Shiatsu is the ancient Japanese art of healing. Shiatsu is said to support and encourage your body’s own healing and balancing. To find out more about shiatsu, The Good Spa Guide talks to Jon Jarvis — Ragdale Hall Health Hydro’s resident shiatsu expert.
What is the historical significance of shiatsu?
“Massage along with acupuncture and herbalism was for centuries an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine, which was introduced to Japan by a Buddhist monk in the 16th century. The Japanese developed and refined many of its methods to suit their own physiology, temperament and environment, in particular they developed the manual healing and diagnostic arts, evolving special techniques of abdominal diagnosis, treatment and massage, which are used in Shiatsu today.
The practice of massage known by the old name of anma (anmo or tuina in China) became gradually divorced from medicine and more associated with relaxation and pleasure. Certain practitioners were concerned to preserve massage and related techniques as an accepted healing art. In the early part of the 20th century, one such practitioner, Tamai Tempaku, incorporated the newer Western sciences of anatomy and physiology and disciplines such as physiotherapy and chiropractic into several older methods of treatment. Originally he used the term shiatsu ryoho or finger pressure way of healing, then shiatsu ho or finger pressure method. Now known simply as Shiatsu, it was officially recognized as a therapy by the Japanese Government in 1964 to distinguish it from other therapies.”
What are the basic principles of shiatsu?
“This is a modern Japanese therapy, which fuses traditional Eastern practices with Western techniques of Osteopathy. Literally translated, the name means finger pressure – Shi (finger) and Asu (pressure) – although elbows, knees and feet are also used to press along the body’s network of meridian lines of pressure points, releasing blocked channels of energy. It is a holistic method of alleviating pain and promoting health in the whole body.”
What is shiatsu good for?“Shiatsu can help with everyday conditions but it must be noted that it is a complementary treatment not a replacement for western medicine. Common problems that can be helped are: headaches, migraine, stiff necks and shoulders, backaches, coughs, colds, menstrual problems, respiratory illnesses including asthma and bronchitis, sports injuries, M.E, M.S and is great support during pregnancy.”
Can you talk us through a shiatsu session at Ragdale Hall Health Hydro
“Each session lasts about one hour, the practitioner may ask details of current health history and lifestyle. The treatment is usually carried out on a futon on the floor, but also may be carried out on a chair or on a massage couch. The practitioner will then assess different diagnostic maps on the back and abdomen (known as the Hara) of the client. After gaining visual, verbal and tactile information from the client, the practitioner will treat a particular channel through the whole body. The practitioner will use if needed, fingers, palms, knees, elbows and feet. After the treatment the client may feel invigorated or relaxed and it is suggested to rest for one to two hours afterwards.”
How is shiatsu different from a mainstream massage?
“Shiatsu has some features in common with European style massage and other forms of bodywork in that the use of physical pressure and stretches serves to reduce muscular tension and loosen stiff joints. However unlike massage the client remains clothed during the treatment and the principal aim of Shiatsu is to work on the overall energy system of the client.”
What do you wear for a shiatsu session?“The client is asked to wear loose, warm and comfortable clothing such as a sweatshirt, tracksuit bottoms and socks to allow non-restrictive movement during treatment.”
Who is shiatsu particularly suitable for?
“Anyone!” (apart from the below)
Who should avoid shiatsu?
“Patients who have an open wound or infectious skin disease; are prone to blood clots or have had surgery recently; have a fracture or sprain; or have recently had chemotherapy or radiation therapy should not be treated with shiatsu.
Patients should avoid shiatsu specifically in the abdominal area if they are in the first three months of pregnancy; have an abdominal hernia, or have eaten within the past two hours.”