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What is Zen Shiatsu?

By V. Mala
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Zen is a form of Buddhism that had its origins in Japan. Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning finger pressure. Together, Zen Shiatsu refers to a particular style of shiatsu that is popular in the West. It was founded by Shizuto Masunaga who integrated elements of shiatsu, Western psychology and Chinese medicine to create Zen Shiatsu therapy. It is said to enhance the inherent healing powers of the physical body, so that the patient is relieved of the symptoms of disease and will regain his energy levels.

Zen Shiatsu holds that all health problems are related to imbalances in yin and yang, or disharmonies between the internal organs and blockages to the circulation of ki, or energy, through the meridians (imaginary vertical lines in the body). Zen Shiatsu involves a systemic form of diagnosis using shiatsu. This means, problematic spots in the body are determined in a systematic manner before treatment. By visualizing the meridian stream, mapping the abdominal region (hara), identifying meridian diagnosis points and palpating them, the Zen Shiatsu practitioner identifies accurately the meridians to be treated in the patient's body.

While Shiatsu refers to a therapy through the application of pressure using fingers, Zen Shiatsu refers to a kind of therapy that is administered using thumbs, fingers, palms and elbows, feet and knees. A Zen Shiatsu practitioner must be a meditative person with the ability to detect subtle body responses to treatment. In this method, pressure is applied to all parts of the body along specific pathways called meridians. These are the same meridians that are used in Chinese acupuncture treatment.

The five basic tenets of Zen Shiatsu therapy are: a relaxed practitioner; therapy focused on penetration rather than pressure; simple, direct, perpendicular penetration; two hands on the patient’s body at all times; and treat the entire meridian as a whole.

The trained, Zen Shiatsu therapist first feels the body, evaluates its circulatory system and identifies imbalanced areas by using his or her hands. The therapist will then try to restore the balanced flow by carefully massaging certain vital points across particular meridians. While receiving Zen Shiatsu therapy, the patient is made to lie face down on the floor. This is the ideal position from which the practitioner can easily apply pressure on various parts of the body using his body weight. It is important that the patient who is receiving Zen Shiatsu therapy wears light and loose clothing.

Zen Shiatsu is said to calm the nerves and thereby create a resistance to stress. It also enhances the blood and lymph flow within the body, strengthens the muscles and internal organs of the body. Zen Shiatsu also increases the immunity of a person. Regular Zen Shiatsu therapy can help in improving the overall health of a person.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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