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Mystery Touch: Shiatsu


When you are sad and someone gives you a hug, you somehow feel better. When you massage your temples after a long day of work, you inadvertently stimulate a pressure point that clears your vision and relaxes your eyes. When you have a headache, you hold your forehead and somehow feel relief.

This magical response to touch is to the basis of shiatsu—a form of Japanese therapy designed to stimulate the body’s inner ability to heal itself. The Japanese word shiatsu translates to ‘finger pressure,’ so, naturally, shiatsu therapy entails applying manual pressure to specific areas of the body, to assess and treat a variety of conditions.

It’s really all about balancing energy to achieve a healthy & harmonized state

The philosophy behind shiatsu therapy is that touch can balance energy flow throughout the body and retrieve its natural healing power. Practitioners of shiatsu believe the human body to have a network of pathways through which energy flows, with different parts of the body having their own level of energy. It’s really all about balancing energy to achieve a healthy and harmonized state, through kneading, rubbing, tapping and stretching—applied directly over the patient’s ‘energy pathways’.

No Pills Required

Ted Thomas, the Director of Sourcepoint Shiatsu Centre in Vancouver, and the Creator of the Shiatsu Therapy Program at Langara College, has been practicing shiatsu since 1984. He describes shiatsu as a unity between body, mind and spirit—a dynamic form of meditation between two people who are sharing and exploring their energy at the same time. Thomas says, “It’s not like I take my energy and give it to someone. It is more sharing and communicating back and forth between my patients and me. I relax, watch my posture and breath, and let the rest happen by itself.” Shiatsu works best when the practitioner follows the breathing rhythm of applying pressure on the exhale, and releasing on the inhale. Also, pressure is applied using the whole body, which has stronger impact than pushing with only the hands and thumbs.

“People seeking the help of shiatsu are most often looking for pain relief,” explains Thomas. The tools required for a shiatsu treatment are as simple as a pair of hands and a place to lie down. “All you really need is a cotton mat or a blanket and you have enough,” says Thomas.

Differing from conventional western medicine, shiatsu uses our own energy to unify the body. It tunes our inner intelligence and heals the causes, not the symptoms of our sickness. Healing with energy is difficult to believe because no one can see or touch it: it cannot be sold in a pill form or under a brand name by a pharmaceutical company. It is within us, powerful as life itself.

2008 Pacific Rim Cover, Closeup Portrait of Woman's Face.

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