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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.

See commonly asked questions about Yoga

 

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

 

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THE CHEST AND NECK

The chest and neck can conveniently be treated as one sequence, although each has its own distinctive qualities. The chest comprises the rib-cage and collar-bone, and the upper organs, the heart and lungs, protected within the ribs, so work on the chest helps respiration and circulation. Many people hold suppressed emotion in the upper chest, especially those who have a habit of shallow breathing, Shiatsu can help to release such emotions. Sadness or grief is closely associated with the lungs and upper chest, and treatment can occasionally evoke tears. If this happens, assure your partner that it is perfectly all right.

The neck is not a self-contained entity; rather, it is the continuation of the spine into the skull. Nevertheless, it has its own particular significance and potential to reveal problems. It forms the bridge between the mind and body, between thoughts and emotions; so when there is lack of integration in these spheres, it often manifests in the neck. In fact, almost any kind of stress can appear here first; it is for good reason that we describe someone who causes us problems as 'a pain in the neck'. It is indeed a 'bottle-neck' through which blood and other vital fluids, nerve messages and Ki should flow freely; all too often blockages occur, resulting in stiffness, aches, pains or more serious neck problems. Excessive heat that you may feel in your partner's neck and tops of the shoulders is one indication of such blockage. Treatment of the neck helps free up this internal 'traffic'. In fact, the neck can serve as an early-warning system that indicates something going wrong, before it affects other parts of the body more profoundly.

The neck also serves to carry the weight of the head; if the rest of the body does not support it properly due to bad postural habits, then the neck is often affected first. In the oriental concept of correspondences between opposite parts, the neck is also considered to have a particularly close relationship with the lower back, sacrum, pelvis and also legs.

So discomfort in the neck nearly always indicates problems elsewhere in the body. Nevertheless, neck Shiatsu can contribute significantly, and usually provides a degree of instant relief. Serious neck problems should be referred to a chiropractor or osteopath.

About this sequence
The sequence here consists of loosening and opening stretches and then pressure-point work for first the chest and then the neck, leading directly on to the last lesson, treatment of the head and face. Some common problems that benefit from neck treatment include headaches, nervous tension, shoulder pain, low back pain, insomnia and hypertension.

POINTS TO REMEMBER
•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

CAUTION: Do not apply this stretch vigorously if there is a shoulder or arm injury, or weakness or arthritis in these areas.

1. Kneel a little way above your partner's head. Lean over and pick up the hands. Ask your partner to relax and let go, and then to take an in-breath. As they do so, breathe in yourself, and then sit back on your heels, taking up the tension in your partner's arms.
On an out-breath, lean backwards, allowing your arms to straighten, and use your body weight to produce a stretch in the shoulders and upper chest. Release on an in-breath and repeat twice more.
2. Come up off your heels and place your hands on the top surface of your partner's shoulders with the heels of your hands towards each other. Breathe in, and lean downwards on an out-breath, using your body weight. Repeat twice more. Encourage your partner to let go if you feel that tension is being held in the shoulders, and lean in more strongly if you do not feel the shoulders going down on to the mattress. This can be a strong stretch, which people usually find pleasant. It also serves to make your partner aware of the tension they are holding in their shoulders, and should encourage them to relax further and let go.
3. Sit back on to your heels again, and exert palm pressure over the upper chest area, below the collar-bone, from the centre outwards and down on to the lower ribs, with both hands at once. Be careful to avoid applying any pressure directly to breast tissue while treating women.
4. Now begin to apply thumb pressure to the chest. Work with both thumbs at once, which can make finding the points easier because of their symmetrical arrangement. Start just below the collar-bone. Find the line of points; each point is at the inner end of the hollow channel that runs between each rib. In the upper chest, these points are near the centre, just on either side of the sternum or breast-bone; further down the chest they diverge towards the sides. Again do not apply pressure to breast tissue in women.
5. Starting again at the middle, on either side of the sternum, apply thumb pressure along the underside of the collar-bone, working out on to the front of the shoulders. Work again with both thumbs at once.
Benefits: helps the lungs and breathing, and promotes release of chest tension and suppressed emotion; also helpful for asthma and lactation.
CAUTION: Do not treat these points in cases of pregnancy.
6. Apply thumb pressure along the tops of the shoulder muscles. You can work with both thumbs at once, or with one, keeping the other hand on the opposite shoulder. This technique is useful for shoulders that were still tense after the shoulder treatment in lesson 1, because the muscles are usually more relaxed in this position and at this stage in the treatment.
Benefits: helpful for shoulder and neck tension related headaches, numbness and frozen shoulder', and functioning of the intestines.
7. Place your hands under your partner's neck, asking them to allow the weight of the head to fall into your hands. Slowly draw the hands towards you in a rhythmic manner, one at time, keeping the head just off the mattress. The weight of the head provides the pressure required. Continue for a few moments, then rest your partner's head gently on the mattress.
8. Now come up on to your feet, so that you are crouching just behind your partner's head. Place your hands under the neck again, but this time interlink your fingers just under the skull, with your thumbs catching the ledge just below the ears. Ask your partner to breathe in, and breathe in at the same time yourself.
On the out-breath for you both, let your body tilt back and your arms straighten, to give a strong stretch to the neck. Hold this for a full out-breath, then tilt forward again, and repeat twice more. You will know the stretch is complete when you see movement down to the feet. This stretch provides a valuable release for tension in the neck and shoulders, as well as in the upper back. It also helps open up the space between all the vertebrae.
9. Revert to the kneeling position, cross your arms under your partner's head, place your right palm on your partner's left shoulder and your left palm on the right shoulder. Ask your partner to relax their neck and take an in-breath; take the weight of the head in the crook of your elbows. On the out-breath, raise your own body up from sitting, keeping your back straight, in order to bring a forward stretch into your partner's neck. Lower a little on the in-breath by sitting slightly, and repeat twice. You will probably find that the head goes a little further each time, but do not force it; just go to a comfortable stretch.     
CAUTION: Do not perform this stretch if the neck is weak or injured, or if the receiver is suffering            severe muscular pain in the neck.              
10. Sit back on your heels again, and turn your partner's head to the right; you can rest it either on the mattress or on your right hand. With your left hand, apply thumb pressure firmly along the line of the major muscle in the neck, from the junction with the shoulder up to the underside of the skull. If you find that this is very tense, you can prepare it with some kneading beforehand. The line of treatment is shown below. Repeat the pressures three times.

Neck and skull pressure points

Treat these points at intervals of one thumb width.

Benefits: helpful for insomnia, lateral headaches, neck tension, tinnitus, hangover and general stress. Also benefits the bladder, liver and gall bladder.
11. With the tips of your index and middle fingers, apply pressure along the base of the skull. Press right in under the ledge formed by the cranium. If some places seem blocked by muscular tension, apply circular massage with your fingers and then press in more strongly. This can take some time and may be painful if your partner is highly stressed, but will bring great relief.
Turn the head to the left, and repeat steps 10 and 11.

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Yoga and Pilates are excellent promoters of relaxation as well as good forms of body conditioning. They are very beneficial for managing stress, improving posture and maintaining a supple, healthy, well-balanced body.