(Frequently Asked Questions)
Shiatsu” literally means finger pressure. It is a system of bodywork from Japan evolved from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Japanese massage. It works by using two of our most fundamental experiences: the free flow of energy in the body and empathic human touch.
- The first difference is the amount of clothing. Except for chair and head massage where the client is fully clothed, most therapeutic massages are performed on an individual who is either partially or completely undressed. For a shiatsu therapy session, you wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- The next is in use of lubricants. A massage therapist uses creams, lotions, or oils to facilitate strokes and protect the skin from friction; a shiatsu therapist does not. Clothing is the protector as compression and range of motion stretches are performed.
- Next is the area of focus. Massage therapy works primarily with the muscles; shiatsu focuses on the joints and fascia (connective tissue).
- Massage therapy is most often performed with the client lying on a massage table, a shiatsu session is done on the floor, with the client lying on a comfortable mat or other padded surface.
- The most common difference is in how you’ll feel afterwards. Most people report a very relaxed and almost sleepy feeling following a therapeutic massage. After a session of shiatsu therapy you’ll most likely feel full of energy and revitalized.
What Massage and Shiatsu Therapy Have in Common
Despite the differences in technique and other elements, both massage therapy and shiatsu therapy can be beneficial for your health.
Shiatsu is rooted in Japanese traditional medicine and Oriental philosophy, which is different than Western medicine principles. It uses the philosophy of Yin and Yang and the flow of vital life force Ki/Qi(Ki- in japanese, Qi- in chinese), which is flowing through channels in the body called meridians. Another aspect of Oriental understanding is of 5 elements(fire, earth, metal, water, wood). Their relationship between each other represents the transformations of Qi. Disharmony in one phase (element) is passed on to the next one on the cycle.
The vision of Shiatsu is to balance the body and mind through working on meridian imbalances and also treat not only the symptom, but as well the deeper cause of the health condition. Aspects of Yin and Yang are taken into consideration when treating various health conditions. Yin is silent, motionless and receptive, while yang is surface and active. The symptoms that appear on the surface are yang while the root of the health condition, which is deep and is hidden, is yin. One way to illustrate properties of yin and yang in terms of health is to think about grass. Grass grows above earth and is yang, the roots below yin. No matter how many times the grass is cut, it grows back sooner or later unless the roots are pulled out. Similarly, only treating the yang part or the symptom of an illness is not a sustainable way of removing a health problem, since it keeps coming back. Therefore it is essential to treat the deeper cause of the condition and strengthen the whole body-mind system
To release the primary energy/information system of the body in order to maintain health.
To work with the spine and the musculo-skeletal structure from an energetic perspective.
To help relieve pain and symptoms related to structural/postural dysfunction, by encouraging the body’s own sense of alignment.
Over time, the pressures of life can become stored in the body leading to points of stress locked into the joints and muscles causing movement to become restricted and energy unable to flow freely. This may be due to trauma or physical habits created by our lifestyle, or work: sitting at a computer for eight hours a day can have a profound affect on the posture!
Any restriction of the flow of energy in the body causes tension, which can lead to distortions in posture or misalignment of the muscles and joints. This restriction of energy and the resulting misalignment can lead to back pain, menstrual cramps, headaches, constipation and even relationship problems and depression.
In a shiatsu session, the practitioner assesses where the primary sources of tension are in the body and seeks to release them through finger pressure, massage and gentle stretching.
The practitioner brings the client’s awareness to a neglected area of the body and so enables the body to heal itself. When the tone of the body tissue and the alignment of the musculo-skeletal system improve as a result of the session, the client often feels a greater level of well-being. It is often the case that when their body feels better, the client finds their life begins to improve as they come back into alignment and reconnect with their truth and their path.
Shiatsu is practised with two hands. While one remains static and receptive (yin hand), the other one applies pressure along a meridian (yang hand). The idea is to create a current in between the Yin hand and Yang hand-flow of Qi. Qi can be interpreted as the electrical current between positive and negative charge or the magnetic field between positive and negative poles.
