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Shiatsu, what are its benefits and how does it work?

Shiatsu, what are its benefits and how does it work?

When a little sore occurs or a heavy illness settles a little too long, there are two types of people. The first will rush to the traditional doctor, hoping for a prescription authorizing him to stuff himself with pills as if these were the host. The second will, on the contrary, prefer alternative methods. And in this game, there are now dozens of different ones. Their methods are infinitely varied, as are their therapeutic applications and results. Some discover one of these alternative medicines and therefore swear by it.

If you belong to the second category, you may have already heard of shiatsu. This method of energy massage of traditional inspiration developed in the land of the rising sun during the first half of the last century has gradually imposed itself in the West. Minimally invasive and conducive to relaxation, it has enough to attract even the most timid into the camp of aficionados of alternative treatments. Whether you are interested in a trial session or simply want to learn about this discipline, what should you know about it? What are its benefits and how does it act on the body and mind? Here is a short summary.

The origins of shiatsu

Let's start with a little historical background. Contrary to what one might think, shiatsu is not an ancestral method, although it is based on the foundations of an older technique called Anma. Shiatsu is the product of a period of turmoil within Japanese medical disciplines, prey at the beginning of the 20th century to a confrontation between rationalizing tendencies in contact with the West and traditionalist reactions favoring the arts of touch. It is in this crucible that shiatsu appears. This discipline, whose name literally means "finger pressure", will branch out with several approaches over the decades, and will make followers in Marylin Monroe or Muhammad Ali, among others! Both were indeed treated by Tokujirō Namikoshi, one of the founding fathers of shiatsu who began to practice in 1925 - these famous supporters who also helped to popularize the discipline in the West.

Inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, shiatsu postulates the existence of a vital energy circulating in our body and called Qi (or Ki). Qi imbalances would be at the origin of a myriad of disorders or the persistence of these disorders. The shiatsu practitioner will, using finger and hand pressure (sometimes depending on the schools using other parts of his body), rechannel and facilitate the circulation of this energy along the meridians by stimulating specific points. If all goes well, the blockages disappear and with them our troubles, carried away and evacuated in the fluid flow of Qi.

How does a shiatsu session take place?

A shiatsu session generally takes place as follows:after a discussion aimed at identifying the disorders to be treated between the therapist and his patient, the latter lies down in the position that suits him best on a futon, keeping his clothes on. This last point distinguishes shiatsu from other similar techniques. The place is intended to be warm, the room remaining more or less lit according to the patient's wishes. As you will have understood, it is a question of creating a comfortable atmosphere conducive to relaxation. From there, the therapist takes over, delicately manipulating his patient:when we talk about energy massage, the keyword here is "energy". It is not a massage in the general sense. Contact is light, almost sporadic. Listening is also essential, it is one of the strengths of the therapist, with his empathy. The practitioner takes the time to listen to his patients, encouraged not only to express their symptoms but also their emotions during the presentation of their problems, then what they feel or perceive during the manipulation. This is one of the attractions of shiatsu, patients may feel that their problems are ignored by traditional doctors who seem to be guided by a more quantitative than qualitative approach.

A session lasts on average one hour, but it is common not to see the time pass as the environment lends itself to daydreaming. The fees collected most often range between 50 and 100 euros – and can also be covered by certain mutual insurance companies. The number of sessions deemed necessary depends heavily on the reason for the visit. These can be very episodic sessions when they are routine, or on the contrary close enough together to deal with a "crisis" episode.

When is shiatsu appropriate?

Shiatsu is appropriate in two cases. On the one hand, discipline has a preventive scope. By promoting the free flow of energy within the body, the immune system is strengthened and better able to resist the onslaught of its environment. Some compare shiatsu in this case to a routine visit to the general practitioner, and some take advantage of the change of seasons, for example, to treat themselves to a session. On the other hand, it aims to treat or at least improve the state of specific morbidities, with a view to treatment or support for care, depending on the type of disorder targeted.

It is important to note that no one, and certainly not a serious practitioner, will claim to be able to cure serious pathologies such as cancer. Shiatsu does not claim to belong to the medical sector or even strictly speaking to paramedical. On the other hand, it can contribute to a mental rebalancing and alleviate the pain caused by an illness or its treatment. It is also used in palliative care, which specifically aims to provide a quality environment for end-of-life patients.

Anxiety and stress are also problems regularly addressed. We can also assume that the relatively recent popularity of shiatsu has to do with the tertiarization of our society, in which the arduousness of work materializes in stress and the somatic disorders that accompany it. A method emphasizing relaxation and well-being may appear to employees as an interesting aid, but be careful that the tree does not hide the forest of management aimed above all at softening company morals and shaping more docile employees. This is one of the reproaches that can be leveled at many alternative medicines, too happy to gain legitimacy by lining up in the layer prepared for them by big capital with a plethora of internships in companies and other incentives.

For the elderly specifically, shiatsu could therefore be appropriate in the case of post-retirement blues, for example, and more generally to accompany the treatment of chronic pain and suffering appearing with age. If it is understandable that some, not very sensitive to this type of care, are skeptical about the effectiveness of this practice, know that it involves at least no risk:the worst that can happen to you is is nothing at all! Nevertheless, all those who have experienced it testify to a certain well-being following a session, and notable effects have been observed for many disorders, including those mentioned above.

Be aware, however, that, as with many alternative medicines, anyone can establish themselves as a practitioner:the profession is not regulated, and there is therefore no requirement to have a diploma. However, try to consult with a practitioner who has undergone training approved by the French Federation of Traditional Shiatsu. It is estimated that a minimum of 500 hours of training would be required to provide competent service. And if there is no rigorous legal framework governing the practice, note that the State has established a title of "specialist in shiatsu" that the Union of Shiatsu Professionals is authorized to certify. In addition, the European Parliament has recognized shiatsu as worthy of interest, like other alternative medicines. Some health professionals also enhance their discipline with the practice of shiatsu. In short, as often in the case of alternative medicine, it is up to you to find out beforehand — the surest way to ensure the quality of the services offered remains word of mouth.