Shiatsu session is provided by our Ontario licensed massage therapists (RMT) who are also certified in shiatsu therapy. The service is covered by most employee benefits.
What is Shiatsu?
by Emily Crown-Robinson, RMT, Dipl.ST (Hon), CST, CR
Certified Shiatsu Therapist Ontario
Over 5000 years ago India and China placed emphasis on massage using hands for therapeutic purposes. Shiatsu is a Japanese “finger pressure” healing therapy. It is based on ancient Chinese medical practices such as acupuncture and tuina (Chinese traditional massage).
This natural therapy can help relieve tension and harmonize bodily functions. During a treatment session, the therapist may use palms, thumbs, elbows or knees to apply comfortable, sustained pressure to the body. Oils are not used and lose comfortable clothing is worn during the treatment.
The philosophy of oriental healing therapies:
In oriental healing therapies, the body and mind are treated as a whole rather than two separate entities. True health is harmony between the individual (mind, body, and soul) and their environment.
A healthy person has zest to enjoy life, sleeps well, wakes up refreshed, and has a good appetite as well as natural resistance to illness. Health suffers when there is a lack of harmonious balance. You may experience stiffness, soreness; life may feel like a struggle.
The goal of oriental healing therapies is to restore harmony and balance to the individual, stimulate the body’s own natural healing powers to relieve symptoms and increase body strength so that vitality is restored.
How shiatsu works:
Oriental medicine describes the body in terms of energy or “Qi”. Qi is the vital energy of life and we are in good health as long as it is flowing smoothly and is bountiful. Symptoms of ill health begin to appear in our body and mind when we don’t have enough Qi, or if it is not flowing smoothly.
During a shiatsu treatment, the therapist applies pressure to the areas where the Qi is insufficient, or its flow is distorted or stagnated. When the right amount of holding pressure is applied the flow returns to normal, and the excess or blocked energy is dispersed.
In western terms, shiatsu calms the overactive sympathetic nervous system and promotes the healing, restful state of the parasympathetic nervous system. Deep relaxation and balance can be experienced, stimulating the body’s own natural healing process. Circulation improves, stiff muscles loosen, and tension fades.
What can shiatsu do for me?
Shiatsu treatments are beneficial for a variety of conditions and age groups. If the client is already in good health, regular shiatsu treatments can help keep the immune system strong, thus maintaining health. If the client is “half-healthy”, regular treatments will help restore balance within the body and mind while relieving any symptoms.
“Half-health” is a state where the client may suffer from symptoms such as headache, fatigue, poor sleep, poor appetite, slow digestion, and constipation. The bottom line is that the client doesn’t feel well, but western medicine is unable to associate this to a specific medical problem or dis-ease. There may not be much western medicine can do for such a person.
A shiatsu therapist does not name a disease. Rather, by palpating, questioning, and observing, the therapist identifies areas where Qi is distorted, stagnated or deficient. The client’s “pattern of imbalance” shows various signs and symptoms. These are the areas that will be treated appropriately, helping to restore balance and thus relieving symptoms.
What can I expect from shiatsu treatments?
A shiatsu treatment is a deeply relaxing experience that leaves the client feeling healthier and happier than when they came in. Commonly, the client will feel a comfortable ‘good’ pain throughout the treatment, which the therapist will control through pressure that is comfortable to the individual. Occasionally headaches, tiredness, or muscular stiffness may occur after treatment. These should last no longer than one or two days, as it is a sign that the body is rebalancing itself.
Occasionally, symptoms of past health problems reappear or new symptoms come up. These are reactions of a normal healing process and will pass. It is important that clients talk to their therapists to best answer any questions regarding treatment or treatment reactions.
Conditions helped by shiatsu treatments:
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Muscular stiffness/ spasm
- Recovery from injuries
- Migraine/ headache
- Pain from arthritis
- Poor digestion
- Irritability/ depression
- Menstrual syndromes
- Many other conditions
How many treatments do I need?
The number and frequency of treatments depends on the individual’s condition. Conditions less than a week old may require one or two treatments, whereas a chronic condition usually requires five to ten treatments. Immediate positive effects from the treatments are generally noticeable. However, a condition that had developed over months or years needs time, repeated treatments, and self care to reverse. It is important to remember that healing takes time.
Depending on the client’s body condition and response to treatments, it is recommended that treatments are performed once or twice weekly. For healthier individuals, monthly or semi-monthly treatments are beneficial to help maintain health and vitality at a peak level. A therapist will recommend the number and frequency of treatments suited for the client, and advise any self-care methods.
A brief explanation of two major shiatsu styles:
Masunaga Sensei was born in Hiroshima in 1925. He studied shiatsu after graduating from psychology at the University of Kyoto. He helped to develop and the ‘meridian’ theory, identifying twelve major meridians: the energetic pathways that Qi flows through. Under this theory, a meridian imbalance manifests as dis-ease in the body and/ or mind. The human body can be explained through the meridian network.
Tokujiro Namikoshi Sensei was responsible for taking shiatsu out of Japan and promoting its benefits to western cultures. He was the founder of the Japan Shiatsu College and described the effects of his treatments in western medical terms, creating what has evolved into Neuro-Muscular Massage. In 1953, He became a recognized figure in the United States after the successful treatment of Marilyn Monroe, during her visit to Japan with husband Joe DiMaggio from the New York Yankees. Marilyn had become extremely ill while in Tokyo, and when Western medicine failed to work, Namikoshi Sensei was summoned. He treated her daily at her hotel for one week. Surprising the western medical community, she recovered, and Namikoshi Sensei became instantly famous.
Toru Namikoshi Sensei was born in Hokkaido in 1931 (his father was Tokujiro Namikoshi). Working from his father’s theories, he helped develop modern shiatsu therapy using a medical scientific base. He elaborated on how pressure points have a functional connection with body function, and how to balance in the body and mind is promoted through nervous system stimulation.
by Emily Robinson, RMT, CST, CR