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Home > Alternative Therapy > Shiatsu

Shiatsu - Introduction

shaistu shiatsu

Shiatsu is a form of Oriental Therapy evolved from a 5000 years old tradition of healing arts.

Shiatsu utilizes a combination of pressure and assisted-stretching techniques, some of which are common to other therapies, such as Massage, Physiotherapy, Acupressure, Osteopathy, Lymphatic Drainage, Do-in and others. The treatment stimulates the circulation and the flow of lymphatic fluid, releases toxins and deep seated tensions from the muscles, stimulates the hormonal system and the immune system, and acts on the autonomic nervous system, allowing the recipient to relax deeply and to get in touch with own healing power.

Shiatsu is a contemporary therapy with its roots in Oriental traditional medicine. It is sometimes described as Japanese physiotherapy. The actual treatment approach and philosophy is similar to acupuncture in its usage of the meridians (energy channels) and tsubo (pressure points) as well as diagnostic methods, but without the use of needles. Unlike most other forms of bodywork, in shiatsu the receiver remains clothed for the treatment and no oil is used for the massage.

Shiatsu is a Japanese word made up of two written characters meaning finger (shi) and pressure (atsu). The application of pressure is the underlying principle of shiatsu. Shiatsu is often called accupressure, although technically it is not correct. We can say Shiatsu is a variant of accupressure, as it involves the stimulation of the acupoints with pressure. However, this is not the only thing nor the principal technique used in Shiatsu. In Shiatsu, the pressure is sometimes applied over a wider area, not just over the acupoints; sometimes, the pressure is applied precisely over the acupoints. The practitioners use fingers and thumb for applying pressure precisely at localized points. For applying pressure over a larger area, they use palms, elbows, knees, and feet.

In addition to the pressure itself, shiatsu involves gentle stretch and manipulation techniques. These may have been borrowed from modern physiotherapy rather than from the ancient oriental massage. But shiatsu differs from Western massage in technique as well as in theory. While Swedish massage therapists use long, flowing hand movements to knead muscles, shiatsu practitioners apply rhythmic and gradual pressure to the meridians and tsubos. Sometimes, very light 'holding' techniques may be used, usually with the palm, almost like the laying on of hands as in spiritual healing. Stretching exercises and other corrective techniques creates flexibility and balance in the body, both physically and energetically.

Shiatsu works on the flow of energy or qi that circulates through our bodies in specific energy channels or meridians. Traditional Oriental Medicine suggests that we all have a "life force" or "life energy" which created our physical structure and regulates physical, emotional, mental and spiritual stability. This life force, called qi or chi in Chinese and ki in Japanese, maintains a homeostatic balance in your body.

The flow of qi can be disturbed either through external trauma, such as an injury, or internal trauma such as depression or stress. This is when symptoms like aches and pain start to occur and we start to experience a state of "disease". In shiatsu the physical touch is used to assess the distribution of qi throughout the body and to try to correct any imbalances accordingly.

Touch is the essence of shiatsu. Touch is a wonderful means of communicating our love and compassion for others in a very direct way. Touch can be of very different quality, ranging from aggressive, abusive and mechanical to more nurturing, caring and intuitive. All living things responds to touch and shiatsu helps to fulfill this need. The caring touch used in shiatsu will help to trigger the self-healing process within.

Thus, modern shiatsu incorporates a mixture of different approaches - ancient and modern. It includes pressing, hooking, sweeping, shaking, rotating, grasping, vibrating, patting, plucking, lifting, pinching, rolling, brushing, and in one variation called barefoot shiatsu, it involves walking on the person's back. Legs, and feet. These all share a common theme, namely touch. Shiatsu is thus a 'hands-on' therapy.

Although East and West have different viewpoints on health and life, these can complement one another. The Eastern belief is of a primary flow of energy throughout the body, which runs along certain channels known as meridians. It is also believed that this energy exists throughout the universe and that all living creatures are dependent upon it as much as on physical nourishment. The energy is known by three similar names, ki, chi and prana in Japan, China and India respectively.

Shiatsu has become a respected alternative therapy in the western countries and is offered in many hospital settings as a complementary therapy for the treatment and prevention of many common ailments. It is a very safe and effective treatment.

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