Shiatsu is a form of Japanese massage which aims to correct energy imbalances within the body. Shiatsu is the Japanese word for ‘finger pressure’, and in this type of massage the practitioner applies pressure to the main energy pathways within the client’s body. These pathways or channels are known as meridians and they are the routes along which the life-force energy travels within the body. The aim of the therapy is to release energy where there are any blockages, and to move energy into those areas of the body that are depleted.
By clearing blocked and stagnant energy within the body the therapist encourages the client’s natural flow of chi (often also referred to as ki or qi), which is the life force within every living thing. In addition, scientific research also suggests that the pressure applied by the practitioner during the treatment may encourage the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.
At the first session, the therapist will begin by taking notes relating to the client’s medical history and lifestyle. After that, the client will be asked to lie (fully clothed) on a mat on the floor. The therapist will then use his or her fingers, palms, knuckles, elbows, knees and feet, to apply pressure to the client’s meridians, which are sited throughout the body. The treatment usually takes between forty-five minutes and an hour and, when the shiatsu has been completed, the practitioner may also offer nutritional and lifestyle advice.
Shiatsu is used to treat a range of conditions including back, neck and shoulder pain, circulatory problems, digestive disorders, sinusitis, catarrh, asthma and bronchitis, migraine, headaches, chronic fatigue and stressrelated problems such as anxiety and depression.
Shiatsu is widely regarded in Japan as a means of maintaining good health and preventing illness and disease. This is because a shiatsu practitioner can identify and correct the energy imbalances before they develop into symptoms and then into disease. Many clients report feeling invigorated and energised after a shiatsu treatment, whilst some people feel very relaxed and sleepy.
Shiatsu can be a fairly vigorous therapy, as the therapist will use a range of pushing, squeezing and twisting movements in order release stagnant and trapped energy. It should be avoided by anyone with open wounds, rashes, infectious skin diseases (e.g. impetigo); anyone who has phlebitis, varicose veins or is prone to blood clots; anyone who has a recent fracture or sprain; anyone who has had recent chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment.
Massage of the abdominal area should be avoided by anyone who has an abdominal hernia, or who is in the first three months of pregnancy. It is important not to eat, drink alcohol, exercise vigorously or take a hot bath for at least one hour before or after shiatsu treatment.
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