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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•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. Ask your partner to lie face down. Make sure that their position enables you to kneel all the way around them, including above the head and below the feet. The traditional position for Shiatsu is with the arms down by the sides and the head turned to one side; alternatively, if the receiver's neck is stiff or the back is tense, a supporting cushion or pillow can be of great benefit. This should be placed under the chest and below the chin, not under the face, which would increase rather than lessen pressure on the neck, and would close rather than open the upper back.
If the ankles are very stiff, another cushion can be placed under them. Many people prefer to receive Shiatsu with the arms positioned above the head, especially if the neck is stiff; this is all right too.
CAUTION: This position is unsuitable during advanced pregnancy.
2. Keeping your own back straight, lift your partner's feet and take the weight of their lower body. Lift until the pelvis is raised off the mattress, then swing the lower body from side to side three or four times, or more if the body seems tense. If you notice that the knee joints are locked, remind your partner to keep relaxing and 'letting go'. Finish by drawing the feet away from the head horizontally as you replace the lower body on the mattress.
3. Standing astride your partner, pick up the hands and draw the arms towards you, replacing them on the mattress. This ensures that the shoulders are in an open position and not hunched up close to the neck. Remind your partner that they should become completely relaxed during the sequence that is to follow, and that you do not want them to 'help' you by moving any part of their body voluntarily. Do let them know, however, that they may turn their head from time to time, to avoid stiffness. It is a good idea to remind your partner to let you know if they experience any excessive or sharp pain during the treatment.
4. Move to one side of your partner, positioning yourself close enough to reach them with your foot. Begin pressing and wobbling along the upper arm with the ball of your foot. To do this, press briefly, then vibrate your foot making the flesh quiver. This loosens tension and promotes Ki flow in a preparatory way. It also provides an opportunity to feel energy blockages and muscle tension. Work from the top of the arm to the palm, but do not put firm pressure on the shoulder, elbow or wrist. Treat each area two or three times.
5. Repeat this procedure with the buttock, pressing into the muscle and around the pelvic bone. You can use a stronger action here. Look out for tension, and make a mental note of it for local pressure-point work later. Tension in this area is very common, and can often be associated with sexual issues. Work over this area two or three times.
CAUTION: Proceed gently if your partner is old or frail. Do not press directly on joints, local injuries or varicose veins.
6. Continue pressing and wobbling on to the back of the thigh. Skip over the knee and proceed to the calf, which is another very common area of muscular tension and 'armouring'. You can spend a little longer on areas like this. Then carry out steps 4-6 on the other side of the body, starting with the arm and working down to the calf.
Use the ball of the foot throughout this process. If you have trouble with balance, it will help to place your back foot further away from your partner, thus widening your base by spacing your legs further apart. Focusing attention in your abdomen will also help with balance.
7. Now stand at your partner's feet, facing away from them, place your feet, one at a time, across theirs. Now shift your weight from side to side, pressing your heels into their soles. This opens up and releases tension in the feet. Make sure, however, that you do not put too much pressure on the ankles, especially if there is a gap under them. To avoid this, if you are not working on a soft surface, provide a cushion under the ankles.
8. Standing parallel to your partner's hips, place the ball of your foot on the sacrum. Rock the pelvis from side to side by simply pushing away, waiting for it to rock back, and immediately pushing away again. In this way you will find that person's natural rhythm, which you will recognize by the minimal effort required. This exercise promotes relaxation by sedating the nervous system. You only need to do this from one side of the body.
9. Kneel opposite the middle of your partner's back, with your knees spread to lower your centre of gravity. Crossing your arms, place your right hand against the bottom edge of your partner's left shoulder-blade, cupping it with the heel of your palm to gain purchase against it. At the same time, place the heel of your left hand against the top of your partner's right hipbone. Now, lean forward on an out-breath and bring your body weight down and over your partner, which will push your hands apart and produce a strong diagonal stretch between the two points of contact. Repeat this twice more. Then shift your right hand to the right shoulder-blade, and your left hand to the left hip-bone, and stretch three times.
With your arms still crossed, this time place your right hand on the left shoulder-blade and your left hand on the left hip-bone. Lean in three times as before, this time producing a lateral stretch. Then reach further over and work with the right shoulder and hip, completing the four-fold series of stretches.
The effect of these stretches should come from your whole body weight and not from muscular effort in your shoulders or arms. The stretches are very helpful in opening up the back and releasing tension, prior to the more specific work which is about to begin.
