Origins of Shiatsu Massage
Over the last few years there has been a lot of interest in Shiatsu massage and the many benefits it can bring. But where did it all begin and what is it? Shiatsu massage uses pressure points that correspond to different parts of the body. The goal of Shiatsu is to decrease tension in muscle tissue and aid with blood flow & general circulation. It has deep roots in Japanese medicine.The technique evolved from an ancient Japanese massage technique called Anma. This technique involves tapping, rubbing and applying pressure to different points around the body to stimulate the muscular system. Shiatsu also takes inspiration from Acupuncture, which is an ancient form of Chinese therapy.
Tamai Tempaku invented Shiatsu early in the 20th century. Since the 1940’s a number of different schools of Shiatsu massage have developed. In 1964 the Japanese government recognized the practice as a form of medical therapy.
The term Shiatsu is derived from the Japanese words “shi” which means finger and “atsu” meaning pressure. It takes huge influence from the traditional Chinese concept of Chi; this is about energy flowing through the different pathways in the body and the body being deeply inter-connected. By applying pressure along these pathways known as meridians, a practitioner aims to bring a patients energy into balance and in turn reduce the effects of pain and muscle fatigue.
The way in which Shiatsu works is very different from most other popular forms of massage. A traditional massage will normally only focus on a single area of the body, usually the specific area where there is pain or tightness within the muscle tissue. The concept of Chi influences the core concept of Shiatsu that is to exploit these links that run throughout the body.
Following world war two General MacArthur banned the practice of all traditional Japanese therapies including massage. The practice of massage in Japan was largely an occupation for the blind. Shiatsu was saved from the ban thanks to the intervention of Helen Keller persuading President Truman to overturn MacArthur’s ban. This threat motivated practitioners to downplay the traditional roots of Shiatsu and instead started to adopt western medical terms and chiropractic techniques. These changes led to the method that we know today and partly accounts for the different styles available.
There are numerous schools of Shiatsu massage. Tokujiro Namikoshi developed the most popular of these schools of thought. He emphasized the use of thumbs and fingers to apply pressure to various points along the body and did not encourage the traditional rubbing technique. He founded the Japan Shiatsu Institute in Tokyo in 1940 and this developed into one of the most popular training destinations for people wanting to learn the skill of Shiatsu. In his time, Mr. Namikoshi gave Shiatsu massages to some very famous American stars including Marylin Monroe and Muhammad Ali.
Shiatsu technique is well established in Japan and is steadily growing in western countries as people seek out alternative treatments to prescription medication. In Japan the health industry officially licenses professionals who want to practice the technique. Similar recognition of the qualifications of Shiatsu practitioners exists in the United States but varies on a state-by-state basis.
Working out from the chest along the arms, the therapist applies firm pressure along the meridians on the arms and legs. They will also adjust the back. Proponents of the technique claim one of the greatest benefits from Shiatsu is the improvement in the circulatory system. Afterwards many also report being more aware of their balance and joints. It is not considered an energizing massage and many have reported feeling tired after the practice, with some practitioners suggesting patients rest for 10-15 minutes after the treatment, which given the calming effects of the treatment usually results in a deep state of rest. These are just some of the many benefits that have ensured the continued development and popularity of Shiatsu massage.