What is Shiatsu? Massage for Health and its Definition

Have you often heard people speak of Shiatsu? What is Shiatsu? Shiatsu is a slightly different massage. You have come to the right place to find out interesting information about the origin and application of this unique treatment method.

What literally means “finger pressure” is much more than just that. What at first sounds like a relaxing massage sometimes requires full physical effort. Exertion and relaxation create a harmonious balance during the treatment.

There are twelve main meridians, each meridian is assigned to a specific human organ or organ system. Acupuncture points are located on these meridians. 

In acupuncture treatment, only individual areas are stimulated, otherwise with Shiatsu, here the treatment takes place along the meridians and thus reaches a large area of the body. It not only stimulates the nervous system, but also the functionality of the internal organs. 

Shiatsu can be used not only along the meridians, but can also target the physical well-being of the client.

As the treatments progress, the body recovers more and more.

What is Shiatsu?

What is Shiatsu Massage?

Shiatsu is known as massage, but it is much more than pure body massage. It is a relaxation and wellbeing method that relates to the whole body and aims to optimally promote the life energy in the body

This massage is carried out on the clothed body on a futon or an ordinary mat, whereby the practitioner adapts individually to the client. 

Shiatsu originally comes from Japan, where this treatment method is used as a disease preventive measure, but also to cure diseases, or just to help people relax or get rid of stress.

Where does Shiatsu Come from?

Developed in Japan, Shiatsu has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine and developed out of traditional Chinese massage. At that time there was the idea of meridian systems, channels through which the so-called life energy Qi flows in a person’s body. 

These energy currents flow between two poles, which can also be referred to as Yin and Yang (Taoism). 

In addition to Ying and Yang, there is the model of the five phases of change, a Daoist description of nature.

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang come from Chinese philosophy and were of great importance in Daoism. Yin stands for the dark side, Yang for the sunny side. They are both absolutely different, but they harmonize with each other. 

Both have one seed of the other, and transitions between Yin and Yang are fluid. This consideration came from nature.

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The 5 Phases of Change

What is Shiatsu?

The five elements fire, water, earth, wood and metal harmonize with one another. It keeps an order. The 5 phases of change are another model based on observations of nature. 

Similar to Yin and Yang, further processes can be represented based on this basic model. 

For example, seasons, they are lived through and begin to repeat themselves at the end of the year. An endless cycle.

The basic model of the elements can be reflected in many ways:

What is Shiatsu Massage?

The Qi Symbol

Qi can only flow adequately if you are in full health. If the qi does not flow properly, the harmful qi penetrates and damages the organs. 

In the Shiatsu treatment, the rivers are reopened between the two poles in the meridian. This is done by straining and relaxing. Energy is removed and supplied; this cycle of flowing energy is the Ki (Chinese: Qi)

Not scientifically recognized, there is no evidence for the existence of meridians. It is the pure imagination of the people who believe in it. 

However, the concept of meridian systems in Asian culture is never questioned. Instead, Qi is a deeply rooted part of the Asian culture and stands for the existence of the force that makes up all life.

What does Shiatsu do?

– Shiatsu helps the body to mobilize again and to gain new strength

– Very effective against many types of pain such as shoulder and back pain.

– Emotional as well as inner serenity are actively promoted and contribute to an increase in wellbeing.

– The peace and security of the treatment gives the client the opportunity to return to himself, to feel himself again, to arrive and to gather new strength.

The Shiatsu Session

How does a Shiatsu session usually go?

  • Sequence

How does a Shiatsu session usually go? A mat or futon (blanket) lying on the floor serves as a base for the treatment. Here, the customer and the practitioner work closely together. 

The practitioner not only works with the fingers or the ball of the hand, the knee and elbow are also used. The practitioner uses his body weight and works from the center of the body. Rhythmic and soothing movements lead to a relaxing treatment.

Both actors wear very light clothing, the style of Masunaga. This is mainly used in western countries. Masunaga, one of Namikoshi’s best students, developed his very own style. With Namikoshi, on the other hand, the treatment is carried out without clothing.

– Stress and tension are reduced in the process

However, trying is more than studying, you get to know the new and indescribable feeling, you will ask yourself in retrospect how you could do without it for so long!

