Sunday, 23 March 2008

Finger Pressure


Shiatsu in it’s most basic form is simply pressure.  In fact “shiatsu” translates as “finger pressure”.  The application of pressure to the body via thumb, finger, elbow, knee or foot.  Each tool in the Shiatsu practitioner’s “Swiss Army knife” of extremities, provides a different means of applying pressure.  From pin point accuracy to wide distributed weight.  From light, almost non existent pressure to the application of full body weight.

Pressure can be applied in various ways and for the Shiatsu practitioner not all are advantageous.  Observed from a far, Shiatsu can mistakenly be seen as the action of pressing or pushing.  It is however the opposite.  Passive pressure is achieved by relinquishing body weight to gravity, rather than applying power via muscles.  Pushing usually meets with resistance, were as relaxation meets with relaxation and allows the pressure to penetrate.

Shiatsu is predominantly done at floor level for the purpose of allowing the practitioner to get their body weight over the area they are working.  Shifting the balance of their weight by moving their centre of gravity from between their contact with the floor and their contact with the client.  One of the first exercises a student experiences is crawling around the floor.  Feeling the shift in weight between the hands and knees as they crawl about.

Another means of applying pressure is the relinquishing of portions of body weight.  By releasing the joints the practitioner can allow their weight to drop portion at a time into the area they are working.  This can be as follows: releasing the joints of the thumb, next the wrist, then the elbow, then the shoulder.  Each joint released drops the weight of the appendage it is attached to.  This means that pressure can be applied without creating compression at the joints where it would create tension and resistance therefore blocking the flow of pressure.

Now, that is all very well for downward vertical pressure, often circumstances arise where pressure needs to be applied horizontally.  Like walking, the trick is to transform the act of falling down into falling forward.  By shifting our body weight to fall forward of our centre of gravity we can lean into the area we are working on, transforming the downward force of gravity into forward pressure.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Seated Shiatsu

I regularly attend a local university to do On-site massage with three other colleagues. My three colleagues all practice On-site massage and use On-site massage chairs. Where as I practice seated Shiatsu and use a kneeling chair. On my last visit I was asked what the difference was.

Both practices are a mixture of acupressure and massage. Acupressure being the application of pressure into the body at "tsubo" or "acu points". The same points into which Acupuncturists insert needles.

Seated Shiatsu is a mode of Shiatsu that is particularly suited to short sessions in working environments.

At first sight, the kneeling chair often used by shiatsu practitioners, appears to be at a disadvantage to the On-site chair. The On-site chair providing far more support for the client, enabling them to relax. However, this apparent weakness is actually the kneeling chairs strength.

  • 360ยบ access: the kneeling chair provides access to the front of the body as well as the back. The structure created to provide upper body support in On-site chairs restricts access to the chest.
  • Postural observation: because the client has to maintain their own posture the practitioner can easily observe any asymmetry in that posture, highlighting areas of collapse or poor tone and the subsequent areas of stress created in compensation.
  • Postural realignment: as the practitioner helps to realign their posture the client becomes aware of how the alignment was achieved and the subsequent effect on relaxation. This process can increase the chance of the client being able to create their own relaxation due to postural awareness rather being dependant on their masseur.
  • Interactive support: support is provided by the practitioner. The close contact of this support can increase awareness of where the client holds. Not just in the area being treated but deeper in the body. When supported well the relaxation runs deep, partly due to increased human contact however also in part due to trust.
  • Twisting stretches: the kneeling chair allows for stretching, in particular, twisting of the trunk.
  • Extension of Ki: The kneeling chair forces the Shiatsu practitioner to rely on the use of Ki and correct angle of penetration to effectively apply acupressure. This is because applying too much pressure will create resistance in the client as they have to maintain their own posture.


  • Some days, however, people just want to abdicate all to their practitioner for a little while. The On-site chair excels at this. The On-site chair also enables the practitioner to get more body weight behind their acupressure.

    In conclusion the kneeling chair creates far more interaction and as a practitioner I find this a big advantage, however this is not always what the client wants.