What Is Shiatsu?

What is shiatsu? well that’s a very good question and one that even shiatsu therapists struggle to answer clearly… 

Shiatsu Translates simply as “finger pressure” but that’s not very accurate I personally rarely use my fingers but I do use my thumbs a lot, and the palms of my hands along with my knuckles and elbow. 

You may hear people refer to it as acupuncture without needles the reason for this just as with acupressure we work pressure points just as acupuncturists do. But unlike acupressure or acupuncture we also work along the meridian (Energy lines). 

My clients refer to it as all sorts Physio, massage, Sports massage, stretch therapy and even pokey thing…. And I personally don’t mind what my clients call it as long as we get results but here lies the problem and why shiatsu isn’t more mainstream. 

In each year of training we are taught by a different teacher who specializes in a different form of shiatsu now while this is great to broaden your horizon and develop your own style it also means shiatsu has come to be a umbrella term for lots and lots of different styles. which is something you don’t get in other therapies. 

Think about it if I ask you to picture the following therapies Physio, Chiropractor, massage, Reiki, acupuncture and sports massage I’m sure an imagine will come to mind something like this. –

Physio – exercise, mobilization and exercise.

Chiropractor – Cracking Bones

Massage – being rubbed with oil

Reiki – Someone waving their arms over you

Acupuncture – Needles being stuck in you

Sports massage – screaming in agony as a over zealous therapist sticks an elbow in your back.

But Shiatsu What does that bring to Mind? 

Zen Shiatsu

Now probably one of the most common themes of shiatsu in England is Zen shiatsu, Zen shiatsu was one of the main styles of shiatsu I was trained with and does follow several common themes with most shiatsu styles. 

Traditionally done on a futon on the floor, now this was probably because massage tables weren’t  invented at the time shiatsu and other similar manually therapies in Japan evolved, However I prefer to work on a table as its easier for myself. 

Fully clothed, the belief being that the skin distracts the mind from feeling the energy within the body however I once read a book written by a Dr visiting Japan in the 1800’s and he describes blind monks doing what appears to be manually therapy similar to shiatsu with both the therapist and receiver being completely naked. 

Now Zen shiatsu is very gentle and energy led learning to diagnose an energy imbalance by palpating the belly known as the hara before working the corresponding meridians to help create balance. 

Take A look at what Zen Shiatsu Looks Like

Shiatsu Shane's Shiatsu

Even though I’m trained in Zen shiatsu, it’s rare I do Zen shiatsu any more however the way I work is influenced by it, But I’m also trained in many forms of massage such as sports massage, Stretch therapy, Swedish Massage and have studied many many more and as such what I have learnt has slowly been woven into my practice so much so I’m pretty sure many shiatsu therapists would argue what I do is no longer shiatsu.

When I work I blend eastern and western techniques in order to try to ease my clients of the pains they present to me but to also balance their energy. 

A session with me would be a blend of shiatsu, stretching, joint mobilization, Pressure point work, Fascial Release techniques, soft & deep tissue massage I once coined the phrase “Sports Shiatsu” but these days I’m not sure that accurately fits what I do so I personally refer to it as shiatsu because to me shiatsu isn’t following a set of rules its the place in the heart we treat from, It’s part of our being and yes at times it may mean breaking the rules of what some see as “shiatsu” especially as sometimes I work with my clients fully clothed and others I apply oil and blend massage techniques in.

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