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Shiatsu Guide

Shiatsu Guide

What is on this page:

What is Shiatsu

The Five Elements

Zang and fu organs
Kyo and Jitsu energy
The Meridians
Qi, Chi or Ki

Effects After Shiatsu Treatment
Learn Shiatsu

Shiatsu in Manchester


Other Gelisy Chinese Medicine Pages:

Therapy Charts

Shiatsu Guide

What is Shiatsu Back to top

Shiatsu comes from Japan, it involves pressure on acupuncture points  and stretching in order to balance the bodies energy and promote good health. The theory behind shiatsu is a vital force called ki  which flows in connected channels or as they are known meridians throughout the body, each meridian is linked to an organ, and its ki can be contacted at certain points along its path, in acupuncture these points are called tsubos.


In a health body the ki flows smoothly along the meridians maintaining the body parts like a well oiled engine, when we are ill or stressed the ki is blocked. Shiatsu rebalances the ki so the body can heal its self.   



Yin Yang 

In oriental medicine the nourishing, cooling moistening, relaxing functions are yin, the active, heat producing, energetic aspects are yang. Where there is too much yin is coldness, dampness and symptoms such as tiredness chilliness and poor circulation. Too much yang is over activity and heat, symptoms such as insomnia, dry mouth. The yin meridians run up the front of the body and the yang meridians run down the back of the body.



There are only two main techniques used pressure and stretching, pressure is applied in several different ways either from the hands, thumbs, fingers, elbows, knees, or feet. 

To give a correct massage you use your body weight to apply pressure controlled by the hara the center of energy. When a limb is stretched the meridians are more accessible so less pressure is needed. A meridian out of balance is either kyo-flow obstructed or jitsu-in excess, when you press on a kyo meridian you are supplying energy and this usually feels good, jutsu areas are often tense and painful.


The Five Elements Back to top

A doctor of oriental medicine uses the 5 elements of fire, earth, metal, water ,wood in the diagnosis each element is associated with a colour, taste season, smell, emotion and body part. The doctor looks for colours in the face, the emotional state of the patient, what weather makes the condition worse in this way he sees beyond the symptoms to the cause.





























late summer








































Auras Back to top
A number of auras, or energy layers, surround the physical body that can be detected or appreciated. The first layer, the etheric body, is the most dense and is connected with the body and the way it works. The astral body is much wider, is affected by people's feelings and, if viewed by a clairvoyant or psychic, is said to change in color and shape depending on the feelings being experienced. The next aura is the mental body, which is involved with the thought processes and intelligence of a person. This can be viewed by a clairvoyant and is said to contain 'pictures' of ideas emanating from the person. (The aura can be photographed using Kirlian Photography technique.)


These first three auras comprise the personality of a person. The last aura is known as the causal body, soul or higher self. This is concerned more with perceptive feelings and comprehension. People who believe in reincarnation suggest that the first three auras die with the body, but the causal body carries on in its process of development by adopting another personality. As a person grows in maturity and awareness, these different auras are used, and energy is passed from one layer to another. Thus, any alteration in the physical state will affect the other layers, and vice versa.

Zang and fu organs Back to top

Energy storage and production

According to traditional oriental therapies, organs have two functions. One is the physical one. The other function is concerned with the use of energy and is sometimes called an 'energetic function'. The twelve organs mentioned in the traditional therapies are split into two groups known as zang and fu.


Zang organs store energy. The fu organs produce energy and control the removal of waste matter. The organs can be listed in pairs, each zang matched by a fu with a similar function. Although the pancreas is not specifically mentioned, it is usually included with the spleen. The same applies to the 'triple heater' or 'triple burner', which is connected with the solar plexus, lower abdomen and the thorax.

  • The lungs are a zang organ and are concerned with assimilation of energy from the air. It affects the mental alertness and positive attitude. This is paired with the fu organ of the large intestine, which takes sustenance from the small intestine, absorbs necessary liquids and excretes waste material via the feces. It is also concerned with self-confidence.