  • Duration & prices

A Shiatsu session lasts about 60 minutes in most cases. Lots of time to fully adjust to your body and find yourself again.

The price of a session varies between the providers by only a small amount, this is usually between 45, – € -55, – €. Depending on the qualification and which Shiatsu variant is used, play a role here.

Shiatsu as a Stress Preventive Measure

Although Shiatsu is not a classic massage and is not performed as such, it is considered a very relaxing treatment. Fingers, especially the thumb, the ball of the hand, forearms and even knees of the practitioner are used. 

Instead of pure muscle strength, the practitioner relies on his body weight to apply light pressure during the treatment. The practitioner adapts to each client individually and adapts to the current needs, which leads to particularly intense relaxation. 

During the treatment, which lasts up to an hour, the practitioner comes into contact with the client. In doing so, the therapist pays attention to the client’s limits, creating a kind of non-verbal conversation. 

After the body therapy, you feel stress-free again and can devote yourself to everyday life full of energy. Better body awareness is also often the result of this particular type of treatment.

Benefits of Shiatsu

The benefits of this method of treatment from Japan are numerous. In addition to the already mentioned relaxation and promotion of a better body feeling, or an improvement of the contact to oneself, the undisturbed flow of life energy promotes the self-healing processes, such as regeneration. 

This treatment method can therefore be useful both to maintain health and to help with existing health problems. It is also a good companion in various crisis situations and can very well serve as a support in psychotherapy. 

Even sleep disorders, headaches, tiredness and other disorders can be alleviated with this treatment method. 

In addition to the mental and physical effects, a change in lifestyle can actually be observed in people who regularly enjoy this treatment. People become more relaxed, inwardly more balanced and can often participate more actively in life. 

In children, this method of treatment has proven particularly useful for disorders such as hyperactivity and poor concentration. 

This is thanks to the fact that the combination of relaxation and a better awareness of one’s own body can lead to a better inner balance and thus generally help people to concentrate more successfully.

Therapies Closely Related to Shiatsu

The following therapies are very much related to shiatsu.

1. Acupressure

This is an ancient form of healing that combines massage and acupuncture, and was performed over 3000 years ago in Japan and China. 

During this therapy, the practitioner firmly massages the acupressure points with the thumbs or fingertips. 

There are several ways to work, and pressure can be applied from the practitioner’s fingers, thumbs, knees, palms, etc. Pain relief can sometimes be very quick, depending on the cause, while other more persistent problems may take longer to improve.

2. The do-in

This system of stretching, breathing, exercise and acupressure techniques is perfect for beginners. You can use do-in daily as a type of acupressure workout.

3. Acu-yoga

This method uses yoga postures in order to press multiple acupressure points with your entire body instead of just using your hands. This method is made to be used at home. 

Yoga stretches are especially useful when you want to work on your back and other hard-to-reach places. 

4. The jin shin Jyutsu

It is a Japanese form of self-acupressure that involves gently touching or rocking the body rather than massaging it. The purpose of jin shin jyutsu is to harmonize body, soul and spirit by touching 26 “security energy locks” located along energy paths in the body. Sessions can consist of a series of manipulations or can be as simple as holding a finger.

5. Zen shiatsu

It is a form of Buddhism that originated in Japan, and often consists of difficult practices such as several hours of meditation a day. Zen shiatsu is also difficult, adding yoga stretches to help open up the meridians. 

Healthcare professionals who practice this technique also apply heavy pressure, using their full body weight when they squeeze the stitches. This is not a technique to do at home.

6. Barefoot shiatsu

In this practice, the feet are used to massage and squeeze the points. Practitioners say this method helps apply more pressure.

What Problems Can Shiatsu Help?

Shiatsu can be used to treat several minor problems like insomnia, headaches, anxiety, back pain, constipation, skin irritation, etc. 

Shiatsu improves overall health by relieving stress, calming the nervous system, and stimulating the circulatory and immune systems. Shiatsu is particularly effective for tension and stress-related illnesses, such as insomnia, back pain, headaches, and digestive problems. 

