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Rediscovering Shiatsu
By Yehuda J. Lev


This essay was written in order to clear existing misconceptions, and substantial lack of knowledge regarding the healing art of Shiatsu, the Japanese Bodywork and Massage technique, sometimes referred to as "the acupuncture without needles ". Since many are unfamiliar with the very term of Shiatsu, and Zen-Shiatsu, not only as a healing art, but also with the fact that it is firmly based on the Oriental Medicine, I decided to shed some light not only on the theoretical aspects, but also to focus on the practical ones. This article portrays most of the principles of Shiatsu administration from the point of view of both the therapist and the patient and their inter-relationship. It describes the session from it's beginning to it's end. It portrays the more advanced technique of Zen Shiatsu, as one of today's leading, daily, preventive therapeutic modalities, and it's applications in the treatment of acute and chronic conditions. It is a puzzle, that this extraordinary CAM approach, although highly developed throughout Europe and the Orient, is still very much a stranger to large parts of the United States.


After practicing Zen-Shiatsu for many years, I am amazed by the fact that in large parts of the United States, including medical centers, the apparent integration of various Allopathic (Western), and CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) healing approaches is mostly fiction. Even amongst those who practice CAM, I have found frequent closed-mindedness and lack of knowledge regarding different CAM techniques and possible integration between different techniques to achieve the best healing results.

The lay population uses mostly two main approaches for their health issues: Western medicine and Chiropractic. Only if the pains and aches are beyond help will the lay population, in despair, look for other approaches. However, there are some encouraging studies showing that Massage & Bodywork Therapy, along with Homeopathy, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Acupuncture, (while still often misinterpreted ) are gradually accepted by more people as effective healing approaches. Furthermore, " massage & bodywork " are no longer mere "luxury", but rather a legitimate therapeutic modality frequently recommended by doctors.

Although even amongst the Massage and Bodywork therapists I still frequently find lack of knowledge as to the benefits of their own occupation, which leads me to believe that there is something amiss in the system of the instruction of physicians and various therapists, the " fog " of misinterpretation, is slowly lifting.

In view of the above, I think that it may be a significant contribution to "rediscover" and explain one of the foremost Healing approaches: SHIATSU, in its recent, and very powerful form of ZEN- SHIATSU.

Zen-Shiatsu is not a.... martial art (as I have been told by some), is not western acupressure, nor it is "deep tissue" or "rolfing". Although Shiatsu does incorporate certain elements of various western massage techniques, Shiatsu is mainly a combination of ancient Chinese acupressure, the traditional Chinese Amma (Anma) and Twina. Shiatsu is philosophically based on solid oriental approach to the universe, and in this respect - has a lot in common with the philosophy of ancient martial arts. Otherwise, Shiatsu is truly a rather unique form of healing Massage & Bodywork.

The efficacy of Shiatsu is beyond doubt, although like any other therapeutic approach, it is not a stand-alone "silver bullet ". A number of studies and research work back up the effectiveness of Shiatsu, and the reader may find some of these listed in this article.

Table of Contents

Page down for Shiatsu research and other resources recommended reading


Over the years I have been asked many times if I could "cure" one condition or another. According to the philosophy of Yin and Yang, Yin is silent, deep and motionless, while the Yang is the surface, and is active. When treating diseases both must be observed and accounted for. The symptoms are what we see on the surface are acute meaning Yang, while the roots of the problem are underneath, and possibly completely silent and motionless and thus Yin. The symptoms are easy to detect, however their interpretation is a different ball game. We can not bring about cure only by treating the symptoms, yet if we are skilled enough to find the true cause lying silently below, we have a good chance to help the patient to improve his/her health. It is not because we are great healers, but because we can stimulate the patient's own defense system.

Shiatsu is an outstanding free-of-side-effects therapeutic art, treasuring an enormous healing capabilities. It can address almost any disease or condition, aside of emergencies that require immediate, emergency or acute life-saving procedures (e.g. surgeries, broken bones, etc.). In my humble opinion, Shiatsu should be applied to daily life and preventive care at least as much as to existing aches and pains.

Shiatsu Research and Other Resources

Examples of Shiatsu therapy sessions (performed by various therapists)-1

Examples of Shiatsu therapy sessions (performed by various therapists)-2

Examples of Shiatsu therapy sessions (performed by various therapists)-3 (Enter Shiatsu in search box.)

Recomended Research Papers

The Effects of Shiatsu on Lower Back Pain Research

Harvard Medical School on Shiatsu

Recommended Reading

Masunaga, Shizuto and Ohashi, Wataru.
Zen Shiatsu: How to Harmonize Yin and Yang for Better Health,
Tokyo, Japan Publications, 1977

Namikoshi,Toru. Complete Book of Shiatsu Therapy.
Tokyo,Japan Publications,1983

Ohashi, Wataru. Do -it-yourself Shiatsu
London, Allen & Unwin, 1977

Ohasi,Wataru with Tom Monte.
Ohashi's Book of Oriental Diagnosis
Penguin Arkana Books, 1991

Chris, Jarmey and Gabriel Mojay
Shiatsu :the Complete Guide,
Thorsons Publications, London, 1999

Shizuto, Masunaga Translated by Stephen Brown
Meridian Exercises: The Oriental Way to Health and Vitality,
Japan Publications, Tokyo, 1987 (1996).

Masunaga, Shizuto, Zen Imagery Exercises,
Japan Publications ,Tokyo, 1977

Lietchi, Elaine, The Complete Illustrated Guide to Shiatsu : The Japanese Healing Art of Touch for Health and Fitness , Element Books, 1998

Yamamoto, Shizuko. Barefoot Shiatsu,
Tokyo, Japan Publications, 1979

Dawes, Nigel. The Shiatsu Workbook.
Thorson Publications, London, 1991

Thompson, Gerry with Elaine Liechti as consultant,
The Shiatsu Manual : Step by Step Techniques for a full body treatment
Headline Publications, London 1994

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Under any conditions the Holistic work provided by the WellPath Holistic therapists is NOT to be considered as an substitute to a medicinal intervention. The results of our work may be considered Therapeutic but not Medicinal. We do not, under any circumstances claim to diagnose, provide medical prognosis or promise miraculous recovery. The act of signing the  Patient Medical History form is a waiver signed by the client waving any and all claims of liability for the development or worsening in client’s medicinal physical and mental condition. Reminder: We no longer offer Massage Therapy. In any case, Therapeutic Massage is NOT sexual. Prospective clients must have a clear understanding that no matter what therapeutic technique is applied - it has ABSOLUTELY no sexual arousing implied or intended.The following level of clarity is apparently needed: the term 'full body' anything, does not include the genital or anal regions. Any Therapist who performs such acts should be reported to the proper authority or the Police.