  • The spleen is a zang organ and changes the food into energy that is needed by the body. It is concerned with the mental functions of concentration, thinking and analyzing. This is paired with the fu organ of the stomach, which prepares food so that nutrients can be extracted and also any energy, or ki, can be taken. It also provides 'food for thought'.

  • The zang organ of the heart assists blood formation from ki and controls the flow of blood and the blood vessels. It is where the mind is housed and therefore affects awareness, belief, long-term memory and feelings. This is paired with the fu organ of the small intestine, which divides food into necessary and unnecessary parts, the latter passing to the large intestine. It is also concerned with the making of decisions.

  • The kidneys are a zang organ and they produce basic energy, or ki, for the other five paired organs and also for reproduction, birth, development and maturity. They sustain the skeleton and brain and provide willpower and 'get up and go'. Kidneys are paired with the fu organ of the bladder, which stores waste fluids until they are passed as urine. Bladder also gives strength or courage.

  • The zang organ of the 'heart governor' is concerned with the flow of blood throughout the body. It is a protector and help for the heart and has a bearing on relationships with other. This is paired with the 'triple heater' or 'burner', which passes ki around the body and allows an emotional exchange with others.

  • The liver is a zang organ that assists with a regular flow of ki to achieve the most favorable physiological effects and emotional calmness. Positive feelings, humor, planning and creativity are also connected with it. It is paired with the fu organ the gall bladder. This keeps bile from the liver and passes it to the intestines. It concerns decision-making and forward thinking.

Kyo and Jitsu energy Back to top
Oriental medicine proposes that energy is the basis for all life, and it is divided into two types known as kyo and jitsu. If the energy is low or deficient, it is known as kyo, and if there is an excess or the energy is high, it is known as jitsu.

These two factors will affect the type of shiatsu that is given. Experienced shiatsu practitioners can determine with touch what type a person the recipient is. The practice of shiatsu is altered depending on the energy level of the recipient.

For kyo types (low or deficient in energy), a gentle and sensitive touch is required, and any stretched positions can be maintained for a longer time as this will bring more energy to that part of the body. Pressure, held by the thumb or palm, can also be maintained for an increased length of time, approximately 10- 15 seconds.

For jitsu types (high or excess energy), the stretches can be done quite quickly so that the energy is dispersed, and also shaking or rocking areas of the body can have the same effect. The pressure that is exerted by the thumbs or palms should also be held for a shorter length of time, so that excess energy is dispelled.


The Meridians Back to top
The Orientals believed that energy circulated and nourished the whole person through specific pathways, or meridians as they are usually called. In Indian medicine, this is called a nadi or river. Meridians form a crisscross network of interconnected pathways that link the organs, skin, flesh, muscle and bones in a unified body. (This may be compared to the Interstate highway network in the United States.) The qi that circulates within them may be more Yang in nature, defending the body on the outside, or more Yin in nature, nourishing the body on the inside. These channels run from deep in the organs out through major meridian branches to smaller and smaller ones, ending up at the outside of the body in the skin; then they go back again, just like the pattern of other major body systems such as the nervous and blood systems.

Each of the twelve organs is linked with a meridian or channel of energy, named according to the internal organ it affects. The meridians, like rivers of energy, ensure proper nurturing of qi or life force throughout your whole being. When you are healthy, the flow of qi proceeds unimpeded, like the water in a free-running river, and energy is well distributed throughout the meridian pathways. When the river, or meridian, is blocked for some reason, the qi is prevented from reaching the specific area it is supposed to nurture. The result is that the cells, tissue or organs in the affected area will suffer.

Meridians are numbered from 1-12 according to the flow of energy through them.
All meridians start or finish in the head, chest, hands or feet.

