Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
By Terry Dunn
My first shiatsu massage
I opened my eyes suddenly. He was smiling at me. Then I realised I must have fallen asleep. It was a strange feeling. Energised, refreshed and relaxed, all at the same time. And it was so enjoyable. If that is a full body shaitsu massage, I want another.
Shiatsu massage is done fully clothed, but nothing restrictive must be worn, I was told. I lay on a futon on the floor. He started by placing his hands on my stomach and closed his eyes, just sensing my energy. Then he started to work his way around my body using all sorts of massage techniques combined with stretching and pulling of my arms and legs.
But the best bit was when he worked around my head and neck. That felt so good. And when he moved down my spine with his hands chopping and kneading. My whole body tingled and I felt a rush of energy. I think it was about then that I must have drifted off to sleep.
What is a full body massage?
The session starts with some questions. General health, problems, pain, tension spots and any existing medical conditions. This builds a case history. If you have a number of regular treatments your case history is kept current with the results of each session.
Lying on your back, the giver kneels down beside you and places a hand on your abdomen. This is a 'hara' diagnosis. The Japanese word 'hara' means your centre and it reveals much about your energy system to a sensitive shaitsu practitioner. The shiatsu massage technique involves stimulating or relaxing the acupuncture points or meridians of your body.
The word 'shiatsu' means 'finger pressure'. The purpose of these massage techniques is to release and balance the flow of 'ki' or energy, at points where it has become blocked or overstimulated.
A full body session will include work on your abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, head, neck, legs, feet and back. You get your arms and legs pushed and pulled. You are kneaded and chopped with hands and static finger pressure is applied at specific points on your body.
Why do you feel both energised and relaxed?
Your body has a network of energy channels or 'meridians' in which your 'ki' flows. This unseen network follows similar pathways to the nervous system and provides a constant supply of life-giving energy.
And just like a busy freeway, blockages in the flow can occur. But unlike a freeway these constrictions often do not clear naturally, causing local pain, tension, irritation or even illness. And because the meridians connect all the organs together, it can cause problems in other parts of your body too.
Shiatsu clears these blockages, freeing your energy, so you feel energised. Clearing blocked energy releases tension. The massaging techniques and the power of 'human touch' has a tremendous relaxing effect on your whole body. This is why you can fall asleep. Releasing all your tension you instantly relax into much deeper levels of mind which border on sleep.
Where does this form of massage originate from?
Shiatsu massage started in the 6th Century in Japan. The modern-day founder of shiatsu as a therapy is Tokujiro Namikoshi and the Institute for Shiatsu therapy which he opened in 1925 on the Island of Hokkaido. After 20,000 graduates, shiatsu is widely practiced in Japan. It is also practiced in China but is called acupressure.
The study of shaitsu involves a lot more than just finger pressure and massage techniques. Students study anatomy, physiology, the meridians and energy 'circuits' of the body, pressure points, case studies and 'hara' diagnosis.
They must have many hours of practice on volunteers and they must be fit and strong. A practitioner must be comfortable sitting, kneeling and squatting on the floor. Something we are not use to doing in the west.
Why shiatsu is the ultimate stress relief
We all lead busy lives balancing work, homes, relationships and many other triggers for stress and tension. These triggers build slowly but surely, especially if your life is 'full-on' with little rest and relaxation. You will notice the signs: inability to relax, irritability or you may suffer from insomnia. These are just a few of the symptoms.
This stress causes body and muscle tension and many inbalances in the way your body works. In turn, the vital energy that flows around your body becomes constricted and blocked causing pain and discomfort. We all know the therapeutic value of massage for releasing tension but Shiatsu combines tension release with energy unblocking, all in one session.
A Shiatsu massage melts away all your accumulated stress and tension and gives you an energy boost all at the same time. There are not many therapies that can do this and be so enjoyable too.
About the Author
Terry Dunn writes regular articles on how to use alternative therapies to improve your health. From aromatherapy to yoga, discover what it's like, how it works and how you can benefit. To read more articles, visit his website, http://www.holistichealthtalk.com