However, with the stimulation of the hormonal system, shiatsu can also affect the digestive and reproductive system. In addition to relieving symptoms, shiatsu gradually corrects long-term postural and behavioral imbalances, and brings an improvement in body and mind awareness, and a general feeling of well-being and tranquility. 

A single session of shiatsu may be sufficient to remedy the problems by stimulating the flow of energy along the canals. This can be followed by recommendations for regular exercise and possible diet and lifestyle changes.

Shiatsu invokes a general feeling of good health in the person as a whole, not just from a physical point of view. There are many benefits for both the giver and the recipient of shiatsu, on a physical and spiritual level.

Is Shiatsu Safe?

Performed by a qualified therapist, shiatsu is safe for everyone and particularly beneficial for pregnant women. Some therapists also care for young children and the elderly.

The basic advice on when and how not to do or receive shiatsu is similar to that for any treatment that affects the flow of energy, blood, and body fluids through the system. 

Shiatsu should be avoided during periods of fever, especially when they are accompanied by local infections and inflammations or by infectious problems of all kinds, on people with cancer, heart disease, and having cuts, bruises, scars, wounds, or swelling.

However, since shiatsu techniques can be very dynamic or gentle, it might still be possible to use the supportive qualities of some of the posture techniques in most of these situations. 

In fact, shiatsu has been used effectively in addition to other approaches for the treatment of various forms of cancer, heart disease, HIV and AIDS.

Use caution and common sense in determining if a particular shiatsu treatment is appropriate. For example, do not try the more dynamic movements on elderly, frail, or people with weak bones.

Effectiveness of Shiatsu

The use of shiatsu and acupressure have been proven in various medical studies to be effective in relieving pain and illness.

In 1986, workers in a car factory were examined in a study to exclude those with organic problems or infections, and 142 workers with chronic low back pain were treated daily for 21 days with acupressure, on points along the spine, back and front of the legs. 

Major improvement was felt in 29% of patients, 68% were treated and 3.5% did not feel any change. The treated workers also felt an improvement in their sleep.

Acupressure was used to cure morning sickness on 350 women at the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast in 1988. They were randomly assigned to three groups, and the severity of morning sickness was recorded daily for 4 days. 

A wrist acupressure point was pressed on the first group, a so-called acupressure point was pressed on the second group, and the third group was left untreated. 

The treated and placebo groups experienced significantly less nausea compared to the group without treatment. There were no side effects reported on the patient’s pregnancies.

A 24-month study reported in Current Psychiatric Therapy in 1977 speaks of the successful treatment of headache with “auto-acupuncture.” Acupressure or shiatsu techniques have been evaluated as symptomatic treatments for migraines, allergies and headaches. 

The study was carried out on more than 500 outpatient neuropsychiatric patients. These patients were seen on more than 5,000 visits. Over 200 had severe headaches, more than once a week. “Self-acupressure” replaced patients’ prescriptions for painkillers and stronger drugs, and the doctors involved felt that the value of alternative health methods was greatly enhanced by their easy availability and low rate of toxic effects.

In 1982, the American Journal of Chinese Medicine wrote that several methods, including acupressure, were effective in improving the general health of the elderly and promoting longevity. 

In 1980, the American Journal of Acupuncture wrote that shiatsu and acupressure had been used effectively in a health education center for 6 years, and the results had been astounding. 

Participants greatly benefited from the personal management of pain and stiffness due to physical and physiological issues and stress-related issues.

Shiatsu is an approved therapy in Japan and is gaining popularity as an alternative therapy in the Western world.

Shiatsu Exercise for Beginners

This shiatsu exercise includes the elements of deep breathing, meditation, sound therapy and acupressure.

Sit quietly on the floor, on a pillow or mattress. Place your hands-on top of each other, on the navel. Clear your mind and focus on your deep breathing, imagining a starting point about 4 centimeters above the navel. 

This point is called the “ki-kai” or “the ocean of energy”. Breathe in deeply, and breathe out slowly. You can hum a melody when you breathe out. 

Music has a calming effect. For more tips on the right way to breathe, read the section on yoga breathing.

After a few minutes of deep breathing, lean on your hands as you exhale your vibrations, humming. Then breathe in slowly, stretching your spine slightly, and return to your original position. Repeat this exercise 5 times.

