009