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A Healing Tune-up



The name shi-atsu means finger pressure. Itâ??s one of the energetic healing systems so called because it deals with the energy of life (the Chinese call it chi). Our initial supply of energy comes from our parents.

Shiatsu The name shi-atsu means finger pressure. It’s one of the energetic healing systems so called because it deals with the energy of life (the Chinese call it chi). Our initial supply of energy comes from our parents. Later on we keep it going with correct breathing, whole food and drink, hearty laughter, aerobic exercise, a good book, sex, sunshine, Mozart–the sources are endless.

As energy courses through the channels within our bodies it maintains the myriad of life processes that make us who we are. In perfect health, the two components the Chinese call yin and yang are in perfect balance. It’s the role of the shiatsu practitioner to try and restore that balance and harmony. In Chinese philosophy, everything in the universe is balanced by its own polar opposite. Yin is seen as female, dark and cold, while yang is male, light and hot. In order for the body to utilize nutrients, a number of functions must be set in motion–transport, digestion and the metabolism. None of these operations will work unless nutrients are already present. In order to stay healthy and survive we must find a modus vivendi, a way to restore balance from time to time, or to have it restored by someone experienced in these matters. We need a periodic tune-up.

Regular shiatsu will do that. For thousands of years the ancient healers of China, Japan and Korea have been walking through their villages and making house calls, keeping abreast of early symptoms, being aware of stressful situations–money problems, difficult relationships–in the family. Instead of needles, as in acupuncture, they use their finger tips to press or pinch a "tsubo," a pressure point, in order to release a blockage and stimulate proper energy flow in the 12 meridians and their collaterals.

There are around 360 tsubos located upon the meridians. These vital points are invisible and not easily recognized. If you think of them as energy switches, you are on the right track. Any disturbance in mind or body can provoke one or more of these switches to malfunction, to get stuck in one position or not to work at all, causing a blockage in the regular flow of energy. Pressing one of those faulty points may be quite painful initially, but the pain disappears as energy begins to travel normally once again.

Mental and Physical

The fact that every meridian carries a strong mental component as well as a physical one is easy to understand when you consider the heart channel. West and East meet in their popular view that the heart is more than merely two pumps in one assembly of cardiac muscle. We use phrases like "heart and soul," to "take heart," "heart-rending."

The heart is seen as the seat of affections, of courage, will and love. It should not surprise us, therefore, that the heart meridian in shiatsu also functions as governor of spirit and emotions. Similarly, when Shakespeare talks about a "lily-livered boy" in Macbeth, he alludes to cowardice. The familiar expression, "He has guts!" reads in Japanese: "He has a strong liver!" Treating the liver meridian has a broad effect on body and mind. It also helps prevent seasickness!

Develop Trust

Any shiatsu practitioner will go to great lengths to establish a feeling of trust between himself and his client. You must be comfortable under his or her probing fingers. Shiatsu at its very best is an interpersonal happening and the energy fields of giver and receiver should blend. There can be no walls. No tension.

A complete shiatsu treatment lasts about an hour and is best administered by someone else since it would be difficult for you to follow some of the meridians around your own body. Most practitioners follow the same sequence: relaxation, diagnosis, treatment (in a pattern determined by the diagnosis), followed by a rest period of 20 minutes to half an hour. Since most people feel more secure and safe within their own four walls, house calls are generally better than treatments in a clinical setting.

As a preventive, shiatsu is priceless. No one knows how many diseases, cancer included, have been averted through regular treatment.

Word from the Wise

One of my excellent shiatsu teachers, the venerable One Sun, sunim, called cancer a stress disease. His formula was a simple one: “Wrong food–stress. Wrong thought–stress. Too much stress–cancer.” In his halting English he would urge his apprentices to “eat right” and to “clean out your mental garbage” through many long hours of deep meditation. His teaching sessions were spiced with dietary advice and with a great deal of laughter. He considered regular shiatsu one of the best front-line defences against cancer because, for a time, the treatment restores balance to both body and mind and provides a clean and fresh point of departure–until the next treatment becomes necessary.

Shiatsu Meridian Exercises

These exercises are done three times every day, morning, noon and evening. They should be executed slowly, in a quiet and undisturbed setting. Their purpose is to clear clogged meridians and improve sluggish flow of chi. Great substitute for coffee in the morning! Great energy-booster at noon and early in the evening. Don’t forget to breathe!

Lung and Large Intestine

Stand relaxed. Grab hands behind your back. Push hands down as far as they will go, hold and count to 10. Slowly move hands up as far as they will go, hold and count to 10. Relax.

Stomach, Spleen and Pancreas

Kneel down. Grab your hands in front and slowly move them above your head, keeping your arms stretched. Slowly count to 10. Now bend backwards as far as you can, almost balancing on your toes, holding for a count of 10. Relax.

Heart and Small Intestine

Sit down with knees bent outwards with the sides of the feet touching. Grab your toes with both hands and pull them towards you, bending forward as far as you can. Hold for a count of 20. Relax.

Urinary Tract, Bladder and Kidney

Sit down keeping your legs together and stretch them out. Bend forward and stretch your back, keeping the legs straight. Hook your hands behind the toes and pull the toes toward you. Hold for a count of 20. Relax.

Heart Constrictor and Triple Heater

Sit down. Bend your knees outwards and pull your feet in. Now cross your hands and place them on your knees, slowly pushing the knees out and down as far as they will go. Hold for a count of 20. Relax.

Gallbladder and Liver

Sit with your legs far apart. With both hands, grab hold of one foot, bend forward and pull the foot towards you. Hold for a count of 10. Relax. Repeat with the other foot.



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD