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Shiatsu is sometimes referred to as 'acupressure' or as acupuncture without needles. The term Shiatsu literally means "finger pressure" and has evolved from a 5000 year old Oriental tradition of healing arts.  Shiatsu is a 3000 year old Japanese therapy with origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Oriental massage techniques. The purpose of Shiatsu is to facilitate balance within the physical, emotional, spiritual, and energetic systems of the body.

Zen Shiatsu developed by Shizuto Masunaga reintegrates the traditional oriental theory of relation of body mind and spirit into the practice of Shiatsu. A unique understanding of energy balance known as kyo-jitsu theory is used to evaluating which life aspects as described by the meridian functions are disturbed and focusses on balancing those meridian lines.

The bases for the effectiveness of Zen Shiatsu lies in it’s holistic approach and the duality of it’s application.  It is applied with a twofold approach which effectively addresses both the acute presentation of symptoms as well as attending to the root cause of chronic imbalances within the body.  The aim is to regulate the flow of Qi (energy) in the body by applying pressure to obstructed or weak areas with pressure applied with the fingers, thumb palms, forearms, knees or feet. Masunaga discovered the energy of the traditional meridian lines to circulate throughout the entire body and created a complex map of extensions of the traditional lines as well as an original form of abdominal and back diagnosis.

Shiatsu works on the flow of energy or Qi (chee), which circulates through our bodies as part of specific energy channels or meridians. Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests that we all have a "life force" or "life energy" which is responsible for creating our physical structure and regulating our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual stability. This life force, called "Qi" or "Chi" in Chinese maintains a homeostatic balance in your body.

When the flow of Qi is disturbed either through external trauma (an injury) or internal trauma (depression or stress) symptoms like aches and pain start to occur and we start to experience a state of discomfort or "dis-ease". The flow of Qi can be disturbed through an accident, a shock or bereavement, dietary excess or imbalance which can result in the body as an imbalance in many forms such as pain, skin rash, loss of drive, emotional swings, and spiritual unrest.

Neurologically Shiatsu pressure activates the healing, conserving functions of the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system to calm the body's over-active fight or flight responses (a classic response if stressed) - giving the body space and time to heal itself, the ability to regain peace, and the opportunity to function effectively again. Physiologically the application of directed pressure combines with intergraded meridian stretches increases circulatory and lymphatic flow which increase fluid and nutrient exchange. Muscles receive fresh blood, oxygen,  and nutrients, while releasing metabolic wastes and stores toxins often resulting in less muscle pain experienced by the client

The Oriental approaches to medicine do not separate mind and body as we do in Western medicine. In Europe and Asia, Shiatsu is a complementary therapy that is often incorporated within the primary healthcare system.  Shiatsu naturally complements and enhances western medicine treatments, and is especially effective with restoring imbalances “side effects” often caused by western treatments, such as nausea from chemotherapy.

Shiatsu Resources:

Shiatsu Theory and Practice: A Comprehensive Text for the Student and Professional, Carola Beresford-Cooke  ISBN: 0 443 07059 8

The Book of Shiatsu: A complete Guide to Using Hand Pressure and Gentle Manipulation to Improve Your Health, Vitality, and Stamina, Paul Lundberg  ISBN: 0 671 74488 7

Natural Ways to Health Shiatsu: The Japanese Healing Art of Touch for Health and Fitness, Elaine Liechti  ISBN: 0 7054 3120 7


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