Flexibility and Wellness: How Shiatsu Can Help

by Marie Buttler

Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning finger (shi) pressure (atsu). Shiatsu is based on traditional Chinese medicine and encompasses ‘acupuncture without needles’. It works on acupuncture meridians, using pressure along the channels and stretching them in order to free energy flow. According to the Chinese, if the energy is blocked somewhere, it can result in pain, lack of mobility or discomfort. By easing the flow of energy your body and mind should function at their best.

Is Shiatsu for you?
Here we are talking about the vital energy, which helps us to move, to accomplish our everyday tasks, to relate to others… that energy which all of us use everyday. Shiatsu is for all ages from tiny babies to the elderly. My oldest client was a lady of 101; she found her treatment extremely relaxing and it helped her to walk more steadily.

How does Shiatsu work?
It works on the overall energy system of the client.

After initial diagnosis and using physical and visual feedback, the practitioner will use pressure on the meridians in conjunction with other techniques such as rocking, stretches and joint rotations to improve the flow of vital energy.

Shiatsu is closely aligned with the Chinese traditions of acupuncture and acupressure. It is often misleadingly described as massage: it should not be confused with European-style massage, which tends to focus on the treatment of muscles and general relaxation. The principal aim of Shiatsu is to work not on localized muscles and joints but on the overall energy system of the client, thereby reducing pain and stiffness. A Shiatsu practitioner working on a shoulder joint, for example, will not be focusing just on the joint but on the pattern of energy throughout the client’s body.

Shiatsu aims to assist the body’s natural healing process by encouraging the client’s energy to circulate into a more balanced state.

What conditions can Shiatsu help?
Shiatsu works not only on physical conditions like pain and stiffness but also on mental and emotional levels.

Common conditions which can be helped by Shiatsu include back pain, headaches, migraines, whiplash injuries and neck stiffness, joint pain and reduced mobility, menstrual problems, digestive problems, asthmatic symptoms, sports injuries, depression, tiredness, moods and stress.

‘It lifted my mood’ is a frequent comment from clients who were seeking help for a physical condition.

What to expect in a shiatsu session
A typical session lasts approximately one hour, although the first session may be slightly longer to allow the practitioner to take your medical history and discuss your expectations.

The session usually takes place on a padded mat or futon at floor level, although it is possible to receive Shiatsu sitting on a chair if you have mobility problems or prefer not to lie down. You remain fully clothed at all times. Following Shiatsu, due to the body’s natural healing process, there can be a feeling of increased vitality and usually you will feel invigorated yet relaxed.

Shiatsu at home and at work
After the session, you may be given some recommendations and exercises to continue the healing process and allow you to change your habits. In fact, some 60% of my clients experience pain and imbalance due to poor posture. Shiatsu will help to develop postural awareness and ways to improve it.

I recently trained in seated shiatsu with a view to offering shorter treatments in corporate environments. Healthy and invigorated employees are more productive employees! Forward-looking employers might wish to offer access to Shiatsu on site.