Shiatsu» Find a therapist dealing with Shiatsu
Shiatsu is Japanese for 'finger pressure' and is the term which refers to a holistic health care system which uses pressure applied through fingers, thumbs and palms on areas of pain or sensitivity. The Shiatsu principles are much the same as the theories which form the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, both of which intend to stimulate the body's innate ability to heal itself by promoting our vital energy (known as Ki) to flow through our bodies meridians.
In addition to pressure application Shiatsu also incorporates assisted stretching and rotation techniques which work at stimulating the flow of lymphatic fluid, releasing toxins and stimulating hormones among other things.
Shiatsu is a beneficial and relaxing treatment which has been known to successfully treat back pain, headaches, muscle stiffness, joint pain and much more, not only that but aside from the physical relief that treatment can bring many individuals have also found their stress and fatigue has reduced as a result of treatment and generally people report a greater sense of overall well-being.
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Regulation of Shiatsu
As it stands Shiatsu is not currently regulated in the UK and anyone can call themselves a shiatsu practitioner. However, there are a number of professional bodies which have taken on the role of self-regulation. Members are expected to have a high level of training and abide by a code of ethics and practice. We ask that our practitioners are either members of a professional body or they hold relevant qualifications and insurance.
Shiatsu is currently being used in the NHS but referrals are generally quite rare and are only given in special cases. Most people decide to opt for a private practitioner but it is advisable to consult your GP before making an appointment.
History of Shiatsu
Healing using certain points and channels within our bodies has been a concept that has been around for thousands of years. Among one of the first texts to describe meridians as channels of energy is 'The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine' which was discovered during the Han dynasty of China (206BC – 220AD). Though the concept of healing using energy and meridians is one that originated in China, a Buddhist monk soon took this philosophy across to Japan during the 6th century.
Since then the Japanese have developed and refined these methods to create a unique system which suits their own ideology's and inclinations.
The first use of the term Shiatsu is thought to be attributed to Tenpeki Tamai (though it is Tokujiro Namikoshi who is hailed as the father of Shiatsu therapy). After his family decided to move from the warm climate of the Seto Island Sea to a much colder Hokkaido, Tokujiro's mother developed rheumatoid arthritis. At this time the family had no access to medical treatment so a very young Tokujiro took it upon himself to try and make his mother feel better. He found that massaging seemed to be helping his mothers symptoms improve so he continued to refine his technique by listening to her body with his hands, finding that different types and amounts of pressure were making a significant difference, eventually curing his mothers rheumatoid arthritis.
In 1925 The Shiatsu Therapists Association was founded and in 1940 Tokujiro opened the Japan Shiatsu Institute which was renowned for its lectures and methods of teaching, subsequently leading to the 1955 official acknowledgement of Shiatsu as a beneficial treatment from the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare. It was also at this time that the a licensing system was established for practitioners.
Today Shiatsu is thriving and although many practitioners have their own individual style of treatment the underlying theory is still the same as it was all those years ago.
How Does It Work?
Most western medicine is based upon the premise that illness is linear and starts at point A progressing through to B, C and so on. In contrast, the eastern medicine philosophy is that all parts of the illness arise together so a headache is not necessarily an incident which is only occurring in the head and one persons headache may be treated using a completely different process to another persons. Any ailment within the body is caused by an obstruction of Ki which subsequently causes the body to become unbalanced which is when illness occurs. The aim is to re-stimulate the flow of energy so it may be that the headache is caused by a blockage in the legs and therefor this is where treatment will occur.
The Elements Of Shiatsu
In eastern tradition it is believed that all things are considered to be expressions of a vital energy force known as 'Ki' ('Ki' by the Japanese and 'Chi or Qi' in China).
Ki continuously flows through the body's pathways like a system of rivers keeping us healthy and well, any break in the flow is indicative of an imbalance within the body and this is when illness occurs whether it be physical or mental.
Yin & Yang
Yin and Yang are a depiction of the way in which the world works as a whole. Originally Yang meant 'the sunny side of the valley' and Yin was 'the shady side of the valley' an example of how there are no absolutes and everything is part of a bigger picture. Yang has always represented the light, hot and excited aspects of a person whereas Yang is more associated with the cold, slow and passive. Yin and Yang couldn't exist without one another, much like hot could not exist without cold and angry couldn't exist without sad.
