Acupressure and Shiatsu

Acupressure began at least 3000 years ago and works according to the same principles as acupuncture, but uses gentler techniques with no needles. Like acupuncture, acupressure is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Approximately five thousand years ago, the Chinese discovered that pressing specific points on the body could relieve certain symptoms. At the same time, Chinese spiritual practices led to an exploration of Qi and energetics.

Acupoints have several times the level of endorphins of other areas of the body and therefore stimulate the nervous system directly to reduce pain. Perhaps more significantly, acupoints have less electrical resistance than the surrounding areas and therefore are able to receive energy. TCM describes the points as directing the body’s Qi or energy along the meridians, or energetic grid of the body. Acupressure helps to activate the natural resources of our bodies, to enhance normal functioning, and to restore balance.

Acupressure can be an empowering tool for self-care and an agreeable and effective way to care for others. When I work with clients and students, I often teach acupressure points for self care. When I give treatments in person, most people want shiatsu.

Japanese practitioners developed shiatsu based on TCM theory and tuina, the traditional Chinese bodywork system. The first Japanese form of bodywork to emerge was amma, also based on TCM and tuina. Blind people became the primary practitioners of amma, and at one point the government forbade sighted people from practicing amma. Sighted people interested in amma developed shiatsu as an alternative form of bodywork. The United States occupied Japan at the end of World War II and prohibited the practice of shiatsu, amma, and the other traditional Japanese and Chinese healing arts. Knowing that this prevented the blind from practicing their profession, Helen Keller intervened and persuaded the U.S. government to lift the ban.

Recent decades have seen dramatic developments in Shiatsu. Shizuto Masunaga discovered extensions of the TCM meridians. His system of Zen Shiatsu works with these meridian extensions, together with an expanded understanding of the psychological aspects of meridian treatment. Other developments strengthened the integration of TCM theory and tools into Shiatsu practice.

Shiatsu uses mostly fingers and palms (occasionally elbows, knees, or gentle tools) to direct energy to particular acupoints and meridians. Treatment begins with a check-in and assessment, using hara and sometimes pulse and tongue, to determine what meridians need what kind of work.

Shiatsu relaxes both body and mind while balancing the energetic system of the entire body. Shiatsu increases circulation and stimulates the immune system. It helps people return to their own most balanced condition, both physically and emotionally. Shiatsu often relieves pain, and helps to resolve such problems as blocked sinuses, sore throats, headaches, menstrual cramps, digestive troubles, and insomnia. In general, long-standing problems take longer to heal, but shiatsu seeks to activate the body’s own healing potential in order to facilitate recovery. Shiatsu is appropriate for most chronic conditions, including back aches, diabetes, asthma, ulcerative colitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fertility problems, sciatica, and high blood pressure. Shiatsu also offers an excellent body/mind component to work on emotional issues. The body frequently stores emotions and memories. Shiatsu can help release blocked or excessive emotions and access memories.

I generally combine shiatsu with Qi Gong and with herbal and nutritional counseling, but the specific combination I use is tailored to your needs and interests.

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