18 Ways Shiatsu Can Rock Your World

(My first attempt at a "list-post"! Feel free to remind me of any I may have overlooked...)


Standardized explanations for shiatsu can be found elsewhere on my site and all over the web. I wanted to compile a list of how some of that jargon can be relevant to you. Some of these benefits are common to most forms of touch therapy - others are unique to shiatsu.

1) Most fun you can have with your clothes on. Possibly originated as a concern with modesty, but early practitioners stated that shiatsu given through light, natural fiber clothing is more conducive to sensing energy flow, without the distraction of skin sensation. For you, the receiver, being clothed can feel safer, less exposing, and therefore more relaxing.

2) Yay! It's Japanese! Though based on some of the core principles of Chinese medicine, which address your body's energy system, shiatsu incorporates Japanese influences such as hara diagnosis and development.* The overall Eastern perspective of shiatsu gives a refreshingly different and poetic lens then Western medicine through which to view the human body.

3) Why don't we do it on the floor? Shiatsu treatments can happen on a massage table, but the benefits of of giver and receiver being on a futon on the floor are: better connection with grounding earth energy, effective leverage allowing for deeper, relaxed pressure by the giver, and greater range of stretching positions for the receiver.

4) Shiatsu is like a meditation. A shiatsu practitioner pressing on your body point by point (with a deep but gentle enough pressure to hold your attention without causing discomfort) brings your mental focus to those points, and facilitates developing your awareness of the way your body's energy is flowing or stuck.

5) Shiatsu teaches you how to get your own energy flowing, and gain awareness of that whole mind/body connection thing. For the above reason, when you know how the energy flows in your own body, the better you can facilitate it yourself. When the connections between mental/emotional states and physical sensations becomes clear, you'll know how to deal with mind stuff before it becomes physical stuff.

6) Shiatsu is totally portable! Shiatsu techniques can be adapted to a variety of positions and locations, which means it can be administered as needed in a variety of situations.

7) DIY! There are a number of simple and harmless techniques you can learn, even without understanding vast amounts of shiatsu theory, which you can whip out for quick relief of common issues on yourself, friends, loved ones (total strangers, if you feel so inclined, but please ask first) and even children. It's a great skill to have, and an impressive party trick.

8) Shiatsu addresses the whole body. Sometimes a stuck shoulder is just a stuck shoulder, but other times, there may be underlying issues. Shiatsu givers treat your body as a whole interconnected system, with the result of addressing the root causes of your problems, rather than just offering temporary symptom relief.

9) Shiatsu gets the ki flowing. (Ki=something like 'life force, energy, prana", etc.) Stuck, stagnant, blocked, excess and/or deficient ki is believed to be the underlying root of many symptoms and illnesses. Imbalanced ki can also be felt as stiffness, soreness, and tension, but also as emotional stuff like depression, irritability, anger, anxiety, and overthinking. Free-flowing ki in body and mind is a very desirable experience.

10) Shiatsu, like other types of bodywork, relieves stress and promotes relaxation. Why is this so important? (And believe me, if shiatsu did nothing else, this alone would be enough) Because when your body is able to get out of stress mode, and really RELAX, its own healing abilities can finally do their thing. You will notice improvements such as  relief of chronic ailments, headaches, other aches and pains, deeper breathing, stronger immunity, steadier heart rate, improved digestion, greater ability to handle life with calm, deeper and more satisfying sleep, and just an overall, more positive outlook on the world and humanity.

11) Shiatsu can relieve fatigue. When your nervous system is relieved from its perpetual 'alert mode' and mental multitasking, which seem to be a product of our frenzied modern lifestyle, more of your core energy is available to you for beyond just basic life functions. Like fun stuff.

12) Shiatsu can be a tolerable means of treatment for sensitive conditions like fibromyalgia. Movement of the body and massage is highly recommended for sufferers of FB, but high sensitivity and low pain threshold can make touch nearly unbearable. Very light and gentle shiatsu pressure in the associated meridian areas offer a powerful effect, resulting in greater mobility and acceptance of physical touch over time.

13) Shiny, happy people. Gentle pressure stimulates the capillaries in your skin's soft tissues and tones the muscles, which can reduce sags and wrinkles, giving you a healthy, glowing and youthful appearance.

14) Shiatsu, also like other bodywork, satisfies our basic human need for non-sexual touch and connection. This benefit really cannot be understated. From our conception, and throughout our time in utero, our bodies have been subjected to continuous and all-encompassing, stimulating pressure. Ideally, after birth, this experience was carried on in our caretaker's embrace. Compassionate, non-sexual touch is an instant tension reliever, a reminder to both your body and mind of your earliest memories, and really, really necessary to well-being. Don't believe me? Go without a hug for a week.

15) Shiatsu increases flexibility. A shiatsu treatment generally incorporates gentle stretching moves that take your body to the borders of its range of motion. Through meridian work and other techniques, that range will slowly open up, allowing for greater freedom, ease of movement and less muscle injury in daily life.

16) Tame that PMS tiger! Because that time of the month is usually accompanied by and perhaps rendered intolerable due to hormonal imbalance, and shiatsu is all about restoring balance, it can be an ideal non-medicalized means of bringing peace to your cycle (as well as to those around you, and the world at large.)

17) And speaking of hormones, shiatsu is wonderful for pregnant and laboring women. Another time of wild hormonal fluctuations and intense mind and body changes, pregnancy is a great time to receive shiatsu... giving the benefits of reduced morning sickness, varicose veins, and anxiety, and increased heart connection to the growing fetus. During labor, it can relax tension, even out sporadic contractions, and contribute to an overall smooth delivery. And let's not forget shiatsu's gentle benefits for the newborn too (as well as attending dads and other birth support people!)

18) Your personal stimulus package. Shiatsu can be a fantastic kick-start to making further positive healthy life choices. By freeing up vital life energy, bringing your attention back to your physical body, and giving your body a taste of feeling good, you'll get the momentum you need to shift things, change habits, and build on this initial sense of well-being. And if you're already on that path.. kudos! Shiatsu will help keep you tuned up and recharged, and reminded to keep on keepin' on!

So, whaddaya waitin' for? Get your local shiatsu practitioner on the phone today!

* Hara diagnosis and development: In Japanese culture, the hara, (generally identified as the abdomen, especially the lower part) holds great significance as a place of centered and intuitive power, as a metaphor for one's character, and a primary indicator of the state of meridian balance and overall health. The strength of the practitioner's energetic hara has a tremendous bearing on the effectiveness of their treatments. Also, knowing how to physically move from the hara - much easier to do when closer to the ground - conserves the practitioner's energy, and allows for more profound and intuitive connection with the receiver.

Other posts you may enjoy:

PMS Got You Down?

The Self-Shiatsu Handbook

The Incredible Shrinking Hospital

Shiatsu as the Art of Placement

Expand Your Range of Motion