The Five Elements
The Five Elements Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire are all linked to Yin/Yang, ki and the different stages and processes. For example fire is seen as the ultimate representation of Yang whereas Water is fluid, flexible and cold, the ultimate Yin.
The names of the elements can help us to understand what they do. Wood for example, has an energy which is responsible for growth and creativity but as soon as the balance is offset it causes impatience and frustration.
All of the elements are linked in such a complex fashion that this also means an abundance of once particular type of energy can control another, for example water controls fire, fire controls metal, metal controls wood.
Meridians are channels which allow the Ki and blood to flow throughout the body. There are twelve major meridians, all of which correspond to a physical organ or function within the body, 6 representing yin and 6 representing yang: Heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, small intestines, large intestine, bladder, gall bladder, spleen, pericardium and the triple burner.
Your shiatsu practitioner will be able to see any points where there is an excess of built up energy, or indeed a depletion and will work with your meridians, applying pressure to certain points in order to re-stimulate stagnant Ki subsequently rebalancing the body.
What to expect
The initial consultation is the preliminary stage to treatment and is the time during which your practitioner will form a diagnosis and treatment plan. In order to do this it is likely they will ask you detailed questions about your symptoms, life style, well being, sleeping patterns, emotional, state etc, all in order to build up a picture of what's going on. In addition to this they may also perform a physical examination such as gentle palpitations of the abdominal regions before analysing everything they have discovered. Using all of the information the practitioner has compiled they will be able to pinpoint the locations of your stagnant Ki.
After the initial consultation your practitioner will form a diagnosis and will then decide on a treatment plan. How many sessions needed will really depend on the severity of the issue but over the course of treatments your practitioner will endeavour to restore the energy imbalances by applying pressure through the meridians as well as incorporating rocking and stretching techniques.
Because Shiatsu is a holistic therapy, treatment will work with the entire body as opposed to simply on the area in which the problem in occurring. Treatment itself works best when you are feeling comfortable and relaxed so often it is advised that you close your eyes and try to relax your muscles. Although it is best to refrain from speaking in order to maintain a high level of relaxation, it is important to still notify the practitioner the moment you feel uncomfortable.
What are the benefits of Shiatsu?
Because shiatsu is such a gentle treatment method which aims to promote the body's natural healing process there is very little chance you will experience the side effects that can be caused by traditional medication. Occasionally a new patient may have a small reaction after the first few sessions, occurring due to the release of toxins. This may cause a slight headache or a little stiffness but this will usually pass within 12 hours at most.
Often shiatsu can uncover a number of emotional memories which may have a profound effect on you. In such cases your practitioner will be happy to arrange extra sessions if you feel you need to talk through these reactions.
For some individuals Shiatsu has been found to have physical benefits as well as emotional ones. For example, relief from certain musculo-skeletal problems and the alleviation of side effects caused by some medications.
What training and qualifications does a Shiatsu Therapist need?
Currently there are no UK laws which detail the level of training required in order for individuals to practice shiatsu in the UK. Despite this, for those looking for a practitioner it is always reassuring to know that a high level of training and experience has been achieved. If they wish, shiatsu practitioners can choose to register with a professional association who have established their own code of ethics and those who are members of a professional association will have met certain eligibility requirements.
Listed below are some of the professional associations for shiatsu practitioners in the UK. This information is subject to change so please visit the individual websites for full details.
The Shiatsu Society was founded back in 1981 to promote awareness and practice of Shiatsu in the UK. The society has established their own set of requirements for registration and all members have completed a minimum of 3 years training (minimum of 500 hours), are assessed by the society on a case by case basis, are fully insured and adhere to the society’s Code of Conduct and Ethics.
Members who appear on the Register of Professional Practitioners of the Shiatsu Society have all been assessed by the society's independent panel of practitioners and teachers of shiatsu or have undertaken a post graduate year.
Only practitioners who have successfully met the society's criteria are listed on the register and are allowed to use the letters MRSS after their name.
All content displayed on Therapy Directory is for provided for general information purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for advice given by your GP or any other healthcare professional. Whilst some people have benefited from complementary and alternative therapies, no claims can be made to treat, cure or heal, and we strongly advise individuals with any health problem to seek independent medical advice from their GP before considering complementary or alternative medicine or treatment.Submit feedback on this page