What is shiatsu
Shiatsu is Japanese massage that is based on traditional Chinese medicine. In Shiatsu the treatment is focused on energetic pathways (meridians) that connect the individual acupuncture points. Shiatsu means in Japanese “finger pressure” and it is precisely focused pressure of fingers, palms, elbows or knees that is the core of good shiatsu. The treatment of a meridian is done by a gentle touch, stretching or pressing according to its state at a particular location – whether it is “full” (stiff, tense, painful) or on the contrary “empty” (slack, cold). The aim and purpose of Shiatsu is to establish physical and psychical balance by restoring the flow of energy which had accumulated in the full places and is lacking in the empty ones.
The usual course of treatment
By Shiatsu the client remains dressed and the treatment is done on a mattress directly on the ground. The touch through clothes (and frequently also through a light sheet) has a different quality than the touch directly on skin by classical massage and its influence is deeper. The position on the ground enables the therapist to work in a very relaxed way using his/her own body weight, which enables the client to perceive even intense pressure or stretching as pleasant and relaxing. During one session, usually two meridians are treated, a full one and an empty one (see above) according to the current need of the client. The choice of the meridians is based on the talk at the beginning of each session and/or on palpation (touch diagnosis) during the shiatsu treatment itself.
Shiatsu has more branches and directions. The one I have studied and practice is called Zen-shiatsu. Its founder, Shizuto Masunaga, has enriched the classical system of points and meridians by another 12 meridians and has combined the knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine with modern psychology. For Zen-shiatsu it is charakteristic that diagnosis and treatment are one continuous proces - each touch is both masage and diagnosis for the following treatment. Therefore each shiatsu treatmetn is unique even though the meridians and techniques remain the same.