What is Shiatsu ?

Shiatsu is a manual therapy developed in Japan trough a synthetsis of Eastern and Western medical concepts, uses mankind’s most ancient medical tools – the human hand and the human heart – to treat the patient using a holistic approach that stimulates the body’s own natural self-healing powers to correct imbalances and effect a cure from within.

The Shiatsu therapist can detect responses to subtle variations in the person’s condition and apply pressures on special Shiatsu points. Those pressures have a deep effect on the inner body. Shiatsu therapy is based on a spirit of kidness and compassion. Shiatsu improves physical and mental well being.

What happens in a treatment?

  • The client is clothed in loose comfortable clothing, preferably of natural fibres, and lies on a cotton mattress, or futon.
  • No oils are used.
  • The therapist applies firm, sensitive pressure along lines of energy called meridians, to specific points, and to sensitive points or areas on the muscles.
  • Stretches are also commonly used in a treatment.

How does shiatsu work?

1. According to eastern theory:

  • Shiatsu helps to balance the flow of Ki, or vital life force energy by releasing areas of stagnant energy and supplementing deficient energy states. This is carried out by stimulating the channels of Ki or meridians, as well as the effective acupoints along their pathways. These points have been determined over centuries of use to affect the functions of the internal organ systems and benefit not only the body, but also the mind, emotions and spirit of the individual.

2. According to a western viewpoint:

  • The proper application of pressure on the skin and muscles will stimulate various sensory receptors, which then, via reflex arcs to the spinal cord, engage a response in other areas of the body through the excitation of nerves and muscles. Shiatsu pressure engages the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, so that heart and respiration rates slow down, blood pressure drops, digestion and elimination are stimulated, lung volume is increased, and the body enters a state of relaxation.

Styles of Shiatsu

Although there are various approaches to shiatsu therapy, there are two primary styles of shiatsu which have influenced therapists and teachers over the years. They are:

  • Namikoshi style
  • Masunaga style (Zen Shiatsu)

Namikoshi shiatsu:

  • The most popular style practiced in Japan, and the only style officially recognized by the Japanese government
  • Therapists use only the hands, fingers and thumbs to apply pressure
  • Its theory is based on the nervous system response to pressure applied on the body’s surface that stimulates the various receptors under the surface of the skin, that in turn initiates a nervous system response that engages the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.

Masunaga (Zen) Shiatsu:

  • Zen Shiatsu has become very popular in the western world, and has stimulated various teachers to explore the body’s energy system more deeply
  • Therapists use elbows, knees and even knuckles to apply pressure
  • In addition to the physiological responses that pressure and stretching evoke, its theory includes the understanding that ki, or life force energy, is our underlying healing force.
  • Employs a unique system of assessing the ki of the client’s meridians by palpating the abdomen, enabling the therapist to offer more specific treatments.
  • Expanded the classical meridian system into his own version of energy flow in the body, based on his experience and studies of classical eastern medical theory.



Shiatsu Therapy is:

  • Preventative: Regular shiatsu treatments help to keep the soma and psyche balanced, so that fewer health problems are experienced.
  • Curative: Helping to bring the person into a more balanced state can alleviate some illnesses, and bring a person back to good health.
  • Rehabilitative: Treatments are extremely helpful in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions and some nerve conditions to restore the person to a healthy state.
  • Palliative: Shiatsu’s nurturing touch comforts and balances.
  • Supportive: Treatments help in terms of health maintenance, strengthening weaker areas or areas that are more vulnerable due to past injury or disease.
  • Complementary to other forms of treatment: The overall balance that shiatsu treatments can provide can minimize side effects of drug therapy, and enhance the benefits of other therapies, be they mainstream or complementary/alternative.

 Specific Indications for shiatsu Therapy:

  • Respiratory: chronic asthma, chronic bronchitis, sinus problems. Treatment will be long term, but benefits should be noted after one or two treatments. Also beneficial for strengthening the lungs, chest tightness, deepen breathing, relieve pain, and reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.
  • Circulatory: hypertension (controlled), heart attack recovery, hemorrhoids, Treatments can strengthen heart function over time and be supportive psychologically after a heart attack. May also reduce the need for drug therapy in cases of hypertension when combined with a healthy lifestyle.
  • Digestive: mild problems such as constipation, indigestion, bloating and gas. Treatments can also provide some relief from irritable bowels. As above, regular treatments strengthen and normalize the digestive system.
  • Emotional: depression, irritability may benefit from shiatsu treatments. Oriental theory does not separate the mind, body and spirit, so it follows that shiatsu treatments, which helps balance the entire system, can lead to more resourceful emotional states. Calm and relief are usually experienced immediately, but long term treatment is often indicated.
  • Musculoskeletal: strains, sprains, spasm, osteoarthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, headache, and scoliosis are some of the conditions in this category that usually respond to shiatsu treatment.
  • Reproductive: PMS, fibroids, menopausal complaints, benign prostatic hypertrophy and impotence.
  • Nervous system: carpal tunnel syndrome, stroke recovery, headaches, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease. Treatments can reduce symptoms such as pain, stiffness, numbness, and improve function.
  • Endocrine: may complement standard medical care for diabetes mellitus (non insulin dependent) and hyper- or hypo-thyroidism. Regular treatments are recommended.