Dis­cov­er­ing the heal­ing art of shi­atsu

‘Shi­atsu’ lit­er­ally trans­lates from Ja­panese as ‘ fin­ger pres­sure’. It is used to de­scribe a form of body­work that was orig­i­nally de­vel­oped in Japan and has its ori­gins in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine (TCM).

Living Now - - Contents - by Emily Har­ri­son

‘Shi­atsu’ lit­er­ally trans­lates from Ja­panese as ‘fin­ger pres­sure’. It is used to de­scribe a form of body­work that was orig­i­nally de­vel­oped in Japan and has its ori­gins in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine (TCM).

Shi­ats-who? And how is it dif­fer­ent from mas­sage? Isn’t it a small dog? Well, these are not un­com­mon ques­tions for those new to this an­cient heal­ing art.

Shi­atsu is a modal­ity that in­cor­po­rates the use of a range of tech­niques to ap­ply pres­sure over var­i­ous parts of the body to ef­fect a ther­a­peu­tic re­sult. The pres­sure used can be firm or light (but it shouldn’t be painful) and the prac­ti­tioner may use not only thumbs but also palms, knees, el­bows or feet. A shi­atsu treat­ment is gen­er­ally given on a fu­ton on the floor with the client re­main­ing fully clothed.

Shi­atsu works by stim­u­lat­ing the cir­cu­la­tion of qi/ki/chi and blood/xue of the body through the merid­ian sys­tem and acu­pres­sure points. Qi is of­ten un­der­stood as the life force or en­ergy which helps to sup­port home­osta­sis of the body-mind. If the cir­cu­la­tion of qi within the body is im­paired, or stag­nated — whether due to stress, ill­ness, in­jury or life­style habits — prob­lems or dis­ease can arise.

With this in mind, shi­atsu aims to pro­mote the smooth flow of qi to sup­port health and bal­ance. The prac­ti­tioner may use di­ag­nos­tic skills to de­ter­mine the course of a treat­ment such as tak­ing the pulse, pal­pat­ing the hara (ab­dom­i­nal) map and ask­ing some ques­tions. They may also draw on sup­port­ing ori­en­tal ther­a­pies such as moxa, cup­ping, stretches and life­style ad­vice.

Be­cause shi­atsu af­fects the in­ter­nal or­gans, mus­cles and joints as well as the sys­tems of the body (such as di­ges­tive, en­docrine, ner­vous sys­tem), there are vast num­bers of con­di­tions that re­spond well to shi­atsu treat­ment.

A dis­or­der of one part of the body will of­ten have ef­fects through­out, and so it is im­por­tant to treat the body as a whole. It also helps to ex­plain why the shi­atsu prac­ti­tioner may work on ar­eas of the body that do not seem to re­late to the prob­lem.

Some peo­ple may come to shi­atsu for spe­cific con­di­tions, or to help with sea­sonal tran­si­tions, or just for reg­u­lar health main­te­nance. So shi­atsu re­ally is for you, that’s who. ■

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