Shiatsu is a form of therapeutic massage which originated in Japan. The Japanese term “shiatsu” literally means “finger pressure”. Although it has been widely used in most Eastern countries, shiatsu massage is not yet popular in the West. Most people only identify it as a massage but there’s more to shiatsu than ordinary massage. Based on an ancient healing technique, shiatsu is an integral process of bodywork involving assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
Around 1000 A.D., the Chinese introduced the practice of acupuncture to Japan. During those times, the Japanese were customarily practicing their traditional therapy called Anma massage. This well-established Japanese massage was proven safe and effective method of medical treatment. As time goes by, the Japanese learned to incorporate acupuncture and Anma massage and the merging of these two systems evolved together to form a new conventional method of massage called “shiatsu”. And it has been perceived as a form of therapeutic remedy for more than 70 years.
The energy flow called ‘Qi’
In this technique, finger pressure is applied to create a more gentle massage. Unlike most massages that require application of great pressure or constantly stroking painful areas of the body, shiatsu involves gentle tapping, stretching, and mild pressing on different parts of the body, particularly on the vital points or the areas where the Qi is most active.
When the Qi is flowing through the body without any obstructions, the body is at peace and healthy. On the contrary, when the level of Qi is lowered and obstructed, the flow of energy is disturbed and symptoms arise such as anxiety and stress. Shiatsu massage makes sure that the flow and level of Qi is maintained.
The rhythmic and distinct point pressure used in shiatsu is applied with the thumb or fingers on the 660 vital points of the body. Trained practitioner examines the fundamental tissue and determines how much pressure to apply after diagnosis. The duration of applying pressure on some vital points of the body is also assessed by the shiatsu practitioner. This technique is one of the simplest methods of therapy and can be very effective in treating several common disorders caused by stress. It is also considered by many people as one of the safest therapy due to its non-invasive property.
During the session, you may or may not remove your clothes. Shiatsu massage only requires mild pressures on vital points so you can only feel gentle and light pressures but the effects are considerable.
Japanese studies reveal that shiatsu has been proven to calm the sympathetic nervous system and has been reported to improve the function of the muscles, blood vessels, nerves, endocrine glands, lymph nodes, and internal organs. Furthermore, it has been determined that shiatsu aids the body in getting rid of metabolic waste and toxins.
The two modes of the nervous system
There are two subsystems within the autonomic nervous system that are working together to maintain neurological balance: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic functions. The sympathetic system incites the body to respond accordingly in stressful conditions and intense excitement. Dominance of sympathetic system results to dilation of the pupils, increase in heart rate, surge in blood pressure, increased production of adrenaline, and digestion shut down. These effects direct the body to focus on the peripheral muscles and nerves that automatically reacts in a “fight or flight” response.
On the other hand, dominance of the parasympathetic system directs the body’s focus to the internal organs, thus relaxing the peripheral muscles and nerves. The shift of focus to the internal organs activates digestion, increases secretions, and lowers heart rate and blood pressure. Generally, parasympathetic system prepares the body to relax while replenishing its energy. Either the sympathetic or parasympathetic mode takes over our nervous system at any given points in time. Several times a day, our body shifts back and forth between these two systems.
When you get stuck in one mode for too long, that’s when problems arise. Considering the daily stress that we get from our everyday life, the devastating possibility is to become stuck in sympathetic mode. Prolonged dominance of the sympathetic system can lead to problems such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, insomnia, hypertension, skeletal and muscular pain, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and other gastrointestinal disorders. The principle of shiatsu focuses on the massage techniques to calm the sympathetic nerves to prevent and treat these kinds of disorders.
Shiatsu massage for stress relief
Stress has become more prevalent and is experienced by almost everyone living in the modern world. The magnitude to which stress-related symptoms affect our physical and mental health has been substantial and severe in worse cases. High levels of stress can be contributed to anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, sore muscles, and many other symptoms that can threaten a more severe condition that can endanger our overall well-being.
People have tried a variety of methods to cope with stress. One of the most widely practices in combating stress is massage therapy and is proven to be effective in most cases. This claim has also been backed up by research studies that suggest sufficient evidence to confirm the effect of massage therapy in relieving stresses of the mind and body.
Shiatsu offers physical and mental benefits of a massage therapy and acupuncture healing. Aside from its calming and stress-relieving properties, shiatsu also provides intensive cleansing effect by flushing out toxins from the body. The application of deep and gentle pressure on the limbs and trunk helps loosen built up toxins and transports them in appropriate pathways to be neutralized and eliminated from the body. This non-invasive form of massage helps balance out and relaxes the energies of the body.
Although shiatsu is considered as a full body treatment, it also focuses on certain areas of discomfort that require immediate relief and treatment. But regular treatment of the whole body will guarantee overall well-being and helps in the prevention of stress-related syndromes. It is for this reason that many people have included shiatsu into their regular healthcare maintenance routine.
The essence of health maintenance is widely recognized in other parts of the world. In order for our body to function normally, it needs routine maintenance to ensure optimum performance. Disregarding health maintenance allows stress to infiltrate our body which can lead to the accumulation of toxins that can impair all systems of the body and speed up the aging process. Shiatsu works to reverse this process by calming the peripheral muscles and nerves; drawing out toxins and release stress. You can instantly feel restored energy, lightness in the limbs, and a holistic sense of wellness right after the treatment. Many people also experience improvement in digestion and better sleep quality after having shiatsu massage.
Other Chinese medicine techniques such as moxa and cupping can also be used together with shiatsu for better relief of tension and bringing more vitality and energy to the body.
Other benefits of shiatsu massage therapy
It is only a matter of time before shiatsu makes its way to the Western world and prevails as a predominant tool in reducing stress and anxiety. Many Japanese studies have described its effectiveness in calming hyperactive mind and body. More benefits have been reported and more stressed people have been treated in the short and long term.
Other shiatsu massage health benefits for stress may include and are definitely not limited to…
- Alleviates muscle pain and tension
- Eases headaches
- Increases energy levels
- Relieves joint pain
- Improves circulation
Thoughts on the above guys? I love this type of massages.