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The Art of Shiatsu-Acupressure Therapy

Updated on May 12, 2011

Acupressure Therapy

Acupressure therapy is a form of massage that does not require the application of oils, lotions, balms or gels. It is performed by using the thumb, fingers and palm and alternatively the elbows, knees and toes to press onto acupuncture 'points' on the body to stimulate blood circulation; releasing stagnant energy and reduce toxic build up.

Besides Shiatsu there are a couple of popular styles of Acupressure therapy that is widely practiced in Asia; Tuina the Chinese method which is similar to the Japanese Shiatsu but differ in application style, and the traditional Thai method that involves flexing, stretching, twisting the joint and applying pressure using their elbows, forearms, heels and toes. One hears many cracking sounds during this interesting method of massage.


Shiatsu; pronounced 'Shiat suh' is a form of acupressure therapy. It is originated in Japan. This is a popular method of massage in Asia. This technique of massage therapy refers to the Chinese meridian points, also known as tsubo, which means acupuncture point. Still, what makes Shiatsu unique is the application which adapts to the Zen way. This is the essential form of the massage therapy itself.

Shiatsu therapist understands that the acupuncture points are a guideline to the bodies reflexology point but to truly perform the therapy is to combine physiology or if you will; a more spiritual perspective during the therapy session. A therapist focuses on freeing the mind of burdening thoughts, breathing and timed application of pressure and releasing of pressure on the body. In essence, during the massage therapy, a therapist and receiver are of one channel, that work together towards recovering weak kyo areas and dispersing excess jitsu areas of the body. A good therapist are able to sense the receiver's aches and level of stress simply by opening themselves to the receiver during the therapy. It works both ways, but a therapist is trained to be in control of their energy outflow into the receiver's, and the therapist is also able to put a barrier to control excessive inflow of the receiver's negative energy into them.

This massage therapy is known to be effective in relieving stress, migraine, fatique, insomnia, tense muscle, back ache, rheumatism and arthritis among others.

Basic Shiatsu

State of mind.

-Before performing the massage therapy, make sure that you are relaxed, empty of worries and thoughts of self. Concentrate instead in giving (healing, relieving).

-Focus on the inner energy within you.

Warm up

-Always start a massage therapy with proper body warm ups, by rubbing down the back and shoulder gently but firmly. then progress to wide presses on the body and legs. This can prevent cramps and allow the receiver to be ready for the full effect of the therapy session.

-Experiment different level of pressure, starting from light to harder pressure to determine the right pressure to use on the receiver and the limits of their toleration. Massage therapy is healing and relieving; not causing unnecessary pain. And Shiatsu is a gentle yet effective way of acupressure therapy.


-Inhale and exhale steadily as you release pressure and pressing the receiver, at times you need to guide the receiver through the breathing rhythm when you notice the receiver is not breathing properly.

-Become one (channel) with the receiver.

Timing your Pressure

-Press and hold the pressure at the least; to the count of three. And no longer than one minute on a certain area of the body.

-Release the pressure slowly but steadily, especially after holding the pressure for a long time.

Acupuncture points

-Learn and memorize the exact meridian points and it's reflective organs.

-Use your 'touch' senses to recognize the points NOT your eyes.

How I learnt about Shiatsu.

When i was a teenager, I met a lady who was an assistant to a Shiatsu practitioner in a Japanese Natural Healing clinic. She would be the person who taught me the most in the least practical ways about this massage therapy and the person responsible to get me interested in the whole healing idea. She did not teach me as a trainer would; she would just show me with her hands and other times pressing mine so that i get i to feel how it is. The rest is verbal as in usual discussion about a topic and sometimes, she would tell me stories about this Japanese doctor. No theory. Now that i come to think of it, the speed and amount of knowledge absorption i had gain through that simple sharing, i must have been really curious and intrigued, by the idea of one person's ability to heal or relieve another's pain; just by focusing on the inner energy that everyone has within them and the mind's ability to concentrate.

Her name is Camelia, a handsome and broad minded forty year old lady. One of the stories she told me was about the doctor's mentor. A master of the art; who heals people without touching them. All he did is place his hands above his patients body, focus on his 'chi' and concentrate in dispersing toxic accumulation, pressing acupuncture points. His students can see obvious palm marks on the towel covering the patient. However, unaware of how the therapy was conducted, patients share their experience with others saying, how they felt exerted pressure pressing on them and the warm sensation that seemed to flow throughout their body.

I don't know how many experts of Shiatsu or other therapy like it still exists; personally I have met a number of experienced therapists that claimed to know Shiatsu therapy yet, they do not know the basic knowledge of the therapy which is the essence of the art. They are a few which I knew to be good therapists but has given up the original way of performing the massage to simple relaxing method, unrelated to the therapy. Maybe, it is not wrong to do so, as most receivers do not know what to expect. As much as I enjoy the massage, i have jumbled it with other methods and come out with my own signature therapy. It is true that massage therapy is an individual dance; no two therapists trained by the same trainer are the same no matter how similar. Alas, I would be sad if this technique will finally be lost in time.


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    • ginjill ashberry profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashley TKL 

      3 years ago

      Hello Ruby H Rose,

      Thank you for reading the article about Shiatsu massage therapy.

      For the sake of knowledge, i am still trying to find a way to learn 'Reiki' therapy, which is another method of massage from the land of the risen sun. I have found a reputed clinic with practitioners who teaches the art. Alas, i needed three other interested student to be able to proceed with the training. And even if I do find three of them, we would have to work out the training time and days among us to accommodate each other's schedule.

      Well, that was that and thank you for dropping me a line!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 

      3 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Yes, it would be sad if such a healing art was forever lost. May more therapists learn of its healing ways.


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