Meridian lines are defined as channels of living magnetic energy in the body. Meridians have been shown to possess higher electrical conductivity than surrounding tissue, therefore bioelectrical flow happens easier in these pathways. Under healthy conditions, the Qi energy flows freely through these meridians in a balanced state. According to Oriental thinking, when abnormal functioning of the internal organs or abnormal external stimulation occurs, energy stagnates in the meridians and produces sickness. Therefore in order to restore health, the energy must be released and normalised.
The condition of QI energy in the meridian lines is defined by kyo and jitsu. These concepts are very similar to yin and yang. Kyo is the state of depleted energy and hidden potentiality, while jitsu is the condition of excess energy. Shiatsu is working with total functional problems of the meridian lines, which can originate in the body or the mind.
Prior to the first session, I ask all clients to fill out a treatment form, outlining their reasons for wanting shiatsu and their medical history and use their answers as a starting point to discuss what they would like from our work together.
Each session lasts between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours (check the various packages offered)
The client remains fully clothed, though it is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing of a natural fibre to allow freedom of movement.
The session usually begins with an assessment of posture and then I will begin working on the body addressing the priority conditions that have come to light through dialogue with the client or from assessment.
I usually leave the client for five minutes at the end of the session so they have a chance to relax and integrate the experience of the session and then we have a short conversation so I can receive feedback.
Clients often ask how many sessions they will need, but this is impossible to answer as each situation is unique, though, for acute conditions, I usually recommend a course of weekly sessions for four to six weeks to allow the body time to integrate the work and lasting change to occur. After this it’s recommend to have 1-2 monthly sessions for a healthy balance.
In order to restore the normal energy flow, the therapist will first diagnose where the stagnation is and stimulate the meridian involved.
Shiatsu diagnosis is done through general observation, listening, questioning and touching.
Among diagnose areas, used in the treatment, are back and Japanese Hara diagnosis(hara means belly in japanese). According to japanese, Hara is the source of all Qi/Ki energy and all disease starts from this area.
In deeper sense it is considered the primordial center of consciousness of the human field. It can be interpreted as the place, from where we feel our intuition is emanating. In this type of diagnosis the aim is not looking for a particular disease, but rather trying to understand the patient psychologically as well as physically.
In the start of the treatment, we will have a short conversation about your condition. Then I will diagnose which meridians are out of balance and having in mind the information given from you, I will carry out a treatment. I will focus on the problem or pain area, but as well work with the deeper cause of the condition.
It is essential to understand that gaining health is a step-by-step process. The longer the body has been ignored and functioned abnormally, the longer it will take to balance itself. During the process of restoring health, the body may respond in different ways and level to the treatment. This process of recovery may not necessarily be entirely painless and symptom – free. Shiatsu is a tool of making the patient aware of themselves and their natural healing powers within. This includes as well the realisation of the patient’s responsibility in maintaining their own health. And if necessary taking steps for adjusting their life style, so it is suitable for their health.
Qigong is a Chinese health-preserving form of exercise that unites training of both body and mind. Breathing, concentration and movement are integrated so that mental and physical resources are released and strengthened.
The form of exercise is based on the basic theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which are related to Chinese martial arts and ancient Taoist traditions. Qigong is a leg in TCM that also consists of Tui Na (Chinese massage), Acupuncture and herbal treatment.
Like Acupuncture, Qigong builds on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine regarding energy pathways (meridians) and energy points in the body. The philosophy is that when the energy can flow freely and without blockage through the energy pathways (meridians), then you can create optimal conditions for the body and mind. Using a series of fluid movements at a slow pace flexes and strengthens the body, while concentrating the mind inward on specific energy points. The form of exercise is thus meditation in motion and provides balance between body and mind for the practitioner.
You work with complete body training, where you combine physical movements with breathing and thought concentration. By training, we not only gain increased body awareness, better balance, centering and positioning, but also control over our mental state and resources. Qigong emphasizes the gradual improvement of the body, there are no sudden movements or jerks.
Exercise must NEVER hurt. We never push the body out into uncomfortable, painful positions. The philosophy is that the body gradually improves itself through the proper use of the fluid movements. Achieving mindfulness in one’s daily life is a natural part of QiGong. We will quickly achieve inner peace and the ability to be in the now.
QiGong is characterized by the fact that it can be practiced by anyone – standing and sitting!