Shiatsu is one of the most popular alternative treatments and is used for maintaining good health as well as treating certain conditions. Along with herbalism and acupuncture, Shiatsu was an integral part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
In the 6th century, Shiatsu found its way to Japan via a Buddhist monk, and it was here that the therapy was fully developed. Like traditional Chinese medicine, it is based on the movement of energy through the body.
This energy - known as ki in Japanese and chi or qi in Chinese - travels through defined pathways known as meridians. When these pathways are blocked, and the energy can't flow, the body develops health problems.
In the early 20th century Tamai Tempaku incorporated the Western sciences of anatomy and physiology into Shiatsu, believing it would give it greater recognition as a healing therapy. It was officially recognised as such by the Japanese Government in 1964.
Whilst Shiatsu is a hands-on therapy it is different to traditional massage. The word itself means 'finger pressure' but practitioners also use their palms, thumbs, elbows and even their feet. This pressure will be combined with stretches, structural alignments, muscle release techniques and the gentle rotation of joints and limbs.
Like a massage, Shiatsu can also help relieve stress and nervous tension, increase the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid, boost hormone production and expel toxins.
Shiatsu can be used to treat or prevent a very wide range of conditions, including joint and muscle pain, headaches, sports injuries, arthritis, allergies, asthma, RSI, insomnia and much more. You could say it's a bit of a miracle cure.
As you might expect there are several different styles of Shiatsu, with even more still evolving. Some practitioners like to include more bodywork whilst others concentrate on acupressure. A popular style here in Australia is Zen Shiatsu.
This style of Shiatsu puts greater importance on balancing energy flow. In much the same way as Zen Buddhism, it is all about maintaining our connection with the qi. Regular Zen Shiatsu sessions can help us better manage stress, thus improving our overall health.
Interestingly, a Shiatsu session can leave you invigorated or calm depending on your reason for being there. It can also provide relief on several different levels, including emotional, internal and musculoskeletal.
Shiatsu therapists are trained to recognise when something is out of sync. Even before physical conditions manifest themselves they will be able to diagnose an imbalance in your energy flow.
Sessions usually last for about an hour and can take place on a massage table, a futon on the floor or a chair. You remain fully clothed and should wear loose comfortable clothing.
Treatment always starts in the same way, with the practitioner analysing your current state. Treatment cannot proceed until your energy flow is assessed.
Much research has been done on this amazing therapy, the most recent being on the benefits of Shiatsu for cancer sufferers. It is generally agreed that regular Shiatsu sessions can help by improving overall well-being, reducing stress and depression and increasing appetite.
Shiatsu is also very beneficial during pregnancy. It can help with lower back pain, heartburn, constipation, bloating and sometimes even morning sickness. As it involves stretching and bodywork, many women have reported that it made childbirth itself easier.
Many women choose Shiatsu because it helps them feel more connected to their unborn child and develops confidence. In Japan, many midwives study Shiatsu so that they can better help the mothers through the birthing process.
With virtually no side effects, except perhaps some minor muscle soreness or a temporary headache, Shiatsu is safe, effective and suitable for everyone. No wonder so many people are using Bookwell to find Shiatsu practitioners in their locality.