Commonly Asked Questions
How does Shiatsu work?
The aim of Shiatsu is to restore balance to the body and make it stronger thereby assisting the body to heal itself. Like acupuncture, Shiatsu works on the flow of ‘life energy’ or ‘Ki’. Oriental medical practitioners believe that our energy flows throughout our bodies via energetic pathways which are known as meridians or energy channels. When an unbalanced condition develops in a body organ or system, it is transferred to the surface through related meridians, and brances of the nervous system. This can appear in correlated areas as pain, stiffness, roughness, change in temperature, or discoloration of the skin. It can also create numbness or loss in mobility of the extremities. These symptoms are actually valuable signals or warnings of stagnation and imbalance occurring within the body. The Shiatsu techniques used to create stimulation are called tonification, while those used to diminish energy are called sedation. These influences, when applied to the related meridians, points, or areas, help to recognize the total body energy field, creating balance. Hence the ailing condition and its symptoms will subside or disappear.
Does Shiatsu hurt?
A Shiatsu session should be very comfortable.
You will find that during the session, we will find places, acupoints, on your body that are holding pain. Pain, in its simplest form, is just stuck energy. The point of the session is to ensure the free flow of Ki or energy in the meridians or channels. When we find the painful spots, we will GENTLY move into them to release them – only to your pain tolerance. Most people describe this as good pain. This type of pain releases and eases during the session.
Is Shiatsu part of traditional Chinese medicine?
Since Shiatsu is believed to have originated in Japan, it technically could not be considered a form of traditional “Chinese” medicine; however, it is considered a form of Asian bodywork, and is based on many of the same principles seen in some forms of TCM, such as acupuncture and Tai Chi.
What will happen during a Shiatsu session?
We begin with taking a detailed health history. This includes asking about your specific issues, as well as your energy, digestion, and sleep. We will look at your tongue where clues to your energetic condition can be assessed. This information will help to decide which meridians and points to focus on. The techniques used in the massage will depend on your energetic condition, and the combining of intuition and theory to create an appropriate treatment for you, at that particular time. So each session will be unique.
A typical session with a Shiatsu practitioner lasts 60 minutes, although an initial session will usually last a little longer. Depending on the condition being treated, a patient may need to see a practitioner between four and eight times; for a more chronic condition, such as low back pain or recurring headaches, patients may need a longer treatment regimen.
During the session, pressure is applied to various parts of the body which correspond with the points and channels or meridians used in acupuncture. For this reason Shiatsu became popularly known in the west by the rather inaccurate term of acupressure. Unlike acupuncture or acupressure massage, where the practitioner concentrates on a few specific points, Shiatsu works on the whole of an imbalanced meridian, and the whole body.
We will use thumbs, fingers, palms, elbows, and sometimes we may use our knees and feet in order to disperse or move blocked Ki. These techniques are used to assist the flow of energy through the meridians. We generally work all over the body, i.e. arms, legs, back, abdomen, neck, and head. This enables you to relax deeply and get in touch with your own healing abilities and feel more connected with your body, mind, and spirit.
Treatment is carried out through light clothing on a padded mat on the floor. The low height of our mat allows us to use our body weight rather than muscle strength to apply pressure which is more comfortable to receive and less tiring for the practitioner.
Shiatsu affects all levels of our being: the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Treatment is attuned to the individual’s personal development of total health and character. To make real, long-lasting changes in your health, we may give advice on diet and exercise based on your energy type.
What conditions can Shiatsu help?
It is not a requirement to be ill in order to benefit from Shiatsu! Keeping your stress levels low by regular healthy activities such as Shiatsu, improves your chances of staying healthy. But if you are faced with a health challenge, or lack of energy, pain, etc., you can benefit from Shiatsu due to its ability to strengthen the body’s energy and self-healing properties. Because an imbalance of chi or energy in the body often precedes full blown disease symptoms, Oriental medicine has a preventative role. Along with changes in your daily life Shiatsu treatments can jump start your process of healing and balance.
Conditions often improved by Shiatsu:
- Pain – chronic shoulder and neck tension, low back
- Stress – in mind and body
- Balancing energy levels
- PMS and menopause symptoms
- Boosting immune system
- Improve circulation
- Digestion imbalances – IBS, constipation…
- Calming the mind (for the over thinkers!!)
