In Shiatsu, one aims to stimulate particular points on energy channels in order to affect the body's natural healing energy. Shiatsu has an oriental conception of health and disease. It begin first by acknowledging that the body is made up of cells, tissues and organs and that they do function in the manner stated.
But the main concept goes beyond the body as a machine. It is to do with the way that the body is controlled. It views the body as being on two planes.
The physical plane is controlled by another plane which is energetic. Universal, or Vital Energy called Qi (pronounced Ki in Japan and Chi in China) flows in a network of interconnected pathways or channels. Each of these pathways is associated with an organ system.
The Vital Energy, Qi, flows through the body and harmonises the integral parts of the body as a whole. When the person is in good health, then the Qi is flowing beautifully. Disturbance of that flow produces disharmony resulting in illness.
Understanding that the flow of Qi is all important. If the Qi flows well in an unimpeded manner, then one will not catch the infectious disease which others have. When one does succumb to the illness and is found to have a high bacterial count in the mucus, the presence of those bacteria is a consequence of disturbed Qi flow, not necessarily the cause of the illness.
The disturbance in the flow of Qi allowed the lowering of resistance to catch the infection. In good health Yin and Yang are in harmony. Illness can arise from imbalances of Yin and Yang. In Shiatsu we think of 5 relations of Yin and Yang. We consider each in terms of the balance of the two and of the quantity, i.e. excess of deficiency. Excess Yang can be caused by accumulation or blockage of the flow of Qi.
Qi is said to flow through channels or pathways, generally referred to as meridians. There are 14 main meridians in the body. Ten of them are associated with organs. When we consider the meridian we are thinking of the energetic system associated with its organ and the flow of energy through the appropriate channel or meridian. Although the meridian is energetically related to the organ, it is not dependent upon it.
Twelve of the fourteen meridians are bilateral, meaning that there is one on each half of the body. Two of the meridians are central, one flowing on the front of the body and the other flowing on the back.
In Shiatsu the actual pressure points are called Tsubo. This literally means 'vase'. Think about this beautiful description for a moment, since it perfectly encapsulates the meaning of the point. It is a vase of energy. It can be full, half full or empty. Just as a vase can be tilted, so can the Qi be poured in, poured out, or left to become stagnant.
You can think of the Tsubo as being like observation points which help you to assess the state of the meridians they are found along. They will become tender when there is a problem with the meridian or the system relating to that meridian.
Shiatsu is a method of static massage. This means that it differs from other types of therapeutic massage in that pressure is applied to the point or part while the hand is still, whereas most other forms apply pressure while the hand is moving over the skin.
The best place for treatment is floor level, rather than a couch. This way the therapist can direct the body weight therapeutically. Also, it is good to have the client lying flat, unsupported by pillows.
The client may find it quite soothing to close the eyes during the treatment session. The purpose of this is to allow the mind to switch off, so that active awareness does not impede energy flow. The client just goes with the flow and lets the treatment happen.
The actual pressure, is best given when the client exhales. This is the part of the breath cycle during which the client is most relaxed.
The clothing is important in Shiatsu. Cotton clothing like a track suit is really very suitable, as long as it is not too thick. Light clothing is again very suitable.