Next, hold your hands so that they lock into the space between the index finger and thumb. You hit a major acupressure point, large intestine number 4, called “go kuku” (“mountains that meet”). 

Press with your thumb towards the base of the index finger. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat the exercise to relieve headaches, toothaches, menstrual pain, or stomach pain.

This simple form of self-shiatsu affects internal organs. You can increase a specific effect with your focus. 

For example, when you lean forward, focus on the kidneys in the lumbar region (lower back). It will strengthen your qi.

Basic Rules for the Practice of Shiatsu

There are basic rules to follow before practicing shiatsu.

  • 1. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing made from natural fibers. This will help with the flow of energy, or ki.

  • 2. The room should be warm, quiet, have enough space, and be neat and clean. If not, it can have the opposite effect on the flow of ki.

  • 3. It is best for the person receiving therapy to lie down on a futon (a Japanese fleece mattress), or similar type of mattress, placed on the floor. Pillows and cushions can be used for patient comfort.

  • 4. Shiatsu should not be performed or received by someone who has just finished a heavy meal. Wait several hours to practice or receive shiatsu.

  • 5. Do not press on varicose veins or injuries like cuts and cracked bones.

  • 6. These parts are the stomach, any part of the legs from the feet to the knees, the fleshy part between the index finger and the thumb, and part of the shoulders on either side of the neck.

  • 7. Make sure the patient is calm and relaxed.

It is generally not recommended to perform shiatsu on people with serious illnesses such as heart problems, multiple sclerosis, or cancer. An experienced practitioner may be able to help, but detailed and accurate diagnosis and treatment is essential.

It is important to ask the patient for information about her general health, and if she is female, to ask her if she is pregnant.

Effects of Shiatsu Treatment

The immediate effect of treatments differs among individuals. But those treated all feel a sense of well-being.

Because of the deep relaxation usually created and the stimulus on major body systems, you may have healing reactions. 

Some people get cold or have cold-like symptoms, pain or headache after the first treatment. These symptoms will only last for a day and will normally go away after subsequent sessions. If symptoms persist, please consult your doctor promptly. 

Usually, the affects you may experience are positive signs from your body to let you know that it is trying to cure its own condition in a natural way. These are signs of elimination and the start of the healing process.

The following examples are side effects that some people may experience after a shiatsu treatment, they are proof of how the treatment works.

* Cough, mucus production, or symptoms of a cold: These are caused by encouraging the body to shed excess food (such as sugar and fat) in this way. A cold can develop when mucus is produced, especially when the body’s cells are not healthy.

* A feeling of fatigue: fatigue can be felt, especially in a person suffering from nervous tension. After the therapy removes the stress or tension, the body’s need for sleep and rest becomes apparent.

* Headache or other pain: There are two main reasons for these symptoms, which usually only last a short time. Shiatsu rebalances the ki in the body. Thus, blockages in the flow of energy are released and ki can spread throughout the body, causing a temporary imbalance in a part of the body that causes pain. It is also possible that too much pressure was applied to a particular area. The rate of pressure supported varies from person to person. If the pain persists for more than a few days, see your doctor.

* Feeling emotional: feelings of emotionality can occur as energy is stimulated to flow and balance is restored. Sensations can be connected with something from the past that has been repressed, and therefore, when emotions resurface, they need to be exteriorized in a beneficial way, such as crying.

Why do Some People Not Get Beneficial Results from Shiatsu?

Some people may not get any benefit from shiatsu. There are several reasons for this.

* Some people are not “in tune” with their body at all and find that they are not well only when they are in pain. In this case, there may be no beneficial effect of shiatsu.

* Many overweight people have fat under their skin and around internal organs. The body is unable to eliminate this fat which forms a barrier to ki. Traffic is stopped. Thus, in general, overweight people do not have any benefit from shiatsu because of the difficulty in stimulating the circulation of ki in the body.

Reading the Body

It is possible for shiatsu practitioners, as they become more experienced, to assess a person’s mental and physical health by observing the body precisely. If traditional ways of oriental diagnostics are studied, they can help a lot. 

Eastern methods were based on the senses of hearing, sight, smell, touch, and questioning a patient for information leading to a general diagnosis. This is called the reading of the body.

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