Massage Therapy: Shiatsu

Shiatsu_massageShiatsu is a general term used for various types of pressure therapy developed in Japan. Like acupressure, Shiatsu uses pressure at the acupuncture points to remove blockages and promote the proper flow of the body’s vital energy (called “Qi” by the Chinese, or “Ki” by the Japanese). In Shiatsu, however, the pressure is applied in a rhythmic manner, working along the meridian pathways, and the whole body is treated, rather than just a few specific treatment points as in acupressure. Also, in Shiatsu, the practitioner may use his or her palms, elbows, knees and feet to apply pressure in addition to using the fingers and thumbs. Parts of the patient’s body are also placed into “meridian stretches”, or positions which help to make the meridians more available to the practitioner for treatment.

Zen Shiatsu is a specific style of bodywork developed in the early 20th century by Shizuto Masunaga in Japan. In Zen Shiatsu, the practitioner strives to maintain a meditative state of mindfulness which he or she directs toward detecting the body’s response to treatment in each moment. Thus, this active, “real-time” response directs each subsequent step of the treatment rather than the practitioner choosing a theoretical set of points or meridians ahead of time. Zen Shiatsu is performed with the recipient lying on a futon on the floor, giving the practitioner the ability to apply pressure using his or her body weight to a depth of pressure comfortable to the patient. When receiving Shiatsu treatment, you remain fully clothed, as this modality does not require the use of lotions or oils.

From a western perspective, Shiatsu works by engaging the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system, which has the effect of calming the body and mind, decreasing the effects of stress, and strengthening the immune system. By helping to increase the circulation of blood and lymph, Shiatsu can also help to improve muscle tone, repair damaged tissues, and maintain healthy internal organ function. Regular, consistent Shiatsu treatment can be used as preventive health care or to treat symptoms such as back, neck and shoulder problems, nervousness and stress, insomnia, digestive problems and fatigue. Most people find Shiatsu treatment to be a very pleasant, deeply relaxing, and health-enhancing experience.