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.