The Art of Shiatsu

What is it?

Most descriptions you'll find about of this form of massage will be along the lines of, “Shiatsu (shee-ah-tsoo) is a literal translation of ‘finger pressure’, practiced in Japan for thousands of years to help balance the life force of the body”, and/or, “…it’s like acupuncture, only with thumbs, instead of needles….

...which is mostly true, but comes nowhere near to describing the subtlety and power of this simple hands-on therapy.

Shiatsu is actually a fairly recent modality in its own right- though it is the modern culmination of a very ancient and intuitive form of medicine, the essence of which has managed to survive through ever-changing political climates and governmental regulations.

Preventive or supportive medicine?

We speak today of preventive medicine, though I would describe shiatsu more as ’supportive’ medicine, recognizing that the body - given the appropriate resources - is amazingly designed to regulate and balance itself. It’s when our systems are overwhelmed, and the balance becomes too difficult to manage internally that external interventions may be needed.

Shiatsu - like nourishing food, natural movement, fresh water, and healthy social, intellectual and spiritual stimulation - can help to keep the body free of tension and other factors that hinder the body’s ability to maintain balance and recover from many of life’s stressors.

Being an Eastern modality with a perspective that our physical forms are reflective of the patterns of the cycles of nature, shiatsu appreciates the importance of transition and flow, and when flow is blocked, stagnant, excessive or deficient, we experience disease states.

What’s it like to receive shiatsu?

The delivery of shiatsu will vary from practitioner to practitioner.

My own training came through a teacher who studied under other teachers that were focused on the primary intention of ‘moving the ki’ (or, life force), drawing on whatever techniques made sense to accomplish this.

And, this training comes through who I am as a person and how I uniquely communicate and connect with the people who come into my office.

My focus during a shiatsu treatment is on feeling what is or isn't moving in your body (as movement is necessary for 'flow'),  discerning where it is (or isn’t ready) to be challenged, and offering an invitation for change.

encourage movement

My guiding motto is “encourage movement - respect boundaries”.

You, as the receiver, may experience finger, thumb, palm or forearm pressure, rocking, stretching, holding or other applications, and a sense of deep relaxation, opening, emotional release, discomfort (as in, protection), or, sometimes, nothing significant at all in your awareness.

 I am also of the mind that you, as the receiver, gain much more benefit when you participate in the process.

For that reason, I may also bring in prompts, such as taking a breath, moving a certain part of your body into my resistance, or directing your awareness, if I think it may help you move past a barrier.

What else?

Shiatsu is traditionally a clothed treatment, and you will be given the option to lie on a futon on the floor or a massage table when you schedule your appointment.

It is also believed that the most effective aspect of a shiatsu treatment is 'ampuku' or abdominal massage. (Read more about hara massage here.)

This can be challenging for many of us in the West, as it is not only a vulnerable part of the body, but where we hold a lot of tension. However, in Eastern medicine, an accurate assessment of a person's health would be incomplete, and therefore, not entirely therapeutic without this contact - much like trying to understand a person's life without ever having stepped into their home.

While many common conditions can be relieved entirely or in part with just an ampuku treatment, I do approach this with respect and with permission.


located: posturing for health | 401a gordon drive exton pa 19341 | 610.304.5120


Additional Services

Each of these 'extras' can be added on to your session, and they generally take up to an extra half hour. You'll see the option to add-on when you book online. (Note: These add-on's are not listed as available with the 90-minute bodywork session. If you are interested in that, please contact me.)

shiatsu foot massage at embodygrace

Shiatsu facial. A lovely massage just for the face, head, neck and shoulders. A traditional beauty treatment that uses no products; just gentle pressure that facilitates circulation, toning, and more.

Read more here.

Ginger compress. An application of hot ginger-water applied with towels to areas of stiffness on the body. Traditionally, this is used on the lower back in order to stimulate 'sluggish' kidney function, and is said to restore vitality.

Read more here.

Shiatsu foot massage. A treat just for the feet. Beginning with a warming ginger water soak and ending with an application of coconut oil (both optional), this treatment works the muscles and shiatsu points all round the feet, toes, ankles and lower calves.

Read more here.


Everything you could want in a massage.

I’ve had the pleasure of being one of Gina’s clients for several years now — and every time we have a session, it turns out to be different in response to what I’ve told her beforehand, and what she discovers as she’s working on me. She finds things that I would have asked for if I knew I needed them!
— R. Lyons, West Chester, PA
I should have come here sooner.

I like to envision a future where everyone gets the benefit of THIS aspect of health care covered by their insurance. For Free. In the meantime...Do yourself a big favor. Your Whole Self: Body, Mind, Spirit. Schedule an appt. with Gina. Do I sound like an ad? Sorry! I am just feeling so great today. The body will heal itself if you just give it a chance.
— Susan C., Philadelphia, PA
My favorite practitioner!

As always...going to see Gina is one of the best hours I can spend. the knowledge and insight she gives is so valuable. She is a warm kind hearted person who really believes in want she is doing and does it extremely well. My recent visit focused somewhat on sinus/ respiratory issues due to persistent allergic reaction. I felt so much better as a result. Thank you Gina!!!
— Liz N., West Chester, PA