- Maintaining your good health
Treatment of all these conditions will be given according to Oriental assessment tools, although Western concepts are considered as well.
How is Shiatsu different than regular massage?
Generally, massage therapy refers to Swedish massage, deep tissue, and trigger point work. Massage therapy usually involves rubbing and kneading the body using oils or lotions. Swedish massage acts on the circulatory system of the body to improve circulation. It also affects muscle tissue to relieve muscle tension and pain.
The most obvious differences are; Shiatsu therapy uses specific, rhythmic techniques of pressing, holding, kneading, and tapping along meridians and acupuncture points to regulate body functioning. The amount of pressure is applied according to your specific condition – as determined by the intake, and your tolerance. No oils are used, and you may wear loose clothing during the treatment. Shiatsu treatments help to relieve pain and improve organ function. All of your bodies systems are addressed.
Each therapist has their own additional skill sets, theories, intuitive abilities and style. We believe that there are many ways to open the flow of energy in the body: everything from deeply pressing into the connective tissue of the body, to working in the energetic field and not even touching the body. This is the art of bodywork: to determine when and what is needed and what can be accepted by the client.
What can I expect to feel after a Shiatsu treatment?
Most people report a feeling of being deeply calm, but energized. These reactions can be due to the energetic effect of a Shiatsu session. However, the full effects of a treatment may also take several days to achieve. Occasionally a new patient may have a ‘healing reaction’ after the first few sessions. Symptoms such as headache, stiffness, diarrhea, desire to urinate frequently, or lethargy may be experienced due to the release of toxins. These symptoms are transitory and soon pass, usually in 12 hours. Rest and drinking plenty of water will help.
Your overall improvement in health will be greatly enhanced by any improvements made in all the aspects of health – proper nutrition for your type, exercise, meditation and bodywork. Taking small daily steps to support your body such as minor dietary changes, rest when tired, drinking water, breathing, gently moving your body each day such with walking, yoga, Chi Gong or Tai Chi movements, and focusing on what is going well in your life. Changes in any of these areas will create positive change; changes in all of these areas will create complete healing.
What are the benefits and advantages of being treated with shiatsu? Are there any drawbacks?
Shiatsu has many benefits not normally seen with most forms of Western medicine. It is non-invasive; no needles or instruments are used, and the skin isn’t punctured while treatment is being delivered. In addition, because Shiatsu doesn’t involve the use of drugs or pharmaceuticals, there are no side-effects.
Shiatsu has been shown to be quite effective in relieving a variety of conditions such as back, neck and shoulder pain, along with pain due to arthritis. People suffering from insomnia, headaches and menstrual cramps have also reported relief with Shiatsu.
Shiatsu is not for everyone, however. There are some instances where treatment should be avoided. For instance, patients who have an open wound or infectious skin disease; are prone to blood clots or have had surgery recently; have a fracture or sprain; or have recently had chemotherapy or radiation therapy, should not be treated with shiatsu. Patients should avoid Shiatsu specifically in the abdominal area if they are in the first three months of pregnancy, have an abdominal hernia, or have eaten within the past two hours.
Guidelines for clients
In order to gain the most benefit from a Shiatsu treatment. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Be open to the possibility of healing, on many levels. True healing begins in the mind.
- It is best not to eat a big meal for two or three hours before a treatment. This is because lying down with pressure applied to your torso after a full meal would feel uncomfortable. You can have a light meal before your treatment.
- It is best not to drink alcohol on the day of your treatment.
- It is best not to wear any jewelry, perfume or aftershave, and to keep make-up to a minimum.
- You will remain fully clothed during a Shiatsu session. If coming from work, bring clothes along to change into.
- Wear light, loose clothing such as light workout clothes you can easily move around and stretch in.
- Allow enough time so that you are not arriving in a hurry, or rushing away afterward.
- If applicable, have details available of current medical diagnosis and of any medication you may be taking.
- After a treatment, drink a few glasses of water to help the body release any waste or toxins released during the session.
- If muscle soreness is experienced and you do not have high blood pressure, try soaking in a tub of warm water with 2 cups Epsom salts. This will assist the process of moving toxins out of the body and energy field.