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What is Zan Shiatsu Therapy? 禅指圧


Shiatsu is a manipulative therapy developed in Japan. The japanese word Shiatsu means finger (shi) pressure (atsu).  It incorporates techniques of both Japanese traditional massage (anma) and Western massage, as well as acupressure and stretching. This therapy is considered holistic because it attempts to treat the whole person instead of a specific medical complaint.

There are at least 6 different styles of shiatsu practised in the West today, though some practitioners combine the different approaches in one treatment session. Zen shiatsu was developed by Shizuto Masunaga, and came out of a time in Japan when the most popular style of shiatsu, taught by Namikoshis schools, had a strong alignment with western medicine. Masunaga wrote two books about his theoretical framework for Zen Shiatsu and its practical applications, including Zen Shiatsu: How to Harmonize Yin and Yang for Better Health, and Meridian Exercises, which described yoga-like exercises for self-help in maintaining internal balance and good circulation.


How it Works

Zen Shiatsu, also known as Masunaga Therapy, is a form of Meridian Shiatsu that aims at achieving systemic change for the entire body, using the body's innate healing mechanisms. A Zen Shiatsu therapist is trained to diagnose by feeling the body's condition, particularly the circulation, by his/her hands in order to find the imbalanced areas in the body. This form of bodywork technique is administered by thumbs, fingers, palms and elbows, feet and knees. During the treatment, the whole body is stimulated with stretches and pressure applied along specific pathways (meridians). These are essentially the same meridians that are used in traditional Chinese medicine for acupuncture, though modified and extended by Masunaga. The meridian system can be pictured as like the arteries of our physically embodied energetic system.



The recipient typically lies on a small mat, allowing the practitioner access from all sides and the ability to apply pressure using body weight. The shiatsu recipient should be dressed comfortably with light clothing. No massage oils or lotions are used or needed. Shiatsu can be practised at our studio, in your home, in your office or other specific location, as long as there is adequate space.



Shiatsu is an Alternative and/or Preventive Medicine. Because this body oriented treatment uses the meridian system, the effects of shiatsu go much deeper than western style massages. It can prevent disease by addressing imbalances before they manifest as illnesses. It can help the organs themselves, our autonomic nervous system, and our hormones, as well as our joints, tendons and muscles. It can alleviate stress, muscle tension, joint stiffness, neck and back pain, headaches, digestive problems, emotional imbalance and more.


The Treatment and Diagnostic Process 

Diagnosis, in shiatsu and Oriental medicine, is quite different to the western medical approach. A professional shiatsu practitioner has both a good grasp of treatment and diagnosis and takes a very individualized approach. It depends, for its success, on a meditative activity of the practitioner, aimed especially at detecting the body responses to the treatment, which influences the subsequent treatment step by step. The Zen Shiatsu therapist doesnt look for a disease with a set criteria of symptoms but Rather, assesses the energetic and physical conditions the individual is presenting, and treats accordingly.

The primary precept of Zen Shiatsu is the importance of remaining in a Zen-like, present state when practicing shiatsu; nourishing weak kyo areas and dispersing excess jitsu areas; using two-handed technique to better feel the flow of qi (life force); working from the hara (belly), which is the body's energy center; and using perpendicular pressure to access the qi. Masunaga moreover expanded the meridian system, discovering extensions of the classical Chinese meridians, and developed an effective new system of hara diagnosis predicated on his experience as a Western-trained psychologist.


Practitioner: Gabriela Kotliar

Gabriela was trained in Zen Shiatsu, in Maga School of Shiatsu in Jerusalem, Israel, affiliated with the London School of Shiatsu. She has also been training in various martial arts for over 20 years. Gabriela is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Expressive Arts Therapist working in the Boston area for over 16 years.



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