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What is Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a Japanese therapy that has the same theoretical base as Chinese acupuncture but apart from being 'hands on' and not using needles, has evolved into a treatment system in it's own right.

In common with Traditional Chinese Medicine is the theory that within us all flows energy (ki) the condition and balance of which is intrinsically linked to the health (physical as well as emotional) of the individual. Although this energy is present in every cell of the body, it circulates in distinct channels commonly known as 'meridians'.

If the flow of ki is compromised in some way along the path of the meridian, the ki flow along the entire meridian will be affected resulting in an imbalance in the person's energy system as a whole. This will then cause symptoms, the location and severity of which are dependent on the intensity and duration of the ki imbalance. If the ki imbalance persists and further intensifies there then follows a decline in the functions of associated organs and the affected person's general health.

In Shiatsu, which literally means 'finger pressure', the tools used are the thumbs, fingers, elbows and to a lesser extent  knees and feet, to work not only on specific tsubos but usually along the meridian as a whole. Other techniques such as  stretching and rocking are used, as is gentle holding or deep penetrating pressure. The methods employed vary depending on the condition of the client's ki.

The diagnosis of the meridian 'picture' is a subject too complex and multi-layered to go into any detail here. Assessment of the client starts on first meeting and continues throughout treatment.

One of the main elements of diagnosis that Shiatsu has in common with other Japanese therapies is the 'hara diagnosis'. Practitioners of Chinese therapies will usually refer to the wrist pulses, whereas Japanese based therapies emphasise the importance of assessing the state of the abdomen, or hara. Very gentle palpation is used to check various meridian associated areas.

Hara diagnosis will give the practitioner useful information about the state of the meridians and the health of the individual.

But energy is not the only concern. Structure and energy are intimately linked in that a long term weakness in a meridian will make that area (e.g. ankle) more prone to injury. Conversely, an injury or structural misalignment will impinge on the flow of  the meridian ki.

Although recurring headaches, for example, are often associated with ki imbalances, frequently one might find tightness in the neck and shoulder muscles restricting the blood flow to the brain. The pelvis may be tilted in one direction or another, causing a compensatory tilt of the shoulders and head. The pelvic imbalance may be exacerbated by tension in the abdomen due to chronic constipation...

This, to my mind, is one of the main strengths of shiatsu. Where many therapies will treat either the energetic or structural imbalances, the shiatsu practitioner will take in and address the whole picture.

Yes, Shiatsu is holistic!

I hope this truncated, simplistic resume of Shiatsu has shed some light on it's power and unique qualities and maybe hinted at why I am still so excited by what I do.

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