What is Shiatsu?

Sarah D 2This is actually one of the most difficult questions to answer as shiatsu massage is one of those things that it’s easier to experience than have explained to you. However, I’ll try!

Shiatsu is a Japanese physical hands-on massage therapy used to stimulate the body’s healing ability by applying pressure to points across the body. It is usually, though not always, done on a futon on the floor and the client remains clothed throughout the treatment. If it is difficult or uncomfortable for a receiver to lie down, then the shiatsu massage can be done on a massage bed or as a chair massage.

The actual word shiatsu is a Japanese word that translates approximately as ‘finger pressure’, from the Japanese words ‘shi’ and ‘atsu’.

Shiatsu is based on the same principles as acupuncture, but without any needles being used – great for those of us who hate needles! As a shiatsu practitioner, I believe that energy, which you may have heard referred to as ‘chi’ or even ‘ki’ (the Japanese version, and the word I use) flows around the body in channels or meridians a bit like blood flows around the body in veins and arteries. When it’s freely flowing, ki brings fresh, strong energy and carries away spent energy along with toxins. In other words, when your ki is flowing freely, you feel great. When it’s not, you don’t!

Using this way of thinking, it follows that any disruptions to the flow of Ki can upset our natural balance. Blocked or diverted ki must be cleared and restored to bring us back into balance.

In shiatsu, using traditional Chinese medicine philosophy we don’t, for example, see sleeplessness, indigestion, headaches, or depression as illnesses, but rather as symptoms of either overactive or underproductive ki, and so something that we work with.