Travel To Wellness


Shiatsu is a contemporary therapy with its roots in Oriental traditional medicine. Since it is primarily a physically-based “bodywork” system, it is sometimes referred to as “Japanese Physiotherapy.” The actual treatment approach and philosophy is similar to acupuncture in its usage of meridians (energy channels) and Tsubo (pressure points) as well as diagnostic methods, but unlike acupuncture, Shiatsu does not use needles. The main differentiation from most other forms of bodywork, in Shiatsu the receiver remains clothes for the treatment.

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The Japanese word ‘Shiatsu” literally means ‘finger pressure” and the application of pressure is the underlying principle of Shiatus. This pressure can be applied using not only the fingers, but also the palms, thumbs, elbows and knees depending on the amount of stimulation required and which body area is being treated. Stretching methods and other corrective techniques are also included in the treatment with the intention of creating flexibility and balance in the body, body physically and mentally.

How does it work?

Shiatsu works on the flow of energy that circulates through our bodies in specific energy channels or meridians. Essentially, we all have a life force or life energy which created our physical structure and regulates physical, emotional, mental and spiritual stability. This life force – called QI is Chinese and KI in Japanese – maintains a homeostatioc balance of the body.

The flow of QI (or KI) can be disturbed either through external trauma such as injury or internal traumas such as depression or stress. This may be when symptoms such as aches and pains announcing a “state of disease.”

Therapeutic touch is the essence of Shiatsu. This physical touch is used to assess the distribution of energy throughout the body and correct any imbalances. The caring touch used in this therapy will help trigger the self-healing process.

How many sessions are required?

Depending on the nature of the problem, a treatment/therapy such as Shiatsu could involve four to eight sessions, preferable on a weekly bases. A long term imbalance may require more treatments, sometimes a condition will require less. It’s important to keep in mind that Shiatsu is also a preventive therapy, contributing to the maintenance of good health, so one does not need to be unwell to seek treatments. Often, Shiatsu clients will continue their treatments after the initial course simply to promote general health and wellbeing.

What are the effects following a Shiatsu treatment?

The immediate effect of a treatment differs from person to person. Depending on one’s state of health, symptoms, and how accustomed one is to receiving bodywork, individuals will have different reactions to a Shiatsu treatment, but a sense of well-being is common.

Because of the deep relaxation that occurs and the stimulus to major body systems, one may have some immediate healing reactions. Some will feel cold or flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, or headaches after the first treatment. These symptoms generally will only last a day and will gradually lessen with each future treatment. It is important to remember than any such effects you may experience are positive signs of the body communicating that it is making an attempt to correct its own condition in a natural way. These are the signs of elimination and the beginning of the healing process.

Christine O’Grady is spa director at Holtz Spa Ottawa

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