Lung - Starts on chest in front of shoulder, finishes in thumb
Large Intestine - Starts in index finger, finishes at side of nostril
Stomach - Starts under eye, finishes in second toe
Spleen - Starts in big toe, finishes at side of chest
Heart - Starts under armpit, finishes in little finger
Small Intestine - Starts in little finger, finishes in front of ear
Urinary Bladder - Starts at inside corner of eye, finishes in little toe
Kidney - Starts on sole of foot, finishes at top of chest
Heart Constrictor - Starts beside nipple, finishes in middle finger
Triple Heater - Starts in fourth finger, finishes by outside corner of eyebrow
Gall Bladder - Starts at outside corner of eye, finishes in fourth toe
Liver - Starts in big toe, finishes on front of chest or below nipple.

Because the meridians serve the whole body from outside in and inside out, they have a dual role. They prevent harmful energies from entering (in the form of bacteria and viruses) the body. They also indicate the presence of harmful energy already inside the body in the form of symptoms on the outside. (See the description of aura later.) These may be felt as aches, pains, heat or cold, and in Shiatsu may be located as areas of particular sensitivity or tenderness.

Any type of "disease" is a sign that the energy within the meridian system is out of balance. When a meridian is blocked, one part of the body is getting too much qi and enters a state of excess, while another part is getting too little and becomes deficient in qi. This will result in one organ becoming overactive while another organ will become underactive and may be fatigued. If you do not correct this problem problem when initially manifested, it can lead to the symptoms getting progressively worse and your disease gets more serious.

Finding these areas is one of the aims of Shiatsu diagnosis and treatment, since their quality and location can tell us a great deal about the origin, location and depth of an imbalance in the entire energy system, which will result in a given disease. The unique nature of the meridians is to reflect this kind of imbalance and then to act as the channel by which the imbalance can be corrected.

Along the meridians you will find more highly charged energy points, which are called pressure points in English or tsubo in Japanese. This is where the qi is most easily affected. Stimulating different tsubo will correct the energy imbalance. In the case of Shiatsu, the affected meridian or points are worked on directly until proper energy flow is restored. By using different shiatsu techniques, such as pressure, stretching, rubbing and corrective exercises, you will be able to release the blockages, "open" the meridian and recharge yourself.


Qi, Chi or Ki Back to top
Shiatsu acts on the subtle anatomy of the body described as qi in Chinese or ki in Japanese. Qi is a fundamental concept of the traditional oriental medicine and is considered as our "life essence" which maintains and nurtures our physical body , mind and spirit. In traditional Indian medicine it is described as prana. Qi is everywhere. It moves and changes quickly from moment to moment and can easily be replenished on a day-to-day basis. The human body is a field of continually moving energy, circulating through cells, tissues, muscles and internal organs.

The Chinese word qi translates as "breaths". A Japanese dictionary defines qi as mind, spirit, or heart. Japanese vocabulary has hundreds of expressions which use the word qi, most of them ordinary ways of talking about human moods, attitudes, or character. Qi is often characterized as energy.

Within the organ and meridian systems, energy is constantly being exchanged. The energy circulates to fill areas where it is lacking (Kyo) and drain off areas where it is excessive (jitsu). The entire system is designed to be self regulating. Most energy imbalances correct themselves without effort. Treatment is only required for stubborn and persistent blockage or lack of energy in a certain area, which is where Shiatsu and related disciplines come in.

There are a variety of exercises you can do to experience qi and feel its effect on your body. Qi is a real force, made up of electric, magnetic, infrasonic and infra-red vibrations, which can be intuitively perceived and mentally directed. It can be photographed using Kirilian photography. Like air that we depend on for our life, qi is the very source of our vitality. It is the force within us which gives us initiative, which drives and inspires us to move forward in life. When the qi leaves us, we die. According to the ancient philosophers, life and death is nothing but an aggravation and dispersal of qi. "Qi produces the human body just as water becomes ice. As water freezes into ice, so qi coagulates to form the human body. When ice melts, it becomes water. When a person dies, he or she becomes spirit (shen) again. It is called spirit, just as melted ice changes its name to water."


