is a Japanese form of massage (the word shiatsu means "finger pressure"
in Japanese). Advocates say the practice promotes health and healing
by correcting energy imbalances in the body.
uses the same energy pathways (meridians) and points as Chinese acupuncture
but, instead of inserting needles in the body, the Shiatsu therapist
applies comfortable pressure on selected points along the meridians
to normalize the flow of energy (Qi) and restore health. This is why
Shiatsu has often been described as "acupuncture without needles".
What sets Shiatsu
apart from other bodywork therapies is its deep sustained pressure on
the body structures for breaking up energy stagnation and drawing energy
to depleted areas. In more Western terms, with deep pressure, Shiatsu
harmonizes the autonomic nervous system which governs all our involuntary
functions. Thus, Shiatsu can override the fight-or-flight' sympathetic
response which, when overactive, leads to stress, physical or mental
illness, and "switch on" the parasympathetic conservation
mode' which activates the body's natural healing and nurturing capacities.
In short, with appropriate
pressure, Shiatsu restores balance and harmony to the whole person in
a most natural and holistic fashion.
use their fingers, thumbs, palms, elbows, knees, and feet to apply pressure
to points along the the body's main energy channels, known as meridians.
The goal is to release energy where there are blockages and bring energy
into areas that are depleted. Shiatsu, which is similar to acupressure,
emphasizes the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease rather
than treating a specific ailment.
Using massage to
enhance well-being is a tradition that dates back to ancient China.
The practice of touching specific points on the body was originally
called anmo (anma by the Japanese). Over time, anma was dropped as a
medical treatment and was used purely for pleasure and relaxation.
In the twentieth
century, however, a group of practitioners recognized the value of anma
in easing muscle tension and soothing various kinds of aches and pains.
They began promoting the art as a way to treat illness and changed the
name to shiatsu.
Shiatsu is based
on some of the same principles as acupuncture, Tai chi, and other forms
of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
According to TCM,
illness is caused by imbalances in the flow of energy ( qi in Chinese;
ki in Japanese) in the body. Ki can accumulate and become trapped in
points along the meridians known as tsubos, which correspond to Chinese
that a shiatsu massage focused on these areas can clear blockages and
help restore health by allowing energy to travel freely in the body.
A more scientific explanation for shiatsu's pain-relieving ability is
that it initiates the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.
It may also lower the levels of adrenaline and other stress hormones
in the body, stimulating a relaxation response.
Shiatsu is most
often used to maintain general health and prevent illness. It can be
especially useful for easing stress-related conditions.
that the therapy can help relieve pain from arthritis as well as back,
neck, and shoulder pain.
from headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, and menstrual cramps have
reported improvement with shiatsu. It may also bring relief from asthma,
constipation, and nausea.