10. Check over the length of the back, down each side of the spine, in the hollow that runs between it and the lateral muscles; use either your fingertips or your thumb. Look for areas or points that feel tight or blocked, different on one side to the other, or just seem to stand out no matter how ill-defined that may seem to you at present. Also practise quickly running your hands down both sides of the spine, and just see where your hand stops because you feel something 'different'. Make a mental note of any such features to pay special attention to with palm and point work. Making a habit of checking in this way will help you develop sensitivity to Ki patterns.
11. Remaining on the same side, come up on to one knee alongside your partner's back. Make sure that their head is turned away from you. Place your partner's nearside hand in the small of their back. Then place one hand under your partner's shoulder and lift up; as you do so, you will notice that this raises and loosens the shoulder-blade, making it more prominent and distinguishing it from the rest of the back. Starting at the lower edge of the blade, begin to press in underneath it. Use your hand with the palm up and the fingers held rigidly, rather like the blade of a knife; press in on the out-breath as usual. Move around the edge of the blade towards the top; you will usually find that the area at the top feels tighter and less open than the bottom, so concentrate on this area. You can follow this by turning your hand over and using your thumb to work around the area following the same line of points shown in the photograph below. This is particularly useful if the area is very tight. Go to the other side of the back and repeat.
Shoulder-blade pressure points
The points used in step 11 run around the outer edge of the shoulder-blade. Press at intervals of a thumb's width.
Benefits: helps to release tension surrounding the shoulder-blades. Pressure on these points also assists the bladder.
CAUTION: Never lean on the spine itself Use light pressure if your Partner is weak or elderly, or has a back injury.
12. Shift to a kneeling position opposite the middle of your partner's back, far enough away to be able to lean in with your body weight. Place one palm on the sacrum, the flat, triangular bone below the waist; this hand will remain stationary. With your other hand, lean into the upper back on the out-breath, keeping your palm flat on the back and the heel of your hand pressing into the channel next to the spine on your side. Move down the spine in this way. When you are about halfway down, switch to palming with the other arm, keeping the previously working arm passive. Repeat this twice more. Then move to your partner's other side and repeat there.
Back palming points
Approximate palming positions are shown here. Work from the upper back, right down on to the sacrum, at intervals of about one palm width to cover the whole area. Do not put pressure on the neck. Pay special attention to areas you noticed while checking in step 10, especially if there was a definite feeling of tension or blockage, and give extra treatment to these spots.
Benefits: helpful for back-ache and minor back problems, often providing a degree of helpful readjustment. Palming the back also benefits all the major organs in general, and the bladder in particular.
13. Move to a kneeling position above your partner's head. You will now begin to go over the areas just treated, this time with thumb pressure. Remember to use the upper part of the pad, rather than the tip, and to keep the thumbs straight. Follow the same channels between the spine and           the muscles, this time treating both sides at once. Lean in with your full body weight unless the cautions opposite apply. Go down the back as far as is comfortable from your present position, before switching positions to continue in step 14.
14. Move around so that you are kneeling alongside your partner's waist, in the frequently used 'lunge' position. Here you can continue where you left off with step 13, proceeding down the spine on to the sacrum. Follow the line of the spine, on both sides from the same position on one side of the body.
CAUTION: Never lean on the spine itself. Use light pressure if your partner is weak, elderly or has a back injury.
15. Staying in the same position, go over the same area again, this time with one line of thumb pressure points at a time. Use whichever arm is most comfortable for you as the active or working arm, positioning yourself accordingly, keeping the other stationary on the sacrum. As before, move downwards from the upper back, along the lines shown below. Again, you can treat both channels from the same position on one side of the body.
Back pressure points
The pressure points used in steps 13, 14 and 15 follow the spinal column. Work at intervals of approximately one thumb width, from the upper back down on to the sacrum. You will find that the 'channel' peters out as you reach the sacrum. Instead you will find small hollows here on the flat, triangular bone. Go over tense or blocked areas several extra times, and lean in more strongly if blockages do not seem to respond to lighter pressure.

The origins of Shiatsu
Benefits: helpful for back-ache and minor back problems, again providing a degree of helpful readjustment, plus more accurate treatment of aches and pains in the back. Pressure-point work on the back also benefits all the major organs and the bladder in particular.

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