Shiatsu means literally ‘finger pressure’ but that’s not all there is to it. Working on meridians in the body, a practitioner can affect internal organs and re-balance well-being. It doesn’t involve massage or taking clothes off. The shiatsu practitioner wil assess and focus on particular pressure points on the body that relate to your condition. So for leg cramps the practitioner may work on the ankles and points either side of the knee by pressing down on the point for several minutes, connecting with the body.
Developed in Japan in the 1900’s it has gained notoriety and is now practiced throughout the world. In Japan the practice is now regulated and practitioners are required to go through government licensing. They are well educated not only in the practice but in diagnosis as well.
There are 838 pressure points used in the practice of Shiatsu. They are located throughout the body on bones, glands, nerves, muscles and even blood and lymph vessels. The application of the pressure is dependent on the condition of the body. If the muscles are tight then a light amount of pressure is applied. As the muscles relax and loosen a deeper pressure is applied. Whether it is light or deep the pressure is always firm and steady. This pressure combined with an excellent knowledge of pressure points triggers the body to release hormones and other chemicals that are needed to allow your body to heal itself.
Shiatsu is for all ages and most conditions, it is particularly beneficial for those with musculoskeletal disorders, stress and even in conjunction with giving up smoking programs. It can help adults with depression, back pains, diabetes and even cancer pains. For babies and children, a mild pressure is applied to treat attention deficit disorder to re-balance chemical imbalances in the brain. For the elderly, arthritis and joint problems can be treated, although it isn’t a cure, the effects are often temporary relief rather than long-term.
A typical session could last for forty-five minutes to an hour. The first session will be an assessment to discover medical history, any allergies and feeding and sleeping habits. The practitioner is looking to build the bigger picture so that they can decide on which meridians to offer treatment . Some practitioners can assess the meridians by touch alone whilst others check pulses and assess the patient’s tongue to look for imbalances.
The meridians to be addressed may be affecting the body in many ways. For example a patient with breathing problems may have their lung meridian addressed. Their arm would be moved up and down to see how it reacts in relation to posture and how it affected them. The practitioner could decide which meridian is imbalanced and which ones were balanced enough to be left alone. As the patient lies on the floor, the practitioner can use different parts of their body to apply pressure, usually the fingers and thumbs but elbows and palms can offer heavier pressure.
There are many variations and styles today. The first style developed was Namikoshi in which the practitioner would never use fists, knuckles, knees or elbows to apply pressure. Only the fingers and palms are used as anything else lacks the sensitivity required.
The Zen style combines the techniques found in traditional shiatsu with meditation by the therapist. This meditative state is believed to better allow the therapist to feel the responses to the treatment with his hands and detect abnormalities or imbalances and attempt to restore them.
The Gregorian Method is considered to be a whole body treatment with the focal point on the skeleton. It combines motion of the joints with pressure points massage. This type of treatment requires you to be loose, relaxed and passive allowing the therapist to manipulate your body as needed.
The practice adapts a holistic approach which is achieved by regulating the nervous system and stimulating chemical responses within the body to promote natural healing. This form of therapeutic massage is effective in treating back pain, headaches and some forms of arthritis. It reduces muscular stiffness, relaxes the body and promotes healing. There are also benefits for the digestive, reproductive, respiratory and circulatory systems. This pressure therapy is used as a preventative treatment for inflammatory diseases and for maintaining good physical health. The method used to trigger the body’s own healing system does not have side effects and is a very healthy way of obtaining relief.
A practitioner will usually suggest a length of time for the sessions and how many are required. Most will suggest between six to eight sessions as it can take a few sessions to get the meridians used to the pressure and to relax, ready for treatment.