Bring in the new year - Learn Shiatsu's Introduction to shiatsu contains very important pointers that will help you learn the art of Shiatsu effectively; it also presents some important 'do's and don'ts' to consider when giving a Shiatsu treatment.

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Therefore it is strongly recommended that you read it carefully before proceeding to Part One.


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How Shiatsu works

Shiatsu, in whatever form it is practised, is fundamentally a way of influencing a person's overall condition through affecting the pattern of internal energies, or 'Ki', that flow through the human body. Ki is a word that will occur often in your study of Shiatsu. It means 'vital energy', much the same as the Chinese 'chi', as in Tai Chi, or the Indian term 'prana'. When the word 'energy' is used throughout this book, it is generally in this sense and not the conventional Western usage. At first Ki may seem a rather vague concept, but it will soon become something very evident and indeed tangible to you as you practise Shiatsu. When there is something wrong with the flow of Ki in the body, then ailments manifest. Shiatsu assists in restoring the situation in three broad ways: • removing blockages in Ki flow
• reducing excess or deficiency of Ki
• reducing relative Ki imbalances in the system.

For the time being, however, it is not essential to be able to detect these processes occurring; simple Shiatsu will still produce valuable results. Part Three looks more closely at the notion of Ki, in order to help you perceive it, so that you can make assessments about its quality and refine your technique as a result.

When Shiatsu began to be taught in the West during the late 1970s, the style of treatment that came from Japan was somewhat strong and forceful compared with the prevailing Western idea of bodywork, and this 'style' was taken to heart by many teachers and students. As a result, some people still think that receiving Shiatsu means someone walking all over your back and generally causing you a lot of pain. However, Western technique has adapted over the last decade or so, and it is now widely accepted that good Shiatsu treatment need not be excessively painful. It is true though, that pressing certain points, where energy is imbalanced, can cause a degree of discomfort of a particular kind, which regular receivers of Shiatsu will come to recognize. It is a good idea to mention this to prospective recipients, and ask them to alert you if the treatment seems unduly painful. This leads us into the important subject of cautions to be aware of whilst giving treatment.

Cautions:  There are a number of important restrictions that apply to Shiatsu, which you must be aware of before giving any treatment. In order to ascertain what needs to be taken into account, you will have to ask the prospective recipient some simple questions and make some accurate observations yourself, before starting the treatment. The following points can act as a mental checklist to work through before you begin:

1. Consider the recipient's basic condition and current overall state in order to determine the general tone of the treatment. This is really a matter for common sense - an elderly, frail, ill or very slimly-built person will clearly call for a lighter touch, with much less pressure all round, than someone who is sturdy, robust and in good health.
2. Discover whether the recipient has any injuries, varicose veins or partially healed surgical wounds, and avoid direct pressure on the affected areas.
3. Find out if the recipient has just eaten a heavy meal, has a fever or very high blood pressure; do not treat in these cases.
4. People with serious health problems, such as cancer, a weak heart or advanced arthritis, require treatment by a qualified practitioner.
5. In the case of female recipients, it is important to check that they do not suspect pregnancy. Do not give treatment during the first three months of pregnancy; and throughout the whole term avoid strong pressure below the knee and on certain other points mentioned in the caution boxes within the step-by-step sequence. These lie on the shoulder near the neck, just above the inner ankle and on the hand between the thumb and forefinger.
6. Avoid deep abdominal pressure or pelvic manipulation during menstruation.

Once you have begun the treatment:  Stop working immediately if the receiver experiences any sudden or severe pain when you press a particular point, and continue to avoid that spot throughout the treatment.

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