What is Shiatsu

Shiatsu is an oriental form of bodywork, which is based on Japanese massage therapy traditions. Shiatsu integrates Chinese medicine theory and Japanese practice with western physiology and anatomy.

Shiatsu was developed in Japan from the techniques of anma, a traditional Japanese massage, which in it’s origins was practised by blind people. Shiatsu merges the western knowledge of anatomy with anma, ampuku (Japanese abdominal massage), acupressure, and Do-In (Japanese breathing and stretching practices).
Shiatsu massage, which deals with alleviating various physical and emotional ailments by working on pressure points, is the counterpart to the Chinese method of acupressure.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) System is based on the concept of ‘Chi’ or in Japanese ‘Ki’, which is energy that flows through the body along various channels, called meridians.

The word ‘Shiatsu’ comes from the Japanese words ‘shi’, which means finger and ‘atsu’, which means pressure. This pressure is created by the practitioners body weight through fingers, thumbs, elbows, forearms, feet and knees in contact with the recipients body.

Shiatsu Principles

As a healing therapy it is based upon acupuncture principles, focusing on clearing the meridian system of blockages to improve well-being.
Acupressure points, which are located just under the skin and along the meridians, are tiny energy structures that affect the flow of ki through the body. When out of balance, ki either stagnates and becomes deflected or accumulates in excess along one of these channels. Stimulation to these points, which are sensitive to pressure, can unblock and regulate the ki flow through toning (activating) or sedative (calming) treatment.

Jitsu and Kyo

Shiatsu practitioners have learned to feel excessive (Jitsu) or deficient (Kyo) energy within the meridians as they control the movement of blood and ki in the body.
A point or an area of Kyo energy, which has the qualities of yin, soft, yielding, empty, cold and resistant, asks to be tonified. Whereas an area or point of jitsu, with it’s hard, tense, yang, out-ward, hot, resilient qualities, wants to be dispersed or sedated where it is in abundance. These physical qualities of Kjo and Jitsu show the shiatsu practitioner the amount of energy present at a particular point.


Shiatsu combines assisted stretching techniques, joint rotation and manipulation and acupressure to restore ki, or energy balance in the body. Through the application of pressure and stretching techniques shiatsu relieves muscle tension, eases joint stiffness and realigns the structure of the body.
Within a Shiatsu treatment the applied pressure may be deep and sensitive and sustained for periods of time. Stroking, holding, rubbing, heating and stretching techniques are used as well. Mostly the full body, including the front, sides and back, is incorporated into the treatment and position changes within the session are common.


Shiatsu works on the hara, which refers to the abdomen, belly – the area around and below our navel. Taoists call the hara ‘the sea of energy’. Within the martial arts and in meditational practices hara is better known as ‘dan tien’. The hara is the centre of the ki body, the entrance to our personal ocean of ki or life-force.
A strong and powerful hara should be soft and relaxed above the navel, and full and firm below it. Most people are sensitive around the hara area. It is seen and experienced by most as a personal area which is seldom touched. Our physical or energetic body likes to be touched.
Touch through Shiatsu allows us to feel our selves and to be there for one another, so change may arise naturally.

Shiatsu is centring. It is an act of mindfulness, balancing guidance, physical, emotional and energetic movement with space to listen and to create self awareness.