Shiatsu literally translated means ‘finger pressure’. Chinese Taoist monks were the first to observe our self-healing instincts over 5,000 years ago and eventually they formalised these observations into a system for treatment. Their theories involved acupuncture, moxibustion and herbology. Chinese medicine was introduced to Japan by the Chinese Buddhist monks about 1,000 years ago, and by adding acupuncture points to their already existing massage techniques, Shiatsu emerged in Japan and is now a fully accepted medical treatment, authorised by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare.
How does it work?: Shiatsu is based on the same principles as acupuncture but without the needles, concentrating on meridians or energy lines. Everything is related to the five elements that correspond to different parts of the body:
- Heart = Fire
- Kidneys = Water
- Spleen = Earth
- Lungs = Metal
- Liver = Wood
The idea, as in acupuncture, is to balance the life energy in the body which is disturbed when we become ill. Through a series of finger pressures all over the body along the meridians or pathways, Shiatsu can rebalance the body’s energies, regulate the function of the organs and improve circulation. By releasing the body’s natural energy flow, our self-healing process is able to take place.
Shiatsu practitioners often use their elbows, knees and feet as well as their fingers during therapy, but they seldom use the palms of their hands unlike other traditional Western contact therapies.
Shiatsu can even detect energy imbalances before there are any symptoms, and as such Shiatsu is used widely as a wonderful preventive therapy which will leave you relaxed and feeling rejuvenated.
What does treatment involve?: A Shiatsu treatment will last up to 1 hour and the amount of treatments you will require will be determined by your practitioner at your first visit. It is advisable not to eat anything, drink any alcohol or have a hot bath for about an hour before and after the visit. The practitioner will take into account details about your lifestyle in general and will ask you about your health problem and medical history. Using touch, such as palpation of the abdomen and other areas which may be lacking in energy, the practitioner will make a diagnosis. He/she will also take your pulse.
The patient will be asked to lie on a treatment couch undressed to underpants (although sometimes the patient may be allowed to wear loose clothing) and the rest of the body will be covered with towels. There will be little talking and the treatment will send you into a very relaxed state. It is possible that you may experience a reaction after treatment such as cold symptoms or slight depression as a result of the release of emotional tension. This is all quite normal however and indicates that the body is ridding itself of negative toxins in a positive response to the treatment.
Your practitioner will be able to show you simple and effective techniques to use on yourself at home to relieve certain symptoms and tensions and it is worth asking about these. Obviously, there are books and leaflets that will also show you how to use certain Shiatsu techniques at home, but if you are pregnant or you have high blood pressure, make sure that you contact a qualified Shiatsu practitioner.
What it can help?: Shiatsu can be used to treat a large range of health problems, but it is particularly effective for headaches, tension, depression and fatigue, as well as bowel and back problems.
As a preventive therapy there is a good chance that some illnesses will be caught very early as a result of Shiatsu treatment.