Zen shiatsu is a combination of the traditional pressure point therapy of shiatsu and the meditative powers of Zen therapy. Shiatsu is a form of Japanese pressure point therapy that is used to reduce neck and shoulder discomforts, back pain, insomnia, stress, fatigue, and digestive problems. Usually finger pressure is the basic technique applied during shiatsu therapy.
Zen is a concept that belongs to Buddhism. It is a type of meditation the goal of which is to attain full enlightenment through the training of the mind and the awareness of one’s own nature. The principles of Zen are now being applied to massage therapy.
Zen shiatsu is a combination of the pressure techniques of shiatsu and the meditative powers of Zen. It is a form of bodywork that the therapist delivers using the hands, fingers, thumbs, palms, knees, elbows, and feet. It is more diverse than traditional shiatsu which only uses the fingertips to apply pressure. Pressure is applied all over the body, specifically along the energy pathways. These are usually the same energy pathways that are followed during traditional Chinese acupuncture. This helps to stimulate the innate healing abilities of the body, helping to reduce symptoms of illness, and regain strength and vitality. Some techniques of joint movement and stretching are also applied to help increase flexibility as well as provide better access to the energy paths.
Meditation on the part of the therapist is an important aspect of the treatment. This is necessary for the therapist to assess the patient’s response to the treatment and the progress being made. The therapist is also able to detect the condition of circulation through the body in order to find any imbalances along the energy pathways. The energy flow is then restored through the stimulation of the imbalanced areas. Zen shiatsu works with the autonomic nervous system which helps the body become resistant to stress, improve lymph and blood circulation, improve muscle tone, and even strengthen the immune system.
During a Zen shiatsu session the client usually lies on the floor on a futon and the therapist then kneels beside the patient and works on their body from all sides. Also, with the client so close to the ground, the therapist is able to use their body weight when applying pressure. The client remains clothed during the procedure and is encouraged to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. There are no massage oils involved because shiatsu is a pressure technique, not a rubbing motion. There is also very little speaking during the actual procedure as Zen shiatsu is a form of “meditative healing.”