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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The lower half of the body brings in some distinctive issues, both physical and emotional, that affect Shiatsu treatment. The oriental understanding of health relies on an awareness of a series of internal energy centres or 'chakras', each with a different significance. The legs connect to the sacral chakra, which is connected with issues of being 'grounded', or rooted in reality, with self-esteem, sexual and physical vitality, and with the ability to absorb life's shocks without being completely thrown off-balance. The legs can also literally carry us forward or help us run away. From a metaphysical point of view then, problems in the legs are involved with issues of 'moving forward' or 'making progress' in life, or with the ability to escape from things.

Treating the legs can have an effect on all these aspects, as well as on more physical matters. Treating the lower body generally brings the receiver more 'into the body', which is often beneficial in a society which is overly centred in the head or mind. Furthermore, traditional oriental doctors believe that deterioration of overall health with ageing begins in the legs, as they are used less and Ki flow through them decreases. Having a sedentary job and driving everywhere, instead of walking and taking regular exercise, will clearly bring on this deterioration earlier.

The buttocks too can be adversely affected by an inactive lifestyle, resulting in the stagnation of Ki. They are also often affected by tension from clenching. This can be connected with anger, aggression or sexual anxiety. Half of the classical Chinese energy channels, or meridians, begin or end in the legs. Therefore the legs have a particular relevance to the corresponding organs. In this sequence, the legs are worked on in two parts, separated by treatment of the feet. The backs of the legs are treated first, then the feet, then the fronts of the legs. As already mentioned, the back of the body can express a person's relationship to their past, and this can sometimes appear in the backs of the legs as extreme tension or 'armouring'.

About this sequence

The sequence for the backs of the legs begins with palming and goes on to more specific thumb pressure-point work, thus continuing the previous sequence down the back of the body, by treating in turn the buttocks, thighs and calves. This relates particularly to the bladder. A new position is then adopted to enable a similar sequence of treatment to the outside of the leg, which governs the gall bladder. These two procedures are applied, in turn, to one leg and then the other.

• use your body weight, not muscular effort
• keep your own body relaxed
• focus attention and breathe in your abdomen
• keep your working arm straight but not locked
• lean into each movement on the out-breath, and hold the position
• work at right angles to the body surface
• cultivate a calm feeling and regular rhythm

1. Kneel beside your partner's knee; from here you will be able to treat the whole leg. Lean in with your whole body weight from the side, with your palm over the buttock, keeping the other hand passive on the thigh. Work over the whole area of the buttock, especially concentrating on the lower rim of the pelvis, treating all lines of points three times.
2. Cover the same area with thumb pressure. Again work around the rim of the pelvis with direct pressure in under the bone. You can work strongly in this area, unless there is a local problem, such as sciatica. The four lines of points to work on are indicated on the right. As usual, pay particular attention to blocked or stagnated points. Remain on the same side to continue work down the back of the leg.
Buttock pressure points
Thumb pressure points for the buttocks are shown here. The points around the pelvis will feel tender on many people, but are valuable release points. You can lean even more strongly into the other points on the Gluteus Maximus muscle. Press at intervals of a thumb's width.
Benefits: helps hip problems, bladder and gall bladder problems, and helps alleviate sexual tension.
3. The previously working hand now becomes passive, remaining on the sacrum. Palm down the centre of the back of the thigh with your other hand, at intervals of a palm width, to cover the whole area as far as the knee, but without putting pressure on the knee joint. Lean in from directly above the area you are treating, again using your whole body weight.
4. Thumb down the back of the thigh, again along the centre line, and leaning in from directly above with your body weight. As usual, pay particular attention and give extra treatment to points that seem blocked or stagnated.
CAUTION: Avoid applying your full weight to the knees or ankles and avoid pressure on varicose veins. Do not work below the knee in early pregnancy.
5. Move the passive hand to the back of the thigh, and palm down the centre of the back of the calf as far as the ankles, at intervals of a palm width, leaning your body weight directly from above. Do not apply direct pressure on the ankle.
6. Go over the same area with thumb pressure. Again follow the central line indicated bottom left, as far as the ankle. Then, when you have completed the treatment for one leg, move to the other side of your partner, kneel beside the knees and repeat steps 1-6.
Backs of legs pressure points
Press the pressure points at intervals of one thumb width, avoiding the knee joints and ankles. Points about half-way down the calf are sometimes particularly tender, so adjust the pressure if it is too strong. Repeat each line of pressure three times.
Benefits: helpful for aching, stiffness or joint pains in the legs and hips. Also particularly assists functioning of the bladder.
7. Ask your partner to assume the 'recovery position', by turning the head to one side and spreading the arm out alongside, and at the same time tilting the pelvis back and drawing the knee up level with the hip. The other arm can be down by the side. This is the position for receiving treatment on the outside of the legs, beneficial to the gall bladder.
8. Adopt the lunge position, with your forward foot on the far side of your partner's body, and palm down the centre of the outer thigh. Keep your passive hand on your partner's hip.
9. Thumb along the same line, which would roughly correspond to the outer seam of a garment.
10. Remaining in the same position, palm down the centre line of the outside of the lower leg, at intervals of a palm width. Again lean in and apply pressure perpendicular to the surface. Work down to the ankle.
11. Thumb down the same line, following the points shown bottom left, then ask your partner to straighten that leg and roll over on to the other side, raise the other leg and repeat steps 8-11.
CAUTION: Avoid applying pressure where there are varicose veins. Do not work below the knee during early pregnancy.
Outer leg pressure points
The points for treatment of the outer leg are important. Proceed, as usual, at intervals of about a thumb width to cover the whole line, and give extra treatment to areas that you feel require it. The points on the outer thigh are sometimes extremely tender; if so, work more lightly but repeat the procedure a couple of extra times.
Benefits: particularly assists functioning of the gall bladder.

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