What is Shiatsu?

by karen on May 9, 2013

by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist

Shiatsu is a traditional Japanese therapy based on anatomical and physiological theory.  It comes from the Japanese “shi” (finger) and “atsu” (pressure).  A practitioner uses touch, comfortable pressure and manipulative techniques to adjust the body’s physical structure and balance its energy flow. The application of the shiatsu technique is holistic in that it seeks to treat the whole person.  Finger pressure is applied to specific areas of the body in order to alleviate discomfort, treat disease, and maintain physical and mental health.

Before treatment begins, the practitioner evaluates the client’s general health by asking about their recent and past medical history, and any current problems or issues that may be affecting them. While fully clothed, the client lays comfortably on a thin mat on the floor.  The practitioner works systematically and methodically, using their thumbs, palms, fingertips, knuckles, elbows, and knees to apply gentle sustained pressure.

Shiatsu is based on the concept of qi (chee) which is translated to mean “the life force or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe.”  Qi flows through the body via energy pathways called meridians, each of which is associated with a vital organ.  The twelve meridians are directional pathways in the energy flow of qi through the body.  The meridians are named according to their corresponding organs, limb positions, and yin and yang properties.  There are three arm yin meridians and three arm yang meridians which include the lung, heart, large and small intestines.  The three leg yin and three leg yang meridians include the stomach, bladder, spleen and kidney.

When chi flows freely it brings to the body, and the mind, new and vital energy.  In Traditional Chinese medicine, diseases are believed to occur because there is a disruption to this energy flow. Blocked or diverted chi must be cleared and restored. When these blockages occur, a practitioner applies pressure to various points along the meridians.  Squeezing, stretching, and even rocking motions may also be used to manipulate areas that are blocked.  When the qi is restored, physical energy and emotional well‑being are improved. There are many health benefits to shiatsu: stress reduction, release of toxins from the body, improved blood circulation, deep muscle relaxation, and improved digestion.

Contact Dee Weir if you have any questions about how shiatsu therapy can help you!


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