Shiatsu massage treats common psychological and physical complaints by pressing pressure points. Proponents believe it alleviates disorders such as depression, anxiety, nausea, stiffness, headaches, arthritis, cramps, or pulled muscles. This Japanese equivalent of the Chinese method of acupressure comes from the Japanese words "shi" and "atsu," meaning "finger pressure."
Shiatsu massage, sometimes called Zen shiatsu, unifies spiritual, philosophical, and medical aspects of the body. Some westernized massage techniques are combined with the view that energy, qi or chi, circulates along channels called meridians. When freely flowing, chi brings fresh, strong energy and carries away spent energy along with toxins. In this view, any number of influences upset our natural balance of yin and yang. Blocked or diverted chi must be cleared and restored. An Eastern perspective doesn't cite sleeplessness, indigestion, swollen joints, headaches, or depression as sources of discomfort, but sees them as symptoms of either hyperactive or underproductive chi.
A shiatsu masseuse first makes his or her diagnosis, assessing where chi flows healthily and where it may be siphoned or obstructed. They will ask if you have any specific ailments, and then do light massaging to feel which pressure points are stiff or tender. These pressure points lie along fourteen meridians running the length of your body. Once diagnosing your problem areas, the masseuse gently but firmly applies pressure using his or her fingers, knuckles, thumbs, palms, toes, feet, knees, and elbows.
Two meridians are central, drawing chi through your torso: the Governor along your back, and the Conception down your front. The other twelve meridians occur in mirrored pairs along the symmetric halves of your body. These do not only directly control organs; rather they are associated with the function and symbolism of each organ. These meridians are named the stomach, small and large intestine, spleen/pancreas, liver, gall bladder, kidneys, bladder, heart, lungs, sex, and triple heater.
When visiting a practitioner of shiatsu massage, wear thin, loose, comfortable clothing, such as cotton or linen. Expect to lie flat on the floor, a beaded mat, or a futon, so your muscles relax as much as possible. Be prepared to tell the masseuse what you would like worked on. If you have headaches, try to remember if they occur in the morning, after eating spicy food, reading for a long time, or vigorous exercise. Make sure to inform the masseuse of any westernized medical treatment you are receiving, as well.
Most people enjoy shiatsu massage as much as they enjoy deep tissue massage, but expect some differences. Shiatsu will involve deep breathing, rotating and stretching your joints, as well as manipulating pressure points. When these points are pressed, people describe the sensation as feeling tender, tickling, intense, or slightly uncomfortable, unlike anything else. After the massage, you may feel strange, but not sore as in a muscular tissue massage. Many believe Shiatsu is both preventative and healing, so getting it done on a regular basis, along with stretching, exercise, and a healthy diet, may improve your health.