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What Is Shiatsu?

Updated on April 2, 2013

What Is Shiatsu (And Zen Shiatsu)?

The therapy known as Shiatsu is part of a larger group of oriental health disciplines concerned with the holistic approach to human health. The term 'holistic' simply means that all facets of human life need to be considered when treating an illness - not just the body, but the mind and the emotions, collectively called the 'mind-body'.

Oriental healing arts approach wellness in a very different way to Western cultures. For example, in times past Chinese doctors were paid when their patients are in good health, and not paid when they were ill! Shiatsu is based in Chinese Medicine, which considers that energy within the body needs to be balanced if health is to be maintained. When energy is out of balance, we become sick. Shiatsu is one method of balancing energy within the body.

Photo By Arnaldo V. Carvalho - published under Creative Commons

Modern Medicine Doesn't Make A lot Of Sense (Sometimes)

Mankind has separated himself from nature to such a degree that we don't seem to be governed by the same universal laws any more - this is false. We are as much a part of the Earth as are the plants and animals, and as such, subject to natural rhythms and cycles. The cause of illness is not a simple cause and effect relationship between our environment, heredity or plain bad luck!

Of course, life style is important but our spiritual and emotional state plays a huge part in our overall health. The idea that our bodies can produce sickness without our permission, either consciously or otherwise is erroneous. This is why trying to treat illness only on the physical plane i.e. the body, and give chemical remedies just doesn't work. It's a kind of sticking plaster that postpones the illness, delaying it's onslaught.

By KVDP (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By KVDP (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Exactly What Is The Principle Of Shiatsu?

Going back to basics, everything in the Universe is just energy vibrating at different frequencies. The lower frequencies appear as solid matter, but solids are nevertheless only energy in a particular form. The body is an enclosed energy system which has to be balanced if good health is to be maintained. Shiatsu is one method of balancing the energy flows around the body. In it's basic form, Shiatsu works by applying pressure to certain points (acupressure) located on the surface of the body, which are actually the same points used in acupuncture. Shiatsu is derived from two Japanese words meaning 'finger pressure', which is another way of describing acupressure;

Masunaga And Zen Shiatsu

A Japanese psychologist named Masunaga carried out research with volunteers who were particularly sensitive to energy movements within the body and in the process identified 12 channels, or meridians which represent energy flow around the body. Physical pressure along the points of the channels can either remove blockages, thereby stimulating flow, or reduce flow. A lack of energy, 'empty' state, is called kyo and too much energy, or 'full' state, is known as jitsu.

Each meridian pair is linked to the functioning of a particular organ of the body, and balancing using Zen Shiatsu improves the health of that organ. The 'Zen' refers to the observation that a session should be relaxed and spontaneous, without ego judgement.

More About Shiatsu On Amazon

The Book of Shiatsu: A Complete Guide to Using Hand Pressure and Gentle Manipulation to Improve Your Health, Vitality and Stamina
The Book of Shiatsu: A Complete Guide to Using Hand Pressure and Gentle Manipulation to Improve Your Health, Vitality and Stamina

This book provides a good overall description of the therapy and how to perform simple manipulations with plenty of pictures - (I like pictures!)

Do-It-Yourself Shiatsu: How to Perform the Ancient Japanese Art of Acupressure (Compass)
Do-It-Yourself Shiatsu: How to Perform the Ancient Japanese Art of Acupressure (Compass)

A short practical guide for practicing Shiatsu on friends and family.

Shiatsu Theory and Practice, 3e
Shiatsu Theory and Practice, 3e

A complete work by one of the leading Shiatsu practitioners and teachers in UK - highly recommended if you intend to study further.

The Art of Zen Shiatsu
The Art of Zen Shiatsu

Another encyclopedic work on Shiatsu - a complete overview.

Copyright Sonia Bruce 2009
Copyright Sonia Bruce 2009

What Are The Effects Of Shiatsu?

Patients seek Shiatsu for all kinds of physical pain or discomfort, and the therapy can stimulate rapid recovery in the case of injury. In Chinese Medicine theory, illness is linked to a balanced energy field, and so regular sessions give an increasing feeling of general well being.

Zen Shiatsu is particularly good for treating emotional and nervous disorders, and success has been reported when treating conditions including depression, insomnia, migraine, symptoms of menopause and anorexia.

Who Can Practice Shiatsu?

In most countries where shiatsu is supported, it is strictly regulated and diplomas are awarded after training lasting several years. For example, in France standards are overseen by organizations such as the Federation Francais Shiatsu Traditionel, which rigorously monitors the standards of it's members - (see Shiatsu Toulouse for details of a French Zen Shiatsu practitioner).

The main tenets are that the therapy is not classed a system of massage, but rather a 'touch' therapy for energy re-balancing, and that it is not, and should not replace, a medical treatment.


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    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 4 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      it is new to me. thanks for introducing shiatsu, the ancient chinese healing art.