Using their fingers, elbows, knees and feet, the shiatsu practitioner works on the body's acupoints to stimulate and harmonise the body's life energy (qi). Very much a health-promoting therapy, shiatsu is very effective for many conditions including stress, digestive disorders, sluggish circulation, asthma, and rheumatic conditions.
While in the mountains of China some 2000 years ago Acupuncture developed, at the same time, in the plain by the sea, Shiatsu developed.
Both methods use the same Meridian channels and the same Tsubos (pressure points), however while Accupuncture concentrates mostly on "sedation" of tsubos, modern shiatsu (Zen Shiatsu and Ohashiatsu) do not concentrate on sedation alone, but rather on finding through Tongue, Hara (abdomen), and sometimes Pulse diagnosis (few schools teach that one) of the weakest organ/meridian and tonifying - stimulating it, and thus causing the Qi flow from where it is in an excess towards where it is lacking. While Accupuncture became a part of an integrated art called TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) using herbs, cupping, moxabustion etc, Shiatsu immigrated to Japan, and during the last century evolved there. The modern Shiatsu recognizes, and follows also "extensions" to the basic meridian lines, used in Acupuncture, and doesn't rely on "fixed" tsubos only to bring energetic (Qi) balance to both body and mind.
Those who take additional studies learn how to use Moxabustion and cupping in Shiatsu, although the vast field of Chinese Herbology is not taught normally to shiatsu students.
Modern Shiatsu, is also well aware of the fact that meridian lines are not "fixed", and thus the pressure points have to be detected and traced along the meridians chosen to work on.
What to Expect
In keeping with its Chinese origins, shiatsu requires the practitioner to look at the whole person and not just a specific area of concern. Naturally, you should divulge any medical information. They will observe and listen to you and take a 'hara' diagnosis by feeling the abdomen. You will likely be asked to lie on a mat or futon on the floor as the therapist will need to manipulate your body in a variety of ways, according to your condition. It is therefore advisable to wear loose clothing. You will be asked to avoid alcohol on the day of treatment, eat lightly and take a shower instead of a hot bath.
Training & Colleges
The educational requirement for members of the various shiatsu associations varies from 150 to 500 hours of training. All require some form of continuing professional development.
In 1997 nearly all practitioners were represented by one body, however at the end of 2000 there are 5 different bodies. All organisations share in common the requirement of their members to be formally accredited.
The Shiatsu Society
St Peters Road
tel: 01788 555 051
International Shiatsu Commission
68 Fairfield Road
tel: 01342 328 240
Federation of Clinical Shiatsu Practitioners,
36a Walnut Road
tel: 01803 605 025