Feeling ki
It is possible for a person to 'feel' ki. It is also possible with training for a person to experience another person's aura or ki. It is described as a feeling of tingling or warmth. To experience the aura, your mind must be clear of other thoughts. Relaxation exercise may be employed to prepare you to experience the aura.

It is also possible for a person, by concentrating his or her thoughts and by a slight change of position, to alter the flow of ki in the body. This will have the effect of either making the person feel a lot heavier or lighter, depending on which is desired.

Effects After Shiatsu Treatment Back to top
The immediate effect of treatments differs with each individual. A sense of well-being is common.

Because of the deep relaxation that usually occurs and the stimulus to the major body systems, you may have some healing reactions. Some people feel cold or flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, or headaches after the first treatment. These symptoms will only last for a day or so and usually subside with each subsequent treatment. If these symptoms persist, please consult a qualified physician immediately. In general, any such effects you may experience are positive signs from your body telling you it is making an attempt to correct its own condition in a natural way. These are signs of elimination and the beginning of the healing process.

The following are some unpleasant side reactions some people get after a shiatsu treatment and the causes of the same.

Coughing and generation of mucus or symptoms of a cold: The coughing and production of mucus is due to the body being encouraged to rid itself of its surplus foods (such as sugars and fats) in this form. A cold can sometimes develop when the mucus is produced, usually when the cells of the body are not healthy.

A feeling of tiredness: Tiredness can occur, frequently with a person who suffers from nervous tension. After therapy has removed this stress or tension, then the body's need for sleep and rest becomes apparent.

A headache or other pains and aches: There are two main reasons for these, which should only last a short time. Shiatsu redresses the balance of ki in the body. Thus, blockages in the flow of energy are released and the ki can rush around the body, causing a temporary imbalance in one part and resulting in an ache or pain. It is also possible that too much time or pressure may have been applied to a particular area. The amount needed varies considerably from one person to another. If the pain or headache persists after a few days, obtain qualified medical help.

Feeling emotional: Emotional feelings can occur while the energy is being stimulated to flow and balance is regained. The feelings may be connected with something from the past that has been suppressed and so, when these emotions resurface, it is best for them to be expressed in a way that is beneficial, such as crying.


Learn Shiatsu Courses Back to top

The Shiatsu College is made up of eight Regional Branches. 

Whereas most other Shiatsu schools were founded by one principal teacher, the Shiatsu College is unique in having been conceived as a collaborative effort between several teachers, each contributing an individual style and approach, but having a vision and aims in common.


Shiatsu Society U.K

Shiatsu Society's website

There are several forms of Shiatsu and the Shiatsu Society is a non-profit organisation which represents all styles and the majority of Shiatsu practitioners, schools and students in the UK - promoting their work and professionalism

General Shiatsu Council

General Shiatsu Council

General Shiatsu Council Links

The GSC was formed in 2001 to create a unified regulatory body for shiatsu. The following professional bodies and schools are involved in this process

General Shiatsu Council Tel +(44) (0) 1780 410072
Glebe Cottage, Holywell Road, Castle Bytham, Grantham, NG33 4SL

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 Shiatsu in Manchester Back to Top

The Therapy Rooms,

01625 502782

3 Park Street, Macclesfield,

Cheshire SK11 6SR


Les Hewitt

01925 819801   

11 Hawkshaw Close.
Locking Stumps, Birchwood,
Warrington, Cheshire WA3 7NF


Buddhist Shiatsu Therapist
0161 861 9180

56 Nicolas Rd
Manchester, M21 9LR


Shuddhabha MRSS
0161 833 2528

Manchester Buddhist Centre
16-20 Turner St, Manchester, M4 1DZ


The Centre for Shiatsu
0161 831 9385

Blackfriar Court St. Simon St,

Salford, M3 7FS


Hannah Mackay MRSS
0161 881 6184

111 Nicolas Rd
Manchester, M21 9LS


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