Shiatsu is a contemporary type of massage therapy with roots in oriental medicine. This treatment uses points that lie on invisible meridians which are pathways of energy between the surface of the body, and the organs; muscles and all other parts of the body. This energy within these 12 meridians is referred to as Qi. Qi is present in all living things. Illness can occur when the energy flow along one or more meridians is blocked or out of balance. Shiatsu, directly translates into Shi (finger) and atsu (pressure), and has a goal of helping the body’s ability to heal itself and promote overall health. The pressing on the vital points opens the pathways for the body’s flow of Qi. Touch is the essence of Shiatsu. Touch of any kind can be of different quality. It can range from aggressive and abusive to nurturing and intuitive. Shiatsu uses a caring touch to help us with self-healing. It also uses gentle stretching and manipulation techniques. In contrast to Swedish massage, Shiatsu uses rhythmic and gradual pressure to the meridians. Sometimes light holding techniques will be used. Swedish therapy, on the other hand, uses long flowing hand movements to pull and knead the muscles. Both are excellent therapeutic methods, but Shiatsu’s focus on restoring the energy flow to the patient creates a more spiritual experience for both the patient and practitioner, therefore being a rewarding experience for both. Though there is only one type of Shiatsu, there are several variations of it. Shiatsu’s beginnings can be traced back to ancient Japan, around 2000BC. It was established as Shiatsu by Tokujiro Namikoshi in 1912. He was only 7 years old at the time. He realized that by using his thumbs to press on his mothers ailing body he was able to relieve her stiffness and pain. He was able to cure his mother of rheumatism through his gentle touch. Shiatsu has become a respectful alternative therapy in Western countries and is offered in many hospital settings. It is a safe and effective treatment. It can help to alleviate depression, anxiety, headaches, arthritis, cramped muscles, swollen joints, sleeplessness, and many other things. The pressure points lying on the meridians are palpated using fingers, knuckles, thumbs, palms, toes, or elbows. Light massage is done with these appendages to feel which points are soft and tender. In Shiatsu physical touch is used to assess the distribution of Qi throughout the body and correct any imbalances. By stimulating the person’s immune system Shiatsu can treat the body as a whole and help to restore physical functions of the nervous and circulatory systems, musculoskeletal structures, and internal organs. Whether your Qi has been disturbed through eternal trauma, such as injury, or internal trauma such as depression or stress, Shiatsu can help. This is when symptoms like aches and pains start to occur and we start to experience a state of disease. If the body is not performing efficiently, the system can turn inwards upon itself and deplete the body’s reserves of basic energy. From all viewpoints, this is unhealthy. For the patient, it would leave him less able to cope with future illnesses, or future situations which require energy if he is to survive. In time such depletion can lead him to the inability to cope with even the normal demands of life.
Kelly Burke is a student at the Acupuncture and Massage College. AMC is the oldest school of Massage Therapy that specializes in shiatsu. For mare information contact Joe Calareso the Admissions Director at 305-595-9500.