Shiatsu is a hands-on type of massage that originated in Japan. In Japanese, shi means "finger" and atsu means "pressure." The pressure is applied to points on the body that join the shiatsu meridians. The body can be divided into 12 main shiatsu meridians, or pathways, along which energy flows. Using massage to remove any blockages, the energy flowing along the meridians is allowed to move freely, and the recipient of the treatment achieves an overall sense of well being.
Each main organ is attached to a shiatsu meridian or energy channel that allows energy, or qi, to flow. The channels all begin and end in the head, chest, hands or feet. When a person is healthy, the energy flows freely, but when something in the body is not right, the energy becomes impeded. The theory is that shiatsu massage can remove blockages and open up the energy channels, allowing one to feel better.
The 12 identified shiatsu meridians are the lung, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, heart constrictor, triple heater, gall bladder and liver. Each of these begin and end at a specific point on the body. Shiatsu practitioners work on those points in order to open up the energy channels.
During a shiatsu treatment, pressure is applied at points on the body using mainly the hands, thumbs, elbows and knees of the practitioner. It is performed not only for relaxation but as part of a holistic health regime. Deep tissue massage is applied to the points of the shiatsu meridians, causing blockages to be removed and the free flow of energy to be restored.
Various types of shiatsu have evolved over the years, especially with Japanese holistic medicine practices gaining popularity in the Western world. Meridian shiatsu, which incorporates the use of shiatsu meridians, is based on the meridian theory of traditional Chinese medicine. Zen shiatsu uses a combination of shiatsu techniques and meditation. Other types may include aromatherapy and acupuncture.
According to shiatsu theory, a practitioner can improve the immune and circulatory systems, muscles and the overall fitness of the body using the shiatsu meridians. Many people in the Western world are turning to complementary practices as the first step in staying healthy and promoting a sense of overall well being. With modern day living fraught with stress, relaxation methods such as shiatsu are becoming more common as